How Are Guitar Strings Made

How Are Guitar Strings Made

Guitar strings are one of the most important things on a guitar – yet most players don’t give much thought to how they’re made! They come in all sorts of types, for all sorts of different guitars – electric, acoustic, classical, even the dreaded bass guitar – and they’re the thing we interact with most when playing.

How they’re actually made, though, is still a little bit of a mystery to most guitarists! Obviously, they’re a string of metal (or nylon) – but if you’ve ever looked at the thicker strings on your guitar, you’ll have noticed they look different from the thinner ones! Why is that, and how are they made?

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a little more about how one of the most critical components of a guitar is made, then this article is for you!

String Gauges

First of all, let’s talk about string gauges. It’s pretty simple, actually – the gauge of a string is it’s thickness, measured in thousandths of an inch. So, for example – a 52 gauge string is fifty-two thousandths of an inch thick.

The higher the gauge, the thicker a string will be. A thicker string needs more tension than a thinner string to tune up, and is harder to bend. They require more force to play too.

However, a thicker string can feel tighter to play, and can be easier for some players to control bends with. Also, thicker strings can strengthen your hand muscles, making it easier to play when you switch back to a thinner set!

Of course, it’s hard to visualize exactly what something fifty-two thousandths of an inch (for example) actually looks or feels like – it’s the sort of thing that you have to get a feel for.

You’ll likely be used to seeing numbers on packs of guitar strings – these tell you how thick each string is. String packs are often referred to by the gauge of their thinnest string – 9s, 10s, etc.

A set of 9s is a thinner, or lighter, set of strings. They’re often used for really fast playing and huge bends, as it’s much easier to do than on thicker strings.

However, some players don’t like how thin they feel compared to a heavier set. A pack of 12s is much thicker, or heavier – in fact, 12s are VERY thick strings! They’ll be a good workout for the fingers, but you’ll struggle to do the flashier stuff with them.

Windings

Electric and acoustic guitar strings are made out of metal – steel, nickel, and bronze are common metals used for making guitar strings. The thickest three strings on a guitar are usually wound strings.

This means that they’re made of a string wound around another string – called a core. This is better than if these strings were made from a single metal thread, as a string made in such a way would be much stiffer, and too rigid to comfortably play.

There are a few different types of windings.

Roundwound strings are the most commonly used acoustic and electric guitar wound strings. They’re made by winding a string around a round core.

The wound strings have little bumps on them, as they use a round string around the core. They’re the easiest and cheapest strings to make, and the ones most players use.

Hexwound strings are becoming more and more common – they use a hexagonal core. They are said to help with tuning stability by preventing the winding from slipping around the core.

Flatwound, on the other hand, feel quite different, and are made similarly to roundwound strings – but the winding wire is flatter than used in roundwound.

Some players prefer the feel of them because of this -and they can last longer than roundwound strings, as there is less surface area for dirt to build up in due to there being smaller bumps.

Groundwound strings are also made like roundwound strings, but the little bumps are ground down at the factory. This can also reduce the squeaking that roundwound strings generate when moving fingers across them, but makes them take more time and money to make – and therefore more expensive to buy.

They have to be made from a thicker initial string, as the grinding removes so much of their mass.

Acoustic & Electric Guitar Strings

These strings have to be made using machines – they would be impossible to make without them! The core wire is twisted at one end and has the ball end attached – the little plastic or metal thing with a hole that holds the string in place at your bridge!

For the wound strings, the ball end of the string is then held tight in a machine, and the winding wire is poked through the loop and hooked into place.

This wire is pulled tight, and then the core spins while the winding is guided up the length of it. The winding is extremely tight around the core – far tighter than a person could ever pull!

Acoustic and electric strings are both made very similarly – only the metal used for the winding is different, as acoustic guitars often use bronze. They’re so similar that some players use electric guitar strings on their acoustic guitars.

Nylon Strings

Classical guitars use strings made out of nylon – they’re usually played just with the fingers, so they need lighter strings. However, they have wound strings too, and they’re made similarly.

They’re made with a metal winding too – but the core is nylon, which means they’re not as stiff as an acoustic or electric wound string. They typically don’t have the ball end on that electric and acoustic guitars have, as they’re meant to be tied to the bridge instead – this can be a little bit of a pain for someone new to classical guitar!

Coatings

Some wound strings have a thin coating over them. This is done by the manufacturer to lengthen the life of the string – they build up less dirt, are easier to keep clean, and are less exposed to the air while the coating lasts. However, they feel different – more slippery – and cost more.

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