As a guitar player, you know that keeping your instrument in top playing condition is essential to your performance. One of the most important aspects of maintaining your guitar is regularly replacing your strings. However, with so many options available, it can be difficult to know which type of strings will be the most cost-effective for you. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to correctly calculate the price of your strings, so you can make an informed decision about which strings will save you money in the long run.
How to correctly calculate the price of your strings?
The actual price of guitar strings is determined not only by how much a single set costs but also by its lifespan. For example, a cheap set that needs replacing every month might end up being more expensive year-round.
To maintain a guitar in its prime playing condition, you would need to replace strings once every 2-6 weeks, depending on how much you play, how you handle your guitar, and how you store it. Expensive coated strings (like Elixier) can sometimes be more economical because they can last around three to even six months.
While investing in expensive coated strings, like Elixier Nanoweb, may seem costly at first, it actually saves you money in the long run. Replacing these strings every three months will set you back $52 per year while opting for cheaper strings like D’Addario EXL110 and replacing them monthly will cost you $72 annually. On the other hand, uncoated premium strings like D’Addario NYXL, even though they are more expensive, will be replaced only once a month, which will cost you $156 annually.
What affects strings prices
Strings that are made with care and precision will typically cost more than those that are made with cheaper materials. The quality of the manufacturing process can affect the longevity and performance of the strings, with higher-quality strings lasting longer and producing better sound. Therefore, investing in strings made by reputable brands with a good reputation for quality control can save you money in the long run by reducing the need for frequent replacements. It’s important to remember that sometimes paying less in the short run will become more expensive in the long run if you have to replace the strings more frequently.
A great way to save some money on strings is to buy bundle packages, especially if you replace strings frequently. Guitar strings can sit around for years if they are packed and stored in a cool and dry area, so you don’t need to worry that they’ll go bad.
It’s not common practice to think about the cost of something on a yearly basis, but it can be more economical in the long run. In addition, you’ll always have a spare set of strings on hand.
Let’s put it into practice. The popular D’Addario EXL110, for example, costs $5.99 per package. If you buy a 3-pack, the price goes down to $5.33 per set. If you buy a 10-pack, you’ll pay $4.99 per set, and the 25-pack will save you an extra 20 cents per package ($4.79 per set, which is %20 off!). That means a total of 40$ compared to the initial 60$ price!
Coated vs. uncoated
Electric guitar strings can be coated or uncoated. The uncoated version is more common and what you probably have on your guitar at the moment. Uncoated strings are usually cheaper and, like their name, aren’t coated with anything.
Coated strings are topped with a thin layer of polymer that affects both the feel and sound of the strings. That extra polymer layer protects the string from corrosion but also stiffens it making it harder to bend. Coated strings are also smoother to the touch and produce less screech when sliding over them. They are usually more expensive than uncoated strings per set but are more economical on a yearly budget.
Differences between cheap and expensive strings
Cheap guitar strings
Cheap strings, typically priced between $3-$4 per set, often have many issues due to inconsistencies in their manufacturing process. These strings can have poor sound quality, be thinner and weaker, and can be inconsistent from set to set. They are also more prone to breaking and may have burrs or tears in the metal.
Additionally, they may be poorly wound, even corrode faster, and have inaccurate gauges from what it says on the package, affecting your guitar setup. When playing, these strings may feel too stiff or loose, making it harder to perform certain techniques like sliding or bending.
We do not recommend fiddling with such strings as they would end up costing you a lot more than they saved. There are better solutions. You can simply pay the extra $1-$2 per set (we already established that the price difference is minor when you look at it yearly). Or you can look into buying bundles of 10 or 25 packages (which can lower the price per set significantly) as they can sit around for years if stored properly.
Mid-priced guitar strings
Mid-priced strings are what we are going to call standard strings. They are usually sold for around $5.5-$7 per set and are good for beginners, enthusiasts, or professionals. Unfortunately, you won’t find coated strings of good quality in that price range.
Price and quality are not always synced, so don’t think that just because a particular set costs $6 or $7, it will be of medium quality. When shopping for new strings, you want to look for consistency and quality control. String sound and character are subjective.
Expensive guitar strings
Expensive strings cost around $12-$14 and are usually of high quality, but not always! Make sure that the high price you pay is justified by checking their durability (how easily they break), tonal stability (how fast they go out of tune), consistency in manufacturing, and lifespan (usually, coated strings will last longer than uncoated ones).
Don’t fall for “handmade” strings.
As guitar players, we tend to associate handmade products with high quality, and while it may be true for guitars or guitar pickups, handmade strings tend to be less consistent and accurate than machine-made strings. “High-quality handmade strings” might sound like a great title to bring in more sales, but such strings would probably end up being a waste of money.