There are many variations of guitar strings!
Strings for the guitar started out as cat gut, not to be confused with cats actual gut, the nickname has to do with a string maker from Catagniny, Germany.
These first strings were made of intestines from sheep and bull and you can still buy them today.
Sometimes referred to as organic strings, expect a hue of yellow to be left on the guitar and your fingers, and a smell that won’t come out in a wash too easily.
To replace the cat gut; enter the nylon string, this is what you’d normally string your classical guitar with.
Available with or without ball end, the nylon string produce a brighter sound than cat gut, longer life to expect as well. Major brands in nylon strings are D’Addario, Augustine, Savarez and Rotosound.
In order to translate the string vibrations to a magnetic pickup like you’d find on an electric guitar, nylon strings won’t do very well.
When pedal steel, banjo and early versions of the electric guitar came into place, companies who made nylon strings eventually started to shift their attention to the metal string.
The metal string, often referred to as the steel string started its life inside the piano.
Once the electric guitar was born the variation on the theme had several string companies starting to produce what the 50s rock and roll scene was craving.
Two basic types of strings are available here: wound and plain strings.
In the early days the strings were still very thick and not very bend friendly. Eric Clapton was the first to start stretching string design.
By using a thick banjo string he replaced wound G-string and could now bend further than the competition.
The string market exploded as the 60s, 70s and the 80s guitar boom swept worldwide.
On the back of the glory days, brands carry several different variations of metal strings in any size you could possibly want.
Dean Markely, D’Addario, DR, Ernie Ball, GHS and Elixir all produce great strings, miles ahead of Clapton’s banjo concept.
Bronze strings are what you’d fit your acoustic steel string with.
The deep sounding bronze strings make a Dreadnought sound very nice indeed.
Bronze strings are metal strings with a bronze wound.
Should you put bronze strings on your electric you’d find that the wound strings would appear very low in volume, compared to the plain ones.
Similarly, the top strings will be much louder on your steel string acoustic guitar should it have a magnetic pickup.
Because of this unbalance, most pickups for acoustic guitars pick up the sound of the strings from pressure or internal microphones rather than with a magnet.
One magnetic pickup that can handle bronze strings is the Sunrise, the choice of 80s legendary solo guitarist Michael Hedges.
Phosphor Bronze Strings
D’Addario were the first to experiment with Phosphor Bronze Strings.
When first announced they quickly gained popularity and today phosphor bronze is the most popular choice on the steel string acoustic.
Phosphor Bronze strings last long, with a bright sound in the first couple of days of playing, they mellow into a sound favored by most players.
The term ‘coating’ refer to what brands like Elixir do.
Secret formulas is what these guys apply to their strings and yes, they do last longer, they also sound different.
Should you mainly use your acoustic live as a touring guitarist, using an under the saddle pickup system then these could be well worth looking into.
The difference in sound between regular Phosphor Bronze strings and “coated” strings is mainly noticeable acoustically, the difference through a PA is not as noticeable.
So instead of changing strings once every few days, the touring guitarist could keep Elixir strings for a month or two.