Last Updated on January 3, 2022 by GuitarsCamp

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What are guitar strings made of?

Guitar strings are basically two types;

  • Plain strings
  • Wound strings

Plain strings: are the smallest strings on a guitar are smooth, without windings. Plain strings for electrics are the same as plain strings for acoustics.

In other words, the basic tone is the same in all plain steel strings.

The plain acoustic string must have strong resonant qualities. The plain electric string must have strong magnetic properties. Almost all plain strings are made from an alloy called Swedish steel, which excels in both qualities needed.

Wound Strings: It different when it comes to wound strings, it has a metal winding over its core, to allow it to produce a low-pitched note, so the heavier the mass of the string the lower the note that can produce.


Most electric sets use a plain string for the G-string where acoustic sets require a wound string.

The only difference in the E and B strings of an acoustic and electric set is the size, or gauge, of the string.

However, the wound strings vary very much.

Here is an overview of the different materials used for wound strings…

Acoustic Guitar Strings
Acoustic guitar strings, unlike other strings, not only have to sound nice, wear well and look good, but they also have to be loud.

An overview of each kind of acoustic guitar strings:

Bronze Wound Acoustic Guitar Strings

In guitar strings, bronze is an alloy, which is actually a mixture of copper and tin or copper and zinc.

An 80/20 bronze string is an alloy comprised of 80% copper and 20% tin or 20% zinc. These alloys are sometimes called brass.

Bronze strings, and sometimes it’s called plain bronze, produce a very brilliant, crisp sound when new but begin to lose their new sound after only a few hours of playing. Performers who change strings a lot typically love them.


Phosphor Bronze Wound Acoustic Guitar Strings

Elixir 16052 Strings Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

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Phosphor bronze is known as 80/20 bronze strings for acoustic guitar, the sound they produce is bright but slightly darker and warmer than bronze steel.

And they retain sound much longer thanks to the small amount of phosphorous in the alloy.

So, the total difference between both of them is the tonal, which some guitar players find one of them last longer, I think that caused by the difference in our skin chemistry, in other words because of the handling that causes to deteriorate in sound.

D’Addario introduced the P/B string making in 1974. Most American made acoustic guitars are factory strung with Phosphor Bronze strings.

Looking to find a good set of acoustic guitar strings? If you’re not worried about that, you should be! The strings are one of the most important aspects of a guitar’s sound; they can make or break a beautiful melody! Of course, you can stick with the strings that come on the guitar if you want to, but your fingers may not like you too much in the beginning! If you’re serious about having a quality sound come from your acoustic guitar strings, then you might want to consider replacing those factory brand strings with a nice sounding quality set.

The type of acoustic guitar strings that I recommend is the “silk and steel” strings, which are available through just about any manufacturer out there. They are made up of silver-plated copper wire that is twisted around a silk and steel core. Granted these strings will give off a softer tone than other strings, but it is much more beautiful and the volume and projection of sound are determined by the gauge of the string and the size of the guitar anyway.

Silk and Steel acoustic guitar strings are much lighter than their steel counterparts and make it much easier to play if you’re a beginner guitar player. GHS medium silk and steel strings come in gauge sizes ranging from .011 to .048 inches, and these are perfect for a beginner. Another great string is the Martin light gauge phosphor bronze string. These range from .012 to .054 inches and will be very beneficial to a beginning guitar player as well. These strings will put much less stress on the guitar’s neck since they are lighter in the material. This is very important if your guitar does not have a truss rod to keep the neck straight!

Do not be fooled because these acoustic guitar strings are light and easy to play, they sound amazing and are very sensitive, so you don’t have to punch them very hard to get a variety of dynamics out of them! If you are a beginner, give these acoustic guitar strings a try, your fingers and ears will appreciate it!

Related: How To Adjust The Action On Your Guitar

Electric Guitar Strings

Electric guitar strings are different to acoustic strings because they don’t have to be acoustically loud; instead, they create their signal through magnetism. This requires totally different materials to get the best performance.

Pure Nickel Wound Strings

D'Addario EXL165 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings

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Pure nickel strings feature a soft feel and can produce a vintage and warm tone.

Almost every string of the 50s was wounded with alloy material and called pure nickel, but it wasn’t absolute pure.

Nickel wound strings has a unique color, and differ in tone, and it can last much longer before corroding.

As these strings primarily used on electric guitars(instruments) with magnetic pickup, so they’re winding with magnetic properties.


Nickel Plated Steel

Nickel plated steel is one of the most used string in our day and know as NPS, the string has a nickel plating and steel winding. The plating prevents the finger noise and fret wear. While producing a better sustain and a brighter sound than pure nickel.


Stainless Steel

Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Regular Slinky Set

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When it comes to stainless steel strings they are brighter, and can provide you with more sustain even better than the NPS or pure nickel strings.

And not to mention they’re resistant to acids, oil and their long-lasting.

But in the other hand they feel much different on fingers and cause to more fret wear.

Stainless steel strings features more bright and metallic sound and can be used on many instruments such as guitars, banjos, mandolins.

When you are restringing your guitar, be sure that one will stab you in the end of your left hand’s index finger without a second thought.


Silk and Steel String/Compound

In few words, it is a string that feature a steel core, but it wrapped with silk filaments and wound over with silver plated copper.

What makes it special, it operates very well on lower tension, and it has a great flexibility.

I can say that’s make it a very perfect pick for a delicate instruments, but the drawback they are more likely to buzz, and has a shorter playing life when compared to regular wound strings.


Read More:

Classical guitar:

Plain Nylon String

It is just that, nylon “monofilament,” much like fishing line.

Plain and wound nylon strings can produce a softer and mellower tone when it compared to wound string and steel plain. They are the best pick for classical guitarist.


Tarnished Strings

Are old classical guitar strings, with silver-plated windings. A classical guitar may look like it has both metal and nylon strings: But we say it’s a nylon-strung instrument, because the three wound bass strings have nylon filament cores.