What's the big deal with strings anyway? Well, guitar strings can make a significant difference in tone and playability.
First, regardless of the type of strings you choose, you should always have fresh strings on your guitar. Why, you ask? Well, consistency in tone and feel is very important.
I've heard some guitarist say they like the sound of old strings, but it takes time to get your tone just right and you're putting yourself at risk of breaking a string. Old strings are prone to breaking, which is no fun on a gig. Another factor of old strings is tension. As the strings age, they stretch and lose their flexibility, making it harder to bend and press down. Even with brands that claim to last a long time you still run into the tension issue.
So how often should you change your strings? Well, it depends on how much you’re playing and how old they are. If you’re playing 2-4 times a week, I would replace the strings at least every 2-3 months, if not sooner. Even if you’re not playing much, you will still run into the tension issue, so don’t let the strings age too long.
So what kind of strings should you buy? This depends on the type of guitar you have. For instance, if you own an electric guitar, you need to purchase strings designed specifically for that type of guitar. If you own an acoustic guitar you have to make sure you know what type of acoustic you have (steel string acoustic or nylon acoustic). You need to be careful because putting steel strings on a nylon acoustic could ruin the guitar. Steel string acoustics come in a mix of bronze, copper, and steel. I prefer phosphor bronze on my acoustic. Currently, I have John Pearse phosphor bronze wound light gauge on my acoustic.
Now, let’s talk about string gauge. The gauge of the string is very important and can dramatically affect tone and playability. String gauge is the thickness of the string(s). Basically, the thicker the string the harder to bend/press, but bigger the tone. I recommend purchasing something in the medium range. For example, on electric guitar a set of .010 (10 gauge set). This will give you the max flexibility with sounding too thin.
When we buy a set of strings we simply ask for the thickness of the 1st string. “Could I get a set of D’Addario ten gauge for my electric guitar?” Companies offer different types of sets. For instance, D’Adarrio may make a .010 set with a different 6th string gauge than Ernie Ball. There is no standard set and many players prefer a certain brand for their unique gauge combination. Some players swap out a string. I believe Mike Stern replaces his 1st string in a .010 set with a .011 gauge string.
Types of Strings
Phosphor Bronze – 92% Copper and 8% Tin. The tin is added to improve sustain and retain their tone longer than bronze or brass strings. Probably the most common type of acoustic guitar string. They are bright, warm, and balanced.
80/20 Bronze – The original steel guitar string made up of 80% copper and 20% tin. Some people feel these are a little brighter than phosphor bronze.
: The wrap wire is in fact normally steel with an electroplating containing 8% Nickel. The steel alloy gives optimum magnetic properties required for magnetic pickups. The nickel electroplating ensures resistance to oxidation and corrosion and provides a 'soft', smooth surface that minimizes fret wear.
Stainless Steel: A highly magnetic steel alloy containing Chromium and Nickel which imparts high corrosion resistance. The sound is very bright. Stainless steel is a hard alloy and can lead to premature fret wear.
: Nylon strings are for classical guitars. They have much less tension at full pitch, and a nice warm round tone. They are only really appropriate on classical guitars, so if you are not sure what kind of guitar you have, take it into a guitar store and ask.
: The outer wire wrapping is square instead of round so, once wrapped, the surface of the string is much smoother. These are great on jazz guitars because they provide a nice mellow tone.
Round Wound: Simply means that the core wire has a round cross-section. The core wire is invariably high carbon alloy steel. Most brands are round wound.
info from: Rhythmstummer.com