Clear Trebles - a high-density mono-filament nylon selected for the richness associated with the classical sound.
Rectified Trebles - the mono-filament is ground to ensure the same diameter over the entire length of the string. Rectified strings have a more mellow sound.
Black Trebles - black nylon produces richer, purer treble tones with the highest overtones.
Silver Basses - silver-plated copper wire wrapped onto the multi-filament nylon core. Brilliant and beautiful tone.
Gold Basses - a bronze wrap wire on a multi-filament nylon-strand core. A rich, full sound.
Ball End Nylon - often referred to as "Folk Nylon" these standard nylon strings have a ball attached to the end of each string which eliminates tying every string to the bridge.
80/20 Bronze - excellent for projecting a penetrating acoustic sound with unsurpassed tonal range. These strings lose their initial super brilliance after a few hours of use. The remaining tone, however, is still pleasant and penetrating.
Bronze - a favorite of acoustic players because of their bright, focused sound. They are bright and brassy when you want them to be, with a clear, penetrating sound.
Phosphor Bronze - longer lasting tone than the 80/20 due to the phosphorus content. These strings provide about 80% of the brilliance of a new 80/20 set for a bright, rich tone that's not excessive.
Brass (85/15 bronze) - a warm, full-bodied tone with good depth. Heavy, louder and brighter and are often chosen by flatpickers and energetic fingerpickers.
Silk & Steel - offers the driving force of steel strings and the soft tonal properties often associated with classical strings. A center wrap of silk fiber provides easier fingering and minimizes the brilliance for a sweeter more mellow tone. Popular with folk guitar enthusiasts and finger-style players.
The pickups used in acoustic guitars are transducer style rather than electro-magnetic. The transducer picks up the vibrations from the soundboard and bridge and therefore, does not require strings with magnetic properties. Phosphor/bronze strings are very popular for acoustic/electric guitars. However, any of the acoustic bronze or brass compositions can be used.
Electric guitars utilize electro-magnetic pickups. Therefore, string compositions for electric guitars must have highly magnetic characteristics. Bronze and brass cannot be sensed by the electro-magnetic pickup.
Stainless Steel - a favorite among electric guitarists due to their exceptionally brilliant tone and anti-corrosive characteristics. Resistant to the effects of perspiration and humidity, they last significantly longer than their nickel counterparts and produce ultimate volume and sustain.
Nickel-Plated Steel - the "hot" strings preferred by many rock guitarists. The highly magnetic characteristics produce a brighter sound with more "punch" than pure nickel-wound strings.
Pure Nickel - can be used on electric as well as acoustic guitars. Bright sounding, smooth feeling string often preferred for rhythm or jazz. The sound is slightly darker, rounder and fuller than nickel-plated strings.
Flat-wound - a ribbon-like flat wrap is used to smooth out the string and eliminate finger noise. This process reduces the brilliance of the sound leaving a more mellow tone and easier fingering.
Electric Bass Guitar
Stainless Steel - exceptionally brilliant tone and anti-corrosive characteristics. They last significantly longer than their nickel counterparts and produce ultimate volume and sustain.
Nickel-Plated Steel - "hot" strings with highly magnetic characteristics produce a traditional bright sound.
Nylon-Taped Wound - a teflon or nylon (usually black) coating is applied to reduce finger noise and make strings smoother and easier to play. String brilliance is subdued making an electric bass sound more like an acoustic bass. Popular for bluegrass or jazz.
Ground-Wound - a round-wound string is ground to flatten the outside surface. They are more flexible than true flat-wound strings and tend to be brighter and richer.
Flat-Wound - a flat wrap is used for a smooth string. This process reduces the brilliance of the sound leaving a more mellow tone and easier fingering.
Bronze - bright, focused sound with a clear, penetrating tone.
Phosphor Bronze - longer lasting due to the phosphorus content. These strings provide a bright rich tone that's not excessive.
Stainless Steel - some string makers offer stainless steel to match the bright, naturally brilliant and bell-like sounds desired by banjo players.
Pure Nickel - a traditional bright sound, that's slightly darker, rounder and fuller than the others.
80/20 Bronze - excellent for projecting a penetrating sound with unsurpassed tonal range. Loose their initial super brilliance after a few hours of use.
Bronze - bright, focused sound with a clear, penetrating tone.
Phosphor Bronze - longer lasting due to the phosphorus content. These strings provide a bright, rich "true-to-life" tone that's not excessive.
Mandolin (with electro-magnetic pickups)
Stainless Steel - exceptionally brilliant tone and anti-corrosive characteristics. They produce ultimate volume and sustain.
Nickel-Plated Steel - a bright and balanced sound with a good solid bass range.
Pure Nickel - a traditional, bright and balanced sound.
Cryogenics, the science of treating materials by exposing them to extreme low temperatures, is not new. It has been applied since 1966 to steel tools to reduce wear and extend the life. The process has been found to increase the life of a tool by two to five times. In 1985 the Cryogenic process was applied to a set of piano strings. And almost three years later the piano remained accurately tuned.
In the case of Adamas Strings, the strings are submerged in liquid nitrogen until the temperature reaches a minus 318 degrees Fahrenheit. They are held at the minus 318 degrees for fifteen hours then slowly brought back to room temperature. The entire process takes 38 hours to complete. The result is a crystalline change in the metal, which reduces residual stress created in the manufacturing of wire and the string.
The string is now more stable and does not experience as great a degree of change in the overall tension as the string is stretched during tuning and playing. Simply put, this helps the string hold its tune or pitch, since a major reason for a string to lose its ring or "go dead" is because it loses its ability to stretch or its "elasticity". The Cryogenic process actually can increase the useful life of the string by helping it hold its tone and brilliance longer.
A vast majority of the "nickel" wound strings made today are wrapped with a steel alloy wire that has an electroplated coating of pure nickel. The benefits of a nickel plate over a pure nickel wrap is that the inner steel interacts with the magnetic pickup better to produce a higher output. The outer nickel surface softens the string, smoothing out the feel as well as the tone. It also resists oxidation better, reduces fretwear, lasts longer and is easy on the fingers.
Ball End (Nylon) Strings
Some nylon (classical) strings are equipped with a ball end. Balls eliminate the need for tying the string at the bridge to facilitate easier attachment.
String Set Gauging
String sets are available in a wide range of gauges ranging from Super or Extra-light gauges, to Medium or Regular gauges, and up to Heavy gauge. Basically, the lighter gauges are thinner (less tension) and provide easier fingering (they offer less resistance), while the heavier gauges are thicker (higher tension) and produce a more full sound, with stronger projection.
Match to Playing Style
If note-bending is the crucial consideration, then get light gauge strings. If their tone is a little weak, you can use a slightly heavier set with stronger projection and still be in the "light" category with easy-to-bend strings. Some fingerpickers also choose light gauge, although heavier string gauges are required for really heavy flat-picking or rhythm strumming (heavy right-hand technique). Rhythm players in rock groups and dance combos, who need a full, solid sound, often choose heavy gauge.
Wrapped steel strings are wound on a high carbon tinned steel core wire. Core wire can either be round or hexagonal.
Round Core Wire
Advocates of round core wire argue that the wrap is tighter and vibration is more even and true.
Hex Core Wire
The most common core shape is hexagonal although other shapes may be used. Stringmakers who use hex shaped core wire do so because the corners of the core wire dig into the outer wrap, resulting in a greatly improved mechanical bond. The end result is a longer lasting, more durable string. Shaped core wire can be ordered from the wire mill, but some stringmakers choose to shape it on their own equipment.
Electric bass guitars are available in various lengths or "SCALES." Long scale is the most popular. The scale is measured from the bridge to the fingerboard nut.
Short scale is 30"
Medium scale is 30"-32"
Long scale is 32"-34"
Extra Long Scale is 33-1/2"-36".
A String's Magnetic Qualities
Electric guitars utilize electro-magnetic pickups that sense the movement of a metal object within their "field." Therefore string compositions for electric guitars must have highly magnetic characteristics. Magnetically responsive metals, such as stainless steel, nickel, and nickel alloys are used as wraps for electric strings. Acoustic string wraps, such as bronze, brass, and copper, cannot be sensed by the electro-magnetic pickup. Instead the pickup "reads" only the high carbon steel core wire and the amplified effect is very minimal. The high carbon tinned steel used for the plain treble strings and also for the core wire, in both acoustic and electric strings, does have the necessary magnetic qualities.
The piezo transducer pickups, used in acoustic guitars, pick up the vibration from the soundboard and bridge and therefore, do not require strings with magnetic properties.
New String STRETCH
New strings go through a brief period of stretching. To minimize the inconvenience, retune more frequently until the strings stabilize and hold their pitch. Always plan ahead and change strings at least 24 hours before a performance.
Flamenco and classical guitars were originally strung with three treble strings made from the dried intestines of sheep. These strings were labeled "cat gut" and sounded rich and sweet but weren't very dependable or strong and lost their tone very quickly.
Andres Segovia persuaded his friend, Albert Augustine, a string maker, to use a plain nylon developed by Dupont to replace the first three gut strings.
Black Nylon or Clear Nylon Trebles?
Some players swear that the color of the treble nylon string - black or clear - affects the tone. LaBella treble strings are blackened by chemical injections and a heat treatment. According to the manufacturer, X-ray microphotographs confirm that string vibration is improved.
The wire used in string manufacturing is called "tinned mandolin wire." This wire is made of high carbon steel that is drawn from steel bars to its desired gauge. It is then subjected to a bath of tin, which coats the surface. This coating gives the very hard steel wire an outer softness and resistance to corrosion. After tinning, the wire is drawn through round diamond dyes to produce the extremely smooth surface for the plain unwound treble strings or through hexagonal diamond dyes to produce the hex core wire for round wound strings.
The amount of tension each string requires can vary greatly. For example, several different gauges of plain strings can be chosen for the guitar's high "E" string. When brought to pitch, each increasing gauge (thickness of wire) will be relatively stiffer and exert relatively greater tension.
Tension Affects Sound
Strings with higher tension will tend to sound "stronger" and more "forceful" than strings with lower tension. In other words, the heavier the string, the beefier the sound (no matter how loud you turn up the amplifier, an .008 first E string won't sound as powerful or sustain as well as an .014). Strings with lower tension will tend to sound "warmer", "fuller", and "rounder" than those with heavier tension.
Tension Affects Instrument
If an instrument is usually weak-sounding you can compensate for the deficiency by selecting strings with higher tension. If the strings tend to "buzz" against the frets, a higher tension may help eliminate the annoying contact with the frets.
A thin string will vibrate faster than a thick one when both are at the same tension. Light strings can move more rapidly, and faster vibration rates produce higher tones. That's why the thinnest strings are used in the treble register and the thickest strings are used in the bass register.
Violin String Adjusters
String adjusters attach to the tail piece and provide fine tuning adjustment. They are required whenever steel strings are used. Gut and nylon (Perlon) strings do not require strings adjusters. The first string of the violin is often steel and requires an adjuster. A steel core is often used for all strings on student instruments - requiring strings adjusters for all four strings. Some student instruments also use anti-slip pegs and therefore require strings adjusters - even when using nylon or gut strings. After a period of use, a string adjuster screw may be turned-in as far as it will go (extending out the bottom and touching the violin top). This can cause buzzing noises, dampening of vibration and damage to the violin top. Before this occurs, unscrew the tuner as far as possible and then re-tune the string with the peg.
Violin String Composition
Strings for the violin and other string instruments were originally composed of the small intestines of sheep, commonly referred to as gut. Today gut strings are still preferred by may but other materials are also available.
Perlon: A synthetic fiber called Perlon (strands of silk-like nylon) is often preferred because the strings last longer and stay in tune far better than gut.
Steel: The first string of the violin is almost always steel, even though the remaining strings may have a gut or Perlon core. A complete set of steel strings is also available (particularly for use on student instruments). Steel strings have a greater tension than gut or Perlon. Steel strings may have a much as 25% more tension than gut - putting more force downward on the top of the instrument.
Wound Strings: All strings (violin, viola, cello, and bass), except the smallest violin E string are wound strings. Wound strings have an outer wrap over a core of either gut, Perlon, or steel. The outer wrap is metal and the type of metal used will affect the tone. An aluminum wrap is most common. Silver is also used as a wrap wire and is denser than aluminum - allowing the string to be brought into tune with less tension. A chromed-steel wrap is also available and produces a much brighter sound.
Flatwound Strings: A flattened outer wrap is available on some strings. This produces an extremely smooth string surface - eliminating finger noise. The flattened wrap does not have the brilliance of a round wrap string.
Violin String Care
It is important to remove and replace only one string at a time. This will keep pressure on the top to prevent the soundpost from falling. This will also keep the bridge in the proper position. After removing the string, fasten the new string to the tail piece and attach the other end to the peg. Turn the peg so that the string winds over, not under, the peg. When winding the string around the peg post, make sure that each revolution of the string around the post sits one notch closer towards the peg's thumb piece. If you have adjusted the length of the strings properly, when starting, it will end close to the wall of the peg box as the string reaches pitch. Wind no more string on the peg then the space between the peg and the side wall of the peg box. Too much string on the peg can split the peg box or break the peg.
Information on this page is courtesy of Kaman Music Corporation, La Bella Strings, and D'Addario Strings.