The strings of a guitar can vastly affect both the sound and playability of the instrument. Each different type of guitar can need a different type of strings, so we’ll do a quick introduction to help you figure what strings will best suit your instrument and playing style.
First things first, you need to remember that electric guitars, acoustic steel string guitars, and classical or flamenco guitars will all use different sets of strings with different thicknesses and materials, and it can be very harmful to your guitar if you try to interchange them!
Electric guitar strings usually have a lighter gauge and less tension on the neck than acoustics do. Usually electric strings will be made from materials like pure nickel, nickel plated steel, stainless steel, and even titanium, cobalt, or chrome. Pure nickel, nickel plated steel, and chrome will have a generally warmer tone whereas harder metals like stainless steel, titanium, and cobalt will have a brighter sound.
When it comes to string gauges, lighter is generally brighter and easier to play whereas the heavier is usually deeper and harder to play. Gauges usually run in the range of:
Extra Super Light: .008
Super Light: .009
There are usually two types of acoustic guitars, that being steel string and classical/flamenco. Classical guitars will use strings constructed of nylon usually with metal-wound bass strings. Steel stringed acoustic guitars will usually use strings made from materials like Bronze, Phosphor Bronze, and Brass. Bronze has a bright clear tone but tends to age quickly, while Phosphor Bronze has a slightly warmer and deeper sound with less of an aging problem. Brass tends to have a bright and twangy metallic tone. Some strings also have a Polymer coating which sacrifices a little bit of tone for more longevity.
For steel strings, gauges tend to look like:
Extra Light: .010
Custom Light: .011
How long your strings last will not be the same every time, and can definitely range from person to person. Playing often, playing aggressively, and frequently changing tunings can shorten string life pretty quickly, but there are a few sure signs when you need a string change. Discoloration on the strings, like oxidation or rust, is a big indicator, same with the string becoming unwound or appearing dim. However the most important indicator is that your strings struggle to stay in tune accompanied by a loss of tone, sounding weak or flat.