"WE JUST SOUND BETTER"
"WHY WE JUST SOUND BETTER"
Electric guitar strings are made of some sort of steel. The plain, or unwound, strings and the core of the wound strings are the same in a given set of strings. Different manufacturers offer slight variations such as tin plating, but essentially this part of the string is fairly consistent across the board. Where the real differences exist are in the wrap. Nickel-plated steel is the most popular, giving a balance between a snappy and smooth sound with an even feel. Pure nickel wrap is warmer and smoother feeling, while stainless steel is brighter and snappier. Other metal alloys are available and have their own variations in feel and tone. Different treatments such as a thin, protective coating or cryogenic processing can affect the tone and lifespan of the string.
For electric guitars, flatwound strings offer the most dramatically different sound and feel. Compared to most strings, which are roundwound, flatwound strings have an extra layer of ribbon winding that is polished, which results in a very smooth, mellow tone. Traditional jazz-guitar tone is most associated with flatwound strings, but flatwounds also work well for fingerstyle guitars or on guitars specifically used for slide. The smooth surface decreases extraneous finger and slide noise.
Finding the best electric guitar strings for you is, of course, highly personal, and experimentation is the only way to get there. I have found that I like different string brands, gauges, and materials for different guitars. After you know what you like and how all of the differences feel and sound, the guitar will help dictate the right choice
A guitar string gauge refers to the string’s physical size, given in inches. The most popular string gauge set for 6-string electric guitar is .010–.046. The .010-gauge string is the smallest, referring to the first string, and the .046 is the largest, or sixth string. The other strings are gauged accordingly for the most even tension, feel, and sound. In standard tuning — E, B, G, D, A, E — on an electric guitar that has a normal scale length (24.5″–25.5″), these gauges offer a balance between playability and tone.
The next most-popular gauge is a .009–.042 set, which offers a little easier playability due to the decreased tension. Comparatively, a lighter-gauge string will not sound as BIG as a heavier gauge, which is sometimes what's needed. If you have a light touch, want super-low action, or seek the ability to do crazy string bending, then this is gauge for you. The decreased tension does come with a few drawbacks, however. Tuning and intonation are a bit less stable and something to keep a closer watch on. Fret buzz is more common also, . Control in both hands is the key with lighter-gauge strings.
Following our look at the history of acoustic strings last issue, this time we turn the spotlight on the evolution of their electric siblings – from 1930s New York to the present day.