Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Guitar Strings (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Dunlop guitar strings

To the layman, the only difference between an acoustic and an electric guitar is that one is “unplugged” and the other produces a loud rock sound. That’s generalizing a bit, but it’s not completely untrue, either. Acoustic guitars have long since been the staple of bands in pursuit of a quieter and/or more rustic, folksier sound. MTV even developed an entire series around acoustic-based concerts and called it, fittingly, Unplugged.

Electric guitars, on the other hand, have traditionally been seen as vessels through which liquid musical sludge solidifies and cools into hard rock, then gets delivered to listeners via their ringing eardrums. While it’s true that electric guitars have more raw power, the true different also lies in the tiniest of details — the strings that run up and down the length of the neck.

If you have even a passing interest in what makes guitar-based rock music so powerful, it’s important to understand the distinction between the kinds of sounds acoustic strings make versus the kind electric guitar strings can produce. Consider this your go-to guide for shopping at online music stores for all things string-related.

The Classic Option: Steel Strings

Both modern electric and acoustic guitars have been traditionally built to accommodate steel strings, typically made from nickel and other hard materials. If you were to run your fingernail (or your pick) down a string, you’d hear a zipping noise. That’s because the string is actually comprised of one base substance with even more steel wrapped around it in thinner sheets. When strummed, this gives the strings a warmer, weightier sound able to project loudly even without electric amplification.

The Quieter Option: Nylon Strings

Out of all the musical instruments for sale via online music stores and local neighborhood shops, nothing is more classical — literally — than the nylon-string guitar. In fact, the guitar originates from a classical instrument known as the lute, which was strung up with nylon in order to give it a pluckier, more grounded tone. Spanish flamenco guitarists utilized nylon for the same reason. While not particularly common in rock and roll, nylon strings have made appearances in folk and country for their woody timbre.

The Louder Option: Lower-Gauge Strings

Coupled with guitar distortion and other guitar multi effects pedals, low-gauge strings create a maelstrom of thick, roaring venom. That’s why they’re so popular with heavier guitarists like those who play metal, hard rock, blues and other styles that call for a more muscly guitar tone. Low-gauge strings also accommodate players who prefer to play in lower tunings, or string specifications that provide the instrument a much more rumbly, darker overall sound. Think Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath. Think Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society.

So whether you shop via online music stores or at your local guitar workshops
, it helps to understand exactly what kind of results your strings will yield before you invest in a new set. For more info, always talk to a pro who’s been playing for years. Find them in the back room testing out the vintage Dean Flying V models. Read more articles like this: www.lawkstarguitars.com

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