What Type of Guitar Strings Should I Use?

What Type of Guitar Strings Should I Use?

Have you ever found yourself in a music store and felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of guitar strings options? You are not alone. There almost seem like too many options. And, to the untrained eye, it might just seem like a lot of brands offering the same product. However, as a guitar player, it’s important for you to know that there are so many options because there are many different types of strings that are all used for different applications. Here, we are going to explore which type of guitar strings is best for YOU and what you are playing.

First, we’ll take a look at what different materials guitar strings can be composed of. Then we’ll touch on how strings are constructed differently. And finally, we’ll tell you why that matters for the type of music you are playing. Let’s get started!

classical guitar stringsDifferent String Materials for Different Guitars

When you look at most guitars, it’s clear to see that most of them are strung with some type of metal. But did you know the type of metal has an effect on the tone and feel of the strings when you play them? And what about those clear, plastic-y looking strings you see on some acoustic guitars? Let’s take a closer look.

Electric Guitars

Electric guitars are almost always strung with one of two types of metal strings: steel or nickel. However, the former is the most common type. Generally, steel strings produce a brighter tone that cuts through the mix in a band setting. Nickel is a softer metal than steel, and you can feel this when you play them. They also produce a warmer, and low-end-present response. This can be less appealing if you are the lead guitar player, but proves very effective if you are playing rhythm parts.

Acoustic Guitars

Two different types of metals are used when stringing acoustic guitars: brass and bronze. Similarly to the tone difference you’ll find between steel and nickel electric guitar strings, brass strings tend to sound brighter, while bronze strings produce warmer tones.

Classical Guitars

Classical guitars, which are suited for playing Classical style guitar arrangements, are typically strung with a combination of materials. The highest three strings are traditionally pure, transparent nylon. The lower three strings are usually nylon wound with copper. If you are looking for classical guitar strings, you can find a generous selection of them over on Sweetwater.

guitar string constructionTypes of Guitar Strings Construction

The tone and feel of guitar strings are also affected by how they are constructed. The construction of guitar strings usually depends on just a few variables.

The Core of The Guitar String

When looking down the middle of a wound guitar string, you’ll observe one of two variations. The core of a guitar string will either be hexagonal or round. Hex core strings will provide a more modern, louder and sharper tone. The tone produced by a round core string is more mellow, which is perfect for playing certain genres.

How The Guitar Strings are Wound

To be clear, when we are talking about how the strings are wound, we are referring to the lowest three or four strings that have noticeable ridges on them. The three main types of string winding are round wound, half round, and flat wound.

Round wound strings are ubiquitous; they can be found on most guitars if you are perusing a music shop. This is because they are the most versatile. In fact, if you are using nickel plated round wound strings, you will likely have a place in any band setting if you’ve got the skills to match. But, generally speaking, round wound guitar strings have the potential to produce higher, brighter frequencies than the other types.

The next strings down on the brightness scale are half round guitar strings. They are called half round strings because the actual cord that is wound around the core has retained most of its roundness, but also features a flat face. These strings will produce a warmer tone, but also achieve some of the brightness you’d want if you were playing lead.

Flat wound strings are the most warm of these options, and have mostly niche applications because of their limited frequency response. Unlike those that are round wound, flat wound guitar strings will appear smooth instead of lined with ridges.

The Gauge of The Strings

Finally, the gauge, or the thickness of the strings plays a huge role in their tone and feel. Thicker gauges are going to produce a warmer sound and sustain better. But, they will also be tougher to press into the fret if you are just starting out, and they bend much less easily. Thinner gauges will sound a slightly more thin, but don’t let that deter you. Some genres call for this type of tone, especially if you need to do a lot of string bending!

electric guitar stringsWhat Type of Guitar Strings Should YOU Use?

This is the reason you opened this article, and we won’t keep you waiting any longer! Let’s take a look at some of the most popular genres for guitar players and see what types of guitar strings are superior first picks!


If you play guitar in a metal band, you are going to want strings that compliment the heavy levels of distortion through which you’ll be routing your signal. Also, you are going to want to air on the side of ‘heavy’ to accommodate any drastic drop tunings. So, the next time you outfit your axe for metal, try some nickel plated, round wound, hex core steel strings that come with thicker gauges in the lower strings. Our friends over at Sweetwater even have their own favorites in this category!


Rock guitar can call for a couple different types of strings, depending on how ‘classic’ the rock is! Modern rock styles may require a brighter tone, so you’ll either want to stick to at least nickel plated steel strings with hex cores. We would recommend always going with round wound strings with a medium to light gauge. This will allow you to get the bite you’re looking for when ripping power chords, but the flexibility to bend strings when it’s time to shred. Here are some great options on Sweetwater!

If you find yourself in a more classic rock setting and you’re holding an electric guitar, consider going with a set of pure nickel guitar strings. These will give you some of that extra body and punch that pairs well with a classic fuzz pedal. Try these D’Addario strings out! However, if you’re supporting the lead guitarist with an acoustic, definitely set yourself up with some brass strings. These will be bright enough to add some jangle to the tune without distracting from the vocalist. Here’s a set that we recommend!


When you’re playing the blues, you’re looking for sweet, warm tones regardless of your place in the band. So, if you’re rocking an electric guitar, get your hands on some round wound or half round, pure nickel strings with a medium to light gauge. You’ll get the warmth you’re looking for, with the bend-ability you’ll need for soloing. Try out these pure nickel strings on Sweetwater!

For playing acoustic blues, you’ll still be chasing that warmer, more resonant tone. So, here’s a set of phosphor bronze strings that should do the trick!


Twang is the thang when you’re holding down the hootenanny with some country guitar playing! If you’re rocking an electric guitar, you’ll want brightness to pair with your single-coil neck pickup. So, we recommend round wound, nickel plated, hex core strings with a light enough gauge to support bending. Take your pick over at Sweetwater!

For acoustic playing, consider something bring like those we recommended for playing classic rock above!


If you are playing acoustic or electric jazz guitar, 95% of the time you’ll be holding down the rhythm section with the drummer and upright bassist. And when it’s time to solo, sharp tones should be the last thing you endeavor for. In all cases, you’ll want the warmest, smoothest tones available. So, you’ll want to grab yourself a set of flat wound strings for minimal finger sliding sounds, and buttery warm tones. You may also consider going with a slightly heavier gauge string for better sustain and better low-end response. Thomastik-Infeld makes some decent strings for jazz playing; try these for acoustic playing, and these for electric!


Lastly, the tone you get out of a classical guitar is paramount to a perfect performance. Many things factor into this, including the resonance of the instrument’s wood and shape, the fingerstyle technique of the performer, and of course the quality of the strings. In modern days, classical guitar strings are always made with nylon (they were, at one time, made from silk wound with catgut). You can find an amazing selection of nylon classical guitar strings over at Sweetwater!


Excited to look at some new guitar strings? Find all kinds of great gear deals over at Sweetwater.com.

For guitar lessons that teach you how to use effects like these, check out JamPlay.com! JamPlay has over 450 guitar courses from 120+ instructors, LIVE daily instruction, and online guitar lessons tailored to every skill level, music genre, and playing style. Click here to learn more.

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