How Tight Should Guitar Strings Be? Does the Type Matter?

Guitar strings and a winder against a white background

For folks who do not know much about guitars, there’s a lot that they can find quite confusing. One of these issues may have to do with the guitar strings and how they contribute to the workings of the instrument. The tightness and type of guitar string affects the sound of the guitar. 

Guitar strings should be tight enough to attain the tension they require to vibrate at the correct frequencies. Only when they are vibrating at the appropriate frequencies can they produce the right notes. However, the string type will affect the overall outcome.

In this article, we shall look at tightening your guitar strings, the different types available, and factors to consider when choosing your guitar strings. We shall also look at essential tips to help you tune your strings appropriately.

closeup of tightening a guitar string on a guitar's head

Tightening Your Guitar Strings to Tune Them

Your standard guitar has six strings named: E, A, D, G, B, and E. Tuning your guitar simply means tightening the loose strings until each string reaches the tightness required to make it vibrate at the right frequency.

The tightening process is not based on guesswork but on precision. The strings can get too tight, requiring that they be loosened to reach the required note. So you must invest time in understanding how to tell if your guitar strings are too loose or too tight.

For a beginner guitar player, the easiest way to tune a guitar is with a tuner. A tuner will indicate when the string is short of the correct note, requiring tightening. It will also indicate when the string is on key and when it has gone above the note, requiring loosening.

To tune your guitar, follow these steps:

  1. Carefully insert your string into the hole in the bridge area. You should have six holes designed to take the strings.
  2. It is essential to note the thickness of the strings. The tiniest string will go to the hole farthest from the top of the guitar as you hold it, while the thickest will go to the hole close to the top of the guitar where your upper arms rest.
  3. Once the string is inserted, pull it until the stopper is caught in the bridge. Insert the free end into the hole in the tuning machine. The tiniest strings should go to the first tuning peg.
  4. Hold the string in place with your finger, and wind it around the tuning peg by turning the peg. It’s always best to tighten the string with a clockwise movement.
  5. Continue turning the peg until the string is tout enough to stay in place. Do not begin to tighten it so much at this time.
  6. Repeat the process for all the strings.
  7. With the help of an electronic tuner, turn the pegs in the appropriate direction until the tuner indicates that you’ve reached the right note for that string.

Repeat the steps for all the strings, and you’ll have a perfectly tuned guitar. Note, however, that you may find that the strings have gone out of tune the next time you pick up your guitar. There’s nothing to be worried about here.

It’s common for new strings to go out of tune often. Once they’ve settled, you won’t have to tune them whenever you want to play. That said, it’s good practice always to ensure that your strings are tuned before you begin to play.

Does the Type of Guitar String Matter?

6 ultra thin guitar strings on a white background

There are several different types of guitar strings, and each of these types produce different responses and sounds. They also feel incredibly different to play. 

Guitar string type is a critical factor in every guitar. The string type will determine how tight they should be wound, how they’re tuned, the type of guitar they should be used on, and how the guitar will sound.

The quality of sound produced from your guitar is greatly influenced by the type of guitar strings you have. The qualities of the different types of strings affect their playability and longevity as well. 

As you can see, the type of guitar strings you use are very important. Now ,let’s look at the different types of guitar strings available in the market. 

Types of Guitar Strings

Guitar strings are classified based on specific criteria. These include material, gauge, string core, and type of winding.


This is the first thing most people will likely notice about a guitar string. There are several materials used for guitar strings, and these include the following:

  • Steel – These strings are made from steel alone.
  • Nickel – For these strings, nickel is the only material used.
  • Steel and Nickel – This type of string combines steel and nickel. The first three strings in a pack of 6 are made of steel wire, while the last three (the thickest three) consist of steel wire coated with nickel.
  • Brass-plated – As with the steel and nickel strings, these strings have steel wires but are brass plated.
  • Bronze-plated – These strings are made of bronze plated steel wires.
  • Nylon – These are simply made of nylon.


The gauge of a guitar string describes its thickness. There are four main gauges, and these are:

  • Extra-light Gauge – This is the lightest guitar string gauge, and for acoustic guitar strings, they are rated between .010 and .047. For electric guitars, the rating falls between .009 and .008.
  • Light Gauge – On acoustic guitar string ratings, this gauge falls between .012 and .053, while for electric guitars, they fall between .010 and .046.
  • Medium Gauge – The medium gauge string has a rating that starts from .013 for the acoustic guitar and .011 for the electric guitar.
  • Heavy Gauge – This is the heaviest gauge, and its rating for acoustic guitars begins from .014 and .012 for electric guitars.

String Core

The core of a string refers to the shape of the wire that is found right in its core. There are two types of string cores: hex and round.

  • Hex – As the name sounds, this core is hexagonal.
  • Round – This type of core is round in shape.

Type of Winding

Finally, this refers to the type of outer wire wound around the core. There are three types that we will briefly list. These are:

  • Half-round – This is a blend between a flat and round wire. It’s, however, not very common.
  • Roundwound – This type of outer wire is round and the most common type you’ll find.
  • Flatwound – Just as the name suggests, the outer wire for this kind is flat.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Guitar Strings

From the different types of strings we discussed above, it is clear that some consideration has to go into choosing the right guitar string for you. We’ll quickly look at some critical factors that should be considered when choosing guitar strings.

Guitar Type

This is the very first factor to consider before choosing strings. The broad classification is electric guitars and acoustic guitars. The strings for one will differ significantly from that of the other. So, know which type of guitar you have, and you will be halfway there.

Style of Music

As we stated earlier, string type will affect the guitar’s tone. Therefore, knowing the genre of music you play will help you choose the kind of string best suited for that genre. For instance, metal and punk musicians prefer to use strings with heavier gauges. The weight of the strings allows them to really pluck at the guitar for a more impactful sound. 

Target Tone

This is closely related to the issue of style of music. If you do not want to base your choice on a specific type of music, you can base your choice on the tone you want to achieve. Using nickel strings allows you to achieve a ‘warm tone’ in your music, as the string produces sounds in the midrange frequencies. 


In this article, we’ve addressed the issue of how tight a guitar string should be. We’ve also explained why guitar string types matter and the different types of strings available. Hopefully, this article has explained guitar strings and how they contribute to the sound of a guitar.

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