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How Are Guitar Strings Made?

Last Updated: September 28, 2016 / by Joseph Evans



One of the most common questions that spring to mind when you play the guitar is how the strings are actually made. It's good to know how guitar strings are made.  this knowledge will come in handy when buying new strings or deciding on what kind of strings suit you and your particular guitar best. 

The kind of strings you choose will probably have an impact on the sound as well as the comfortability of playing guitar. 

If your choice of instrument is an acoustic guitar, strings will have the biggest impact on the sound since there are no amplifiers or pickups with an acoustic.

Ultimately, it is the strings and the body that affects the sound, so best to know what you are dealing with. 

Nylon stringsNylon vs Steel Guitar Strings

The kind of guitar you have chosen will dictate the kind of strings you need.  

Classic guitars usually make use of nylon strings and acoustic guitars steel. At this point, you have probably made your choice on the kind of guitar you are using.

There is no right or wrong here, but try out as many different types of guitars as you possibly can. Eventually, you will find a match - a guitar that you feel comfortable with. 

Remember, it's not the only size of the guitar and the kind of build that matters but also how the strings feel under your fingers. 

It is, of course, not recommended that you use steel strings for a classical guitar, and vice versa. Your guitar is built with a specific string in mind and you could damage when using the wrong guitar strings.

Gauges

Gauge refers to the size of the string. Strings are made of different kinds of thicknesses. There is a difference in sound when you compare nylon and steel strings and this is also the case with the gauge. 

Basically, the gauge is the diameter of the guitar string and it is measured in thousands of an inch. The bigger the gauge, the heavier the string will be. 

A lighter gauge is generally easier to play but they also break more easily than heavier gauges. Heavier gauges are more difficult to play and require you to put more pressure on the guitar strings for the correct sound. 

Not only will the gauge you choose have an effect on the pitch and the difficulty of playing, but also the sound, volume, and the finger pressure needed. 

You will also need to take your guitar build into consideration when buying the correct strings. Similar to how a specific guitar is probably made with a specific kind of string in mind, the same can be said for the gauge of the strings.  

Construction a Guitar String

Guitar strings come in a variety of different materials. They are generally made thicker by wrapping a thin wire around a piece of gut, or nylon core. 

Steel stringsThere are different varieties of wound strings namely roundwound, flatwound, halfwound or hexwound.

The different wound strings will also have an effect on the sound and playability of the strings. 

A roundwound string has bumps on its surface and this could cause a squeaking sound. Some guitarists use this sound in a creative way but the squeak is not ideal. 

Like roundwond, a flatwound string has a round core but has fewer bumps and, and thus more comfortable to play with less of a squeak. 

A halfwound string is also called a ground wound string or pressure wound string. These strings have characteristics of both the roundwound and the flatwound and made by first winding the wire around a round core and then polishing the string. 

In the process of polishing the string, some of the wire mass is removed. This process lowers the frequency and the slide squeaking. 

A hexwound string has a hexagonal core. This core ensures that the string does not easily slip underneath the fingers. Unfortunately, because of the shape of the core, these strings are also less comfortable to play. 

Guitar Strings Have Come a Long Way

The construction of guitar strings has come a long way since using catgut - a sheep intestine that produced warm and rich sounds, but lacked volume. 

Now the different qualities of the different strings will have an effect on your guitar’s resonance and tone. It will also affect the quality and responsiveness of your playing, the speed at which you can play, and several other important factors. 

It might take a bit of experimenting to find the perfect kind of guitar string, but hopefully, you will not have to compromise on the elements that are the most important to you.


About the Author: Joseph Evans

My name is Joseph Evans and I am a guitar playing, freelance writing, online teaching music lover based in Seattle, WA. Growing up in a musical family naturally lead to obtaining my Bachelor of Music (BM) in Composition & Music Theory degree, after which I taught and traveled my way across Europe for 7 years before returning back home to settle in beautiful Seattle. On a typical day, you would find me playing my guitar, pottering around in the vegetable garden, going on long hikes, reading and/or writing.


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