How Much Are Guitar Strings? (2024) Electric & Acoustic Sets

Author: James Potts | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Whether you’re a total beginner or a dedicated intermediate, playing guitar is a learning process that never fails to surprise you. Tuners, capos, tremolo bars, amplifiers, and pedals; the list of optional accessories and customizable features is almost never-ending.

But one thing (or rather, six things!) that no guitarist can do without is strings.

In this article, I’ll take you through the whole gamut of guitar strings, for both electric and acoustic guitars. We’ll take a look at the prices of strings and what you can expect to get for your money, what makes a certain string a certain way, and how that can affect the price, and even some specialty strings.

The main thing you need to know is that the price for a single set of guitar strings (acoustic or electric) can range from as little as $4 to all the way up to $50.

The vast majority of both acoustic and electric guitar strings (including the best-selling ones) cost between $6 to $10 per set. More premium sets of strings (those made of a different core material or featuring a protective coating, for example) cost in the $12 to $20 range.

It’s even possible that you could end up paying more for super-high-quality custom handmade sets costing much beyond $20 – if you really wanted to!

So without further ado, let’s get started with electric guitar strings!

Electric Guitar Strings – An Overview

Before we get into prices, let’s take a quick look at the basics of electric guitar strings, and the main components that comprise them (and affect their cost).

String Core

First off you have the core of the string. That’s the wire that makes up the internal structure, usually made from steel.

The core can be round or hexagonal shaped, with hex being the more common choice these days, mainly for its ability to grip the wrapping better and provide a more consistent and brighter tone. Round core strings have their place too, however, for the differences in tone that they offer.

Wrapping

Next is the material wound around the core and the method of its winding.

The actual metal used can vary, but the most common metals you’ll find wrapped around the core of your strings are nickel, nickel-plated steel, and stainless steel. But you can also find strings constructed from copper, cobalt, titanium, and brass.

The winding method will usually be one of two: roundwound (most common) or flatwound (slightly less common but still popular). There is also a third option, the halfwound or groundwound method, which is somewhere in between round and flatwound, and far less common.

Roundwound strings consist of a round wire wrapped around the core, giving a textured surface to the string.

Flatwounds are, yep, you guessed it, a flat wire wound around the core, which creates a smooth surface to the string.

Halfwounds or groundwound are roundwound strings that have been flattened to create a smooth surface but with all the internal grip of a roundwound string.

Gauge

The core and wrapping will also affect the gauge, which is essentially the thickness of the string. This is one of the most crucial factors when it comes to choosing and purchasing a set of strings for your guitar. The gauge will affect playability, tone, and price.

String gauges are measured in 1/1000ths of an inch and can range from 0.008 all the way up to 0.56 at the heavier end. Which gauge you choose will largely depend on the type of guitar you play and your own personal preference (and maybe you’ll get slightly influenced by the choice of your guitar idols).

Generally, lighter gauge strings will produce a brighter, more trebly tone, as opposed to thicker strings, which are heavier, more bass-focused, and able to maintain tension in drop tunings. This is why higher gauge strings are generally used for rock and metal music.

Coatings

Typically only really seen on strings with a heavier price tag, coatings can drastically extend the lifespan of your strings, as well as make them slicker and faster to play.

Though there are some concerns about a loss of sustain and brightness, some companies boast that their coatings are so thin that they don’t detract from the sonic qualities of the strings at all.

The complexity of the machines required to apply these synthetic layers to the strings, and the coating liquid itself, often increase the price of the strings they’re applied to.

So, now we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at some strings!

Entry-Level & Mid-Range Electric Guitar Strings

At the lowest end of the pricing scale you’ll generally find the most commonplace type of strings – nickel-wound steel core basic strings in a lighter gauge, like these from Fender.

These strings come as standard on the American Professional Stratocasters and Telecasters, and despite their simplicity and cheap price, are a highly rated and perfectly serviceable string set.

Some of the most popular electric guitar strings in the world actually fall into the low price bracket of around $6 to $10, showing that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great set of strings. Ernie Ball and D’Addario are well known for their own incredibly popular range of string sets, the Slinky range (and all its many variants) and XL range, respectively.

Ernie Ball’s Regular and Super Slinky sets are some of the most-purchased strings, and they’re not exactly anything ‘special’. A tin-plated steel hex core with nickel-plated steel winding, these simple favorites have been best-sellers for years. They’re durable, versatile, and come in a wide-range of gauges to suit almost any playing style.

Ernie Ball’s Slinky line’s closest competitor is D’Addario, specifically, the Regular Light XLs. Featuring a steel core and nickel-plated steel winding, there’s not much to differentiate them from the Ernie Balls, or most other basic strings on the market. But for some reason, they really resonate with a huge percentage of guitar players.

Some musicians claim the D’Addarios are slightly tougher, and break less than the Ernie Balls, so this is something to bear in mind if you’re a dynamic, energetic player.

High-End & Specialty Electric Guitar Strings

The main thing that changes when you start buying more expensive strings ($15 to $20 and beyond per set) is the materials the strings are made from. This includes the alloys used for the wrapping, whatever kind of synthetic polymer is used if the strings are coated, and sometimes even the plating of the steel core.

But another factor that can affect price is any extra steps needed in the manufacturing process. This is apparent with flatwound strings, which need to be carefully wrapped with a ribbon of steel, and groundwound strings that need to be ground down.

Ernie Ball and D’Addario both offer flatwound sets, that while more expensive than their roundwound versions (as seen in the previous section), are still moderately priced compared to other sets available. These signature George Benson flatwounds are known for incredible quality and durability, but are considerably pricier.

When it comes to coatings, jumps in price generally aren’t so steep. This Elixir Nanoweb set comes highly rated for durability, with most users claiming they last up to 3 times longer than uncoated strings.

While they’re almost three times the price of their uncoated counterparts, they’re still under $20, and longer-lasting strings means buying new strings less frequently. So, spending a little more upfront could save you a lot of money in the long run.

Another material change is the switch from nickel to cobalt, which is supposed to increase overall output, gain, and resonance across the entire frequency spectrum. This Ernie Ball cobalt set is highly rated, and only about twice the price of a regular steel and nickel set.

Acoustic Guitar Strings

Steel String Acoustics

Acoustic guitar strings are a little different to electric, as there are two distinct varieties available: steel and classical.

These are obviously to suit the two different types of acoustic guitar – you wouldn’t go putting steel strings on a flamenco guitar as you’d have to change the entire setup to do so.

Steel strings follow a similar construction process to electric guitar strings: a steel core wrapped in an alloy. The most common wrapping alloy is known as 80/20 bronze (an alloy of 80% copper and 20% zinc), even though it’s technically brass.

Another popular option is phosphor bronze, which is an alloy of almost entirely copper, with a tin component of between 8 and 12%, and some phosphorus. These strings last considerably longer than 80/20s and have a slightly different sonic profile.

These are just the most common acoustic steel strings – there’s a whole bunch of other options out there!

Classical Acoustics

Acoustic guitars, along with other acoustic instruments like the violin, cello, and lute, all used to rely on natural sources for their strings before the invention of synthetic materials. The best option at the time was intestinal matter from farm animals, usually cows.

This led to the natural strings being known as ‘catgut’ or ‘gut’ strings, and the term is still sometimes heard today, though actual gut strings are very rare and pretty much redundant now that nylon exists.

Generally, classical guitar string sets consist of nylon for the top three treble strings, and steel-cored wound strings for the lower three.

Entry-Level & Mid-Range

When it comes to acoustic guitar strings, the lower end of the price range is around $6 to $10. Nylons are no different, like this La Bella set. By far the most popular acoustic strings (such as these D’Addarios) belong in this affordable range.

These hexagonal steel core D’Addarios are wound with phosphor bronze, and still under 5 bucks. They are for a Nashville/High Strung tuned guitar, however, so the strings themselves are lighter than a standard set. But it does go to show that you can get high-quality acoustic specialty strings for not a lot of money.

Ernie Ball also makes acoustic strings. This Earthwood set features a hex high-carbon steel core and is roundwound with phosphor bronze. They fit a standard acoustic too, so regular gauges across the whole set, and still for under $10!

High-End & Specialty

As you progress up the price scale for acoustic strings, you tend to find similar changes as you would with electric strings. Coatings, high-resonance materials, and different construction methods are all present on acoustic strings too.

Among coated strings, D’Addario’s XT strings are among the most popular and well-received for their longevity and balanced tones.

Elixir also makes acoustic strings with their patented nanoweb coating to extend the life of the strings and the playability. A steel core with phosphor bronze winding means these strings wouldn’t be suitable for classical guitars, but generally, classical guitar strings are cheaper due to nylon being the main material used in construction.

These La Bella silver-plated strings feature a mix of flatwound for the treble strings and roundwound for the bass strings (low E and A). A nylon core is present in all strings, but the bass strings are wound with silver plating.

These specialty rope-core strings from Tomastik-Infeld are quite a jump up the price ladder, but for good reason. A mixture of materials are used in the construction, with the treble strings formed from tapewound nylon on a rope core, and the bass strings from silver-plated copper flatwound on a rope core.

Of course, these strings are highly specialized for use on period-specific guitars, and won’t be necessary for everyone. But it just goes to show that if you have the need, there’s likely a set of strings out there to meet it!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a whole range of guitar strings available for every budget. If you want cheap strings, there’s not only plenty to choose from, but also some of the best-selling and most popular, reliable strings fall into that bracket.

Ernie Balls and D’Addarios are tried and tested by almost every guitar player, so if you’re in the market for a cheap set, it’s always worth going for a well-known name with a good track record.

High-end strings, like flatwounds or coated strings, are only really worth purchasing if you have a specific need. If money is not a massive obstacle, it can be fun to play around with different strings and see how they affect your sound.

I used to have a guitar that I would only string up with flatwounds for when I wanted that soft, jazzy sound. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more just for the experimentation!

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About James Potts

James is an amateur guitarist and home-recording enthusiast. He loves all things music related - writing songs, playing in a band, and finding the best ways to listen to it. It all interests him, from the history of acoustic guitars, to the latest Bluetooth headphones, to his (ever-growing) collection of vinyl records.

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