Different Types of Guitar Strings for Different Styles


One of the most important aspects when playing guitar is the strings. The materials and methods used to build them make all the difference in the final sound. While there is no definitive string for different styles of music, there are some types of guitar strings that may be suited to your needs.



Strings were originally made from animal guts, and some people still use such material. However they are very expensive and do not provide as much sound projection as modern polymers and metals. If you are a very serious classical guitar player you may want to investigate these, but there are many better options that are cheaper.

Nylon and Plastics

The most common string used for classical type guitars are nylon, or similar plastic polymers. In fact, it is bad for a classical guitar to use any kind of metal string as the body cannot handle it. Nylons do not have a loud sound or much projection, but they provide a warm tone for fingerstyle guitar.

These next couple of string types will be what you run in to most often as a beginner guitarist, or if you are taking some kind of instruction like online guitar lessons.

Steel and Nickel

Steel string acoustic and electric guitars often use a mixture of metals, mostly steel and nickel. Sometimes plain steel is used, but it helps them last longer if they are coated in nickel or even cobalt and chrome. Some acoustics even use a silk coated steel string, these coatings help the warmth and dampen the bright tone.

Brass and Bronze

Acoustic guitars also often use brass or bronze with various metal mixtures. 80/20 strings have copper, tin, and phosphorus added to help the string life, as some bronze does not last as long. If you are a country or folk-rock player, you may want to try out some different brass mixtures to see what sounds best on your guitar.

Windings and Cores

Many of these materials are now mixed into the same strings. It’s not as common to see pure metal or plastics as most modern strings have a winding or coating to help with tone, sustain, or brightness. String makers are always trying to find the best mix of plastic and metal to provide great sound and shelf life.

The core or inside is made up of metal in a hexagon or round shape. A hexagon core keeps its tune longer compared to a round core because they have a better grip. Round cores are often used by jazz players for a mellow and sustained sound, but they are not as reliable as a hex core.

Over that core is a winding that can be round or flat wound. A round winding is the most common and suitable for popular music genres. While a flat winding is more common among bluegrass, jazz, and even some fingerstyle playing. But of course this is not set in stone, some players just prefer the feel of one over another.

You will also see coating names like Nanoweb and Polyweb, both are polymers that give the string a longer life. Polyweb is thicker than Nanoweb so they provide more protection. But of course the more you coat the string there is a chance that you dampen the sustain and brightness. And technology is always creating new materials for cores and windings as guitarists search for better playability.


Not only does the materials used matter, but so does the thickness or gauge of the strings. So far in this article there aren’t many strict rules on string use (save for keeping steel off classical), but when it comes to the size you have to be sure they fit your guitar nut. Most strings run between .008 at the high end and .059 on the low end.

Extra Light

These can start as low as .008 or .10 inches and the lower you go the easier they can break. They are super easy to play and seem so light on the fingers, but the risk of one snapping is quite high, especially the B and high E. If you play carefully, an extra light string can help you fly through metal solos.


These start around .10 and .12 at the treble and are more durable than the extra light. If you are a beginner these are nice as they have easy playability and are a little stronger. Light strings are known for having a better attack and sustain and are often used in metal, fusion, and even pop rock.


As the strings get thicker they get louder with more sustain, but they are harder to bend and manipulate. These strings start around .13 and will likely cause more finger pain if you are new to the guitar. Genres like blues and classic rock with heavier sounds often use a medium gauge.


As we move up further in thickness we eventually get to a gauge that makes string bending hard. So heavy gauge strings are more suitable for jazz or any style that you want more bass in the sound, but they will hurt at first until your fingers get used to it!

A lighter string gauge on longer scale lengths is often helpful, many electric guitar shredders prefer these as they can be bent a lot. While acoustic guitars require more sustain and sound projection, which means a heavier gauge is necessary.

Which Guitar String is Best?

There is no exact answer and there are more factors than just the points above, even your guitar build and playing style can affect the final tone. If you pick and play aggressively then a round core string may not be good, as the tuning may go out. Or even the heavy gauge strings may sound better, but you may not be able to play them well.

If you are playing 7 or 8 string guitars you will need to be sure the heavy gauge bass strings fit the nut and will not do damage to the guitar. Check with your model to see what the exact gauge recommendations are for its scale length. Scale length affects tension, more tension in the string leads to brighter tones while less tension often helps with a more mellow and smooth tone.

When you first get a guitar it is often best to put new strings on that are better quality. Be sure to change one at a time and make sure the gauges and materials fit and are also appropriate for your playing style. Don’t be cheap with strings! They are so important to the final sound, so invest in something nice.

One of the best things to do as a guitar player is to buy different strings and experiment with different styles. Every guitar is unique, and some strings may make it sing, while others don’t provide the best sound. It is helpful to try a variety of strings out, just be sure to always check first that they are suitable for your guitar body!

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer