Guitar strings can break. And even if they don’t, they will definitely age over course of time. This process is sometimes accelerated by things like humidity, air temperature as well as the frequency and intensity of playing. Let’s have a look at the key aspect you should keep in the back of your mind as we explore the question “how to buy guitar strings”?
Guitar strings come in a broad variety. While there are a number of things that can play a role as you pick the strings of your choice, in my opinion it ultimately comes down to two key factors: the type of your guitar and your personal preference in terms of ‘playability’.
I just had one of my students who is currently taking the Beginners Guitar Course asking me whether it would be okay to put nylon strings – this type of strings is used for classical guitars – on a Western guitar. Technically, this is possible. However, from a practical perspective, it doesn’t make sense as nylon strings are just not conducive to be used on Western or Electric Guitars. Now, here is a very important point: you absolutely must not put steel strings, which are exclusively made for Electric and Western Guitars, on a Classical Guitar. Because this can seriously damage your instrument. So never ever do that. I was stupid enough to try that once and the bridge almost came off as I started tuning the guitar.
Let’s talk about playability: guitar strings come in different thicknesses and elasticity grades. This is commonly referred to as gauge. What you sometimes see on the packages are number such as (0.08, 0.10, 0.12, etc.) The higher the number, the thicker the strings. Some guitarists religiously believe that playing with thicker strings is better, because you can get a richer tone. In my opinion, there is certainly some truth to that point. But on the other hand, you might simply prefer the thinner versions as they are easier to handle, especially for guitar beginners. Also, using a set of thin guitar strings doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a decent sound.
As you look for new strings you will notice that some of them ‘coated’. Those versions are usually a little more pricey, but they also last longer and are less susceptible to outside influences I had mentioned already (humidity, intensity of playing, temperature, etc.).
Lastly, and to be perfectly honest with you, I usually don’t pay too much attention to who actually manufactured the strings or if they are coated or not. I like my strings somewhere in the middle, not too thin, not too thick. When they start feeling weird as I keep playing, then I know it’s time for a new set. In other words, I don’t use a sophisticated approach when it comes to buying and replacing strings. I will say this, though: there is something to be said for handmade strings. Somebody gave me a set made by a local guy who makes them by hand, and the fact of the matter is, they lasted much longer than any other set of strings I ever bought. Ultimately, the type of guitars you use and your experience as a guitarist will trigger how to buy guitar strings that are best suited for your individual situation.