When it comes to guitar strings, the best ones offer a rich well-balanced sound and have a durable core to resist breaking. Coated strings are more long-lasting and offer better resistance to corrosion, although many guitarists prefer uncoated strings due to their richer sound production. Our team has picked the following best cheap guitar strings in 2021 for their long-lasting carbon steel core, exceptional corrosion-resistance, brilliant sound quality, and some have a brilliant appearance that makes you look very cool on stage.
If you want your guitar to sound great, then you’re going to need great guitar strings. We know that buying the right guitar strings can be as difficult as purchasing the right guitar, so our guide is here to help you make sense of everything you need to know.
What is the price range of guitar strings?
Prices can vary for guitar strings, but the good thing is that they aren’t anywhere near as expensive as a guitar is. Depending on the guitar strings you get, they will range anywhere from 5 to 30 dollars. If you’re a beginner or have a low budget, you can get away with a nice pair of strings for less than ten dollars. That being said, we don’t recommend purchasing guitar strings that cost less than five dollars. That’s because these strings are more likely to detune easily or even snap while playing them. If you’re an intermediate player or you have an okay budget, aim for strings that cost anywhere from 10 to 20 dollars. For the most advanced players or those who can splurge a little on strings, you’ll find high-quality strings in the 20 to 30 dollar price range. At the end of the day, how much you spend will depend on your experience and your budget.
When should you buy new guitar strings?
Because there is no hard rule as to when you should change your guitar strings, you can really change them whenever you feel like it. Heck, you don’t even have to change them really until they break if you don’t want to. We don’t recommend this though! A good suggestion is to change your guitar strings every 100 hours of playing time or every three months—whichever comes first. This isn’t a hard rule because there’s a chance that your guitar strings can last longer than this. All that’s required here is just making sure that your strings aren’t too worn out, as it will cause them to sound dull or even out of tune.
What are the types of guitar strings?
There are five main types of guitar strings:
Nickel and Steel
If you’re looking at an electric guitar, chances are the strings are made out of steel, with the three thickest strings plated with nickel. Each material has its own advantages when it comes to sound. Steel strings will create a lively and bright high-end response that is great for genres like rock and country, while nickel strings produce a rich, warm tone suitable for the blues. Finally, the nickel-plated steel combination produces a full low-end sound.
Bronze and Brass
For acoustic guitars, you’re still likely to see steel guitar strings, but the difference is that they are plated with either brass or bronze. Bronze guitar strings produce a rich and mellow tone that you’ll often hear in genres such as folk. Brass strings produce a cutting, bright sound, making them best paired with guitars that have a low-end response, such as dreadnoughts or jumbos.
Nylon strings are extremely popular on classical guitars. Because of their high elasticity, nylon guitar strings can be manipulated masterfully, as they are easy to press down on the fretboard. Thanks to their mellow, round sound, nylon strings are perfect for genres such as classical and jazz.
That’s all the main types of guitar strings, but there are still plenty of string features to dive into.
What are features of guitar strings?
A guitar string’s top features include its gauge, string core, winding type, and coating.
This feature describes the thickness of a guitar string. A thicker string will produce a warmer response with more volume to it. The downside of thicker strings, however, is that they tend to be stiffer, making it harder to fret. On the other end of the spectrum, thin strings produce a bright sound and are easier to manipulate, but they can sound tiny depending on what guitar type you put them on.
Thin strings will be labeled with a number of 0.9 or lower. Thick strings will be labeled with a number of 0.12 or higher. Strings that are labeled 0.10 and 0.11 fall in the medium zone and create a sound that balances out extremes of thin and thick strings.
String core is the shape of the wire of your guitar strings, and it is either a round core or a hex core. Round core strings produce a sustained, mellow tone, while hex core strings produce a bright and loud tone.
The three main types of winding used on guitar strings are flatwound, roundwound, and halfround. Like the name might suggest, flatwound strings have a flat surface. They produce a dark tone great for jazz, but their stiffness makes them less than ideal for genres like rock or blues. Roundwound strings tend to have a textured surface and produce a bright tone. Halfround strings are the middle ground between round and flatwound strings in terms of the sound that they produce.
If your guitar strings are coated, that means that they are covered with a plastic polymer. There is an advantage and disadvantage to this: the coating makes your guitar strings more durable and long-lasting, but that also means they’re more expensive than non-coated strings. Plus, the coating tends to cut the high-end response a string might produce otherwise.
This information is all you need to determine the specifics of the strings that you want.
Does your interest in guitars go beyond strings? Check out our other guitar gear!
By Jack Stoneybrook
Jack has been a touring guitarist for almost 20 years, playing in a number of country music and rock bands. Jack loves the road and defines himself as a never-ending student of the guitar and other important instruments or tools that make a musician.