I had a question from a student recently who wanted to know if any particular string brands were more subject to causing fret buzzing and unwanted string vibration than others. He was concerned that he wasn't using the right strings on his guitar.
With the plethora of guitar string models, materials and gauges available on the market, choosing the right guitar string for the beginning guitarist can sometimes be an overwhelming proposition.
Choosing the right guitar strings is kind of like shopping for a new pair of pants. You walk around the store looking at racks full of various pant styles, manufacturers, colors and materials – then, as you narrow down your choices, you look for the right waist size and length – then you pick out a pair and head to the fitting room to try them on.
Every pair of pants you try on feels a little different. Even pants of identical sizes may feel different when you actually put them on. Some just have a better "fit" than others.
Guitars are like that. Every guitar, even ones of the same model made in the same factory on the same day, has its own "feel". As a result, each guitar will generally have strings that are a better "fit" for it than others.
Here are some things to be aware of when choosing the guitar strings:
Guitar strings are made out of various materials that are more suited to the particular "type" of guitar. Generally, acoustic guitars will use bronze wound strings, electric guitars will use nickel wound strings, and classical guitars will use nylon strings.
Although putting the right strings on your guitar according to what style of guitar you have may seem like a "no-brainer", I have known people who tried putting, for example, nickel wound electric strings on a classical guitar and wondered why the guitar neither played nor sounded good.
Guitar strings come in various thicknesses known as the "gauge", and are labeled in terms of "thousandths" of an inch. (ie.009, .010, .011 etc.)
Many guitars are more suited to one gauge string over another. I once bought a very expensive electric guitar that came from the factory with.009 gauge strings. It played great, but when I got it home I put.010 gauge strings on it, which is what I normally use.
To my huge disappointment, once the.010 gauge strings were on, the guitar played like crap! I couldn't believe I spent that much money on a guitar that suddenly felt "bad" in my hands. Long story short, I resigned myself to always play that guitar with.009's on it, until the day I sold it!
It's hard to imagine that a thousandth of an inch can make a difference, but on a guitar neck it can be huge.
Once you've determined the optimum gauge string for your particular guitar, then begins the sometimes painstaking task of finding the best "brand" of string for you and your guitar.
You will find that some manufacturer's strings simply "play" better on your guitar than others. Various brands will have a different "feel", some will last longer than others, hold their tone longer than others, and sound better than others.
Some brands of guitar strings will even be affected by the acidity content in your body. I know guitar players that sweat a lot when playing and have a high level of acidity content when sweating that cause certain string brands to prematurely pit, corrode and rust. Conversely, other brands won't be affected the same way.
Some guitar strings have a "soft" feel, others feel "hard". Some have a great tone when newly installed, and others develop a sweeter sound as they "age". It's all a matter of finding the right match for the particular guitar, and a process of elimination and experimentation.
So if the strings on your guitar don't sound good or play good, does that mean your strings "suck"? More than likely not.
It's probably just a case of not having found the strings that are the right "fit" for your guitar – so, like shopping for a new pair of pants, go out and try a few on!