The Pros & Cons of Stainless Steel Guitar Strings

by Dave Stanley

Stainless steel guitar strings offer much in the way of providing great tone, playability and affordability. They're more versatile than other types of strings, such as nylon and nickel, in that they lend themselves well to both the folk and heavy metal musician. They're not without their cons, however, and whether or not you opt for them depends on what you need out of a string.

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Tone

New stainless steel strings sound great when they're brand new. The tone is bright, crisp and well defined. In fact, it even adds to the guitar's volume somewhat. Nickel strings have a certain flatness to them. Granted, that can work well with some musical styles, but if brightness is what you're looking for, then stainless steel strings are the way to go.

Temperature Sensitivity

If you live in an extreme climate, then you know all too well the annoying quirks of stainless steel guitar strings and how temperature and humidity affect their ability to stay in tune. For example, if you are playing a gig outside in the summer, but have had your guitar inside in the air conditioning all day, you will have trouble keeping it in tune, as the steel will have to adjust to the sudden temperature change.

Durability

Stainless steel guitar strings are quite durable. Granted, much depends on how you play them. For instance, if you are an aggressive, percussive player of heavier music, then you may have to change them a bit more often. With proper care, however, they can last indefinitely. One way to do this is to keep them clean by wiping them down after use, as the dirt and oil from your hands can shorten their life if left on the string. Plus, they don't tarnish as easily as nickel strings.

Break-In Period

New stainless steel guitar strings need a break-in period before they will consistently stay in tune. For this reason, it is never recommended to change strings right before you are about to have a practice or a show. Simply put, strings need to be stretched to stay in tune. You can take a few shortcuts, such as gently tugging on them after they've been put on, but the fact remains that you will have to retune after every song for the first few performances.

About the Author

Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on CBSSports.com and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.

Photo Credits

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