When it comes to an acoustic guitar, one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of strings. Strings can have a profound effect on the tone of your instrument, and as such there are a few important ideas to keep in mind when dealing with them.
As a string ages, a number of things take place. They collect dirt and sweat from your hand, the metal fatigues and moisture slowly corrodes the string. Typically, each of these problems works to degrade the sound quality of the string by attenuating many of the treble overtones, which ultimately results in a dull and muddy sounding guitar. The longer you play on a set, the worse the problem will become. Since the change is usually gradual, new guitarists will occasionally fail to notice that the sound quality has been slowly worsening as they play, so it is important to pay special attention if you are just starting out. Fortunately, the cheap and easy fix for this is to replace your strings on regular intervals! The second you notice they stop feeling smooth to the touch and lose some of their “sweetness,” it’s time. This usually happens in a month or so for someone who plays every day.
Aside from simply replacing your strings, there is also a little bit of science behind which ones to choose. Strings can have a variety of different sound characteristics, ranging from bright to warm and quiet to loud. They can also have a variety of playability characteristics. Usually, larger string gauge(meaning string diameter) is going to provide greater volume and tend towards the warmer side of the spectrum when compared to smaller gauge. Large gauge strings will also have higher tension, making bends and fretting strings more difficult. When it comes to materials, bronze tends to be brighter than phosphor bronze, which in turn tends to be brighter than coated strings. Coated strings have the advantage of being less abrasive on the hands as well as having good longevity due to their corrosion resistant coating.
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of guitar strings is sound. While the above serves as a general guide, sound is subjective so it pays to experiment with different sets until you find one you like. If you’re not sure where to start, try to identify what your guitar does well, and balance it out with strings that cater to the opposite characteristics. That is to say, if you have a bass heavy guitar, perhaps a set of bronze or phosphor bronze strings would serve well since they are bright and can highlight the treble. You can then adjust and fine tune from there.
Credit: Acoustic Guitar Workshop
Come on in to Latta Music today to have a new set of strings put on your guitar.