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Coated Guitar Strings: Are They Right For You?

Coated Guitar Strings: Are They Right For You?

If you’ve ever gone shopping for new strings (and I’m going to go ahead and assume you have), chances are you’ve seen some coated guitar strings on the shelf before. Whether you are a beginner to the world of guitar or a total expert, it’s important to understand what guitar string coating is all about.

In theory, they seem like they’d be pretty awesome. When it comes to actually playing them, well, that ends up being a different story. Before we really dive too deep, it’s important to look at how the world of string coating came to be.

History of Coated Guitar Strings

Coated guitar strings came around the in the 1990s when guitarists were looking for a way to make their strings last longer, because let’s face it, changing your strings is a pain. And until someone comes up with an easier and faster way of doing it, it will always continue to be a pain.

Guitarists were frustrated with buying a new set of strings and having them go dead after a few gigs due to the wrap wires being very susceptible to corrosion from sweat and the oils in their skin (as well as natural oxidation).

Cross section of a coated guitar string. Image from citymusic.com

In order to combat all of this, some companies starting creating strings with a thin layer of polytetrafluoroethylene, more commonly referred to as Teflon®. This barrier helped to keep players’ fingers and their sweat and oils from coming in direct contact with the strings. It also stopped the oxygen in the air from coming in contact with the wrap wire to help minimize corrosion.

Pros and Cons of Coated Guitar Strings

As with everything in life, coated guitar strings have their benefits and their drawbacks. The main benefit of them is they last longer than their uncoated counterparts. This is because they are no longer able to build up the same amount of dirt and grime as quickly and they are resistant to corroding. Since they’re are no longer the little valleys created by the wrap wire, finger noise is reduced to a minimum. This is a big plus for acoustic players that are using very close miking techniques. 

So while all this sounds great, the big drawback of coated guitar strings is in the tone department. Coated guitar strings have lower output and reduced sustain—and while this is a bit subjective, many players find their tone to have a plasticky character to it. See, while that tiny barrier of Teflon® on there is great for keeping those strings clean, it’s also limiting how much the string can vibrate, which is ultimately the string’s main job at the end of the day. They’re also going to have a totally different feel to them. Most players report they have a slippery feel which some players enjoy and others abhor, it all comes down to preference.

Where Do We Stand?

To us, the sound and feel of uncoated strings is just too good to pass up. That’s why all of our strings are uncoated, but many of our customers report Stringjoy strings last longer than any other uncoated strings they’ve played before.

There are, however, a few things you can do to keep your uncoated strings in tip-top shape and make sure they sound and play their best, so you can have excellent string-life, without having to sacrifice output or sustain:

  • You can wash and dry your hands before playing your guitar. This way, any dirt or oils that may be on your hands will be washed away before they even get a chance to touch your strings.
  • You can wipe down your strings with a soft cloth both before and after playing. Any sweat had accumulated while playing will be wiped away so it’s not eating away at your strings while its not being played.
  • You can also keep your guitar in its case when not in use to help minimize the effects your environment might have.
  • Lastly, and this is more for entertainment value, but you can always boil your current set of strings in hot water. Just make sure you take them off of your guitar before throwing them in pot!

14 Responses

  1. Help!

    I have more electric guitars than I can play regularly.

    So when strings go bad, it’s usually total time that killed them, not playing time.

    All I want is decent sounding strings that put off as long as possible that day when I’m playing a guitar, and something doesn’t seem right, I’m not digging it… and I realize it’s the strings (usually a tuning stability issue is what puts me over the edge).

    If I keep them in a case and wipe them well before playing (assume that I’ll forget to wash my hands)…
    …how long would strings last on a guitar in these good conditions, if it gets played for up to an hour once per week?

    I’d like to get your Broadway strings, but I feel I should try coated strings first. With a lot of guitars to string up, adding a couple months to their life really has a big impact on my annual string expenditure.

    Thanks!
    Billy

  2. Excellent article. Coated strings are starting to become more playable than ever. As with anything-time and effort=eventual advancement.

    Being a (predominately) finger style player (acoustic), I find that the coating starts to flake where I pluck the strings.

    Uncoated strings have also come a long way, as they also last longer than ever. I do get the same issue with corrosion in the same spot due to being a finger picker.

    Nothing lasts forever.

    I really appreciate the articles and deeply informative website that you’ve constructed. You’re doing the right things the right way, and for the right reasons.

    When you operate that way, there’s never anything to hide. I really like that about Stringjoy.

    I am going to purchase my first few sets of Stringjoy strings, and look forward to playing on them.

  3. When it comes to coated strings, I actually have to have them coated. I have very acidic sweat and even with some coated strings they tarnish within hours. The only brand that doesn’t tarnish is Elixirs so far (sorry to bring up competition), but I’ve tried every other major brand with each one going dark and dull within the day.

    Uncoated strings don’t even last the day. Is there a possible way to make an uncoated string that is resistant to acidic and/or salty sweat?

    1. Yeah, I’m 100% with Gabriel. Just add coated strings to your inventory!

      Should be common sense in 2022, especially when we got the technical means to make it super thin as to not influence tone, sustain, and whatever might be noticeably affected by thick coatings from 25-30 years ago..
      It’s literally the one single reason the next strings I purchase won’t be yours. If it goes dead after 3 days to a week it’s just not worth it, especially for people who don’t have the money or time or OCD to want to change the strings every week. Or just for people who don’t play that much and want to pick their guitar up again next week or in 2 or 3 weeks and still have it sound decent.

      Just have another coated product line with a slightly (and to most people probably unnoticeably) different tone from the start that lasts for months without changing at all IN ADDITION to your unwound ones.. for those 50% of guitar players who don’t believe in stupid myths like coated strings sounding plasticky.
      It’s not “many players” who believe this – it’s only a select few stupid people who probably also believe in other conspiracy theories, but they’re the loud ones, like always.
      Everyone I personally know who plays guitar loves/likes Elixir Nanowebs (which I have also been using for years now upon a recommendation) and no one has ever said “they sound playsticky, I’m not gonna play these!”. Every single one of these people was more like “Wow, these can go for months without dying and they even sound good, cool! I thought they were gonna sound super shitty, because someone on the internet said so.”

      Btw. washing your hands before playing is a somewhat useless advice, especially for sweaty players. That’s common sense for one, and 2nd, even when you wash your hands before and wipe off your strings in addition afterwards:
      It will 100% certain only help marginally with uncoated strings since they will still collect all the skin you’re rubbing off onto them AND the sweat and grease your hands will still produce while playing! Especially when your top skin layer (is this called hard skin? I’m not a native speaker) is soaked and soft from washing your hands and from sweating. That’ll all work its way into the windings and the space between windings and core while you’re playing and the strings are in motion – wiping down the outside of the wound string when you’re finished will not get rid of most of the dirt!
      Don’t even get me started on cooking strings from a physics and mechanical engineering perspective..

      TL;DR:
      Add coated strings to your products! Please?

        1. This sounds almost as if my next strings might be Stringjoys after all.. 😏
          I was gonna order new ones today, but now I shall wait and see what’s gonna happen in 8 days. 😆

          A bit off-topic:
          In the shipping information it says that all packages are shipped DDU. When I input my adress in Germany at the checkout, it adds like $3.50 “taxes” though.
          Is this just like an additional fee for the international shipping or is it really the taxes and I can assume it’ll come right to my doorstep instead of me having to collect it at the customs office to pay the taxes/duties there?

  4. Thanks for a great artice on coated strings. What people forgets and don’t mention at all, when it comes to electrics, is that guitars and especially basses are more often than not string grounded, you have your earth/ground wire at the bridge which connects to the strings, and it is why it is silent when you touch the strings, and starts to buzz when taking off the fingers. However, not so with coated strings, since they lose conductivity. According to Roger Sadowsky, he did a test, and found out that only D’addario and Cleartone/Martin Lifespan had coating that was so thin that conductivity was kept, and no buzz at all.

    Another thing, excuse me for mentioning competitors, but here’s a dig at them. D’addario brags, struts, and flaunts their environmentally safe packagings and has no one paper bag per string and started to color their ball ends instead. Now, no one has taken up how environmentally challenging the coating material is? Have they really examined how/what the Goretex and Elixire are made (of) ? It’s quite a huge polluting process, if you dig into the companies of DuPont and the like. While I don’t mind coating (not my thing at all, for tones) I think some manufacturers shouldn’t brag as much of their otherwise eco-friendly production when they carry coated strings. Now, if you refuse to make them, you can very well state this too, in your blogs about it. Luckily my local shop in Sweden, Malmö Musikaffär carries your brand and I’ve tried a set, and I was pleasantly surprised.

    1. It is definitely like 300% more eco-friendly to use 1 package of coated strings over 3 months than 1 uncoated per week or even per 3 weeks. Covering 1 set in a super thin PTFE (or whatever else manufacturers might use too, nowadays) layer is definitely a great deal more eco-friendly than to produce and use 4-12 sets of strings in the same time. Guess you never considered what production of metals and metalware costs “environmentally thinking”?

  5. I am curious where you stand on products that help clean strings and leave a small coating on it to give it that “slick” feel. Products such as GHS Fast Fret.

  6. Boil the strings? That’s a technique I’ve missed. I assume yoi mean after wear and not prior to use.
    And what material do you recommend for life of strings? 80/20s or phosphor-bronze?
    .Thank you for creating this site.

      1. Boiling may solve a debris accumulation issue, but won’t solve the breakdown of the core to wrap coupling problem. If you ask a player that has tried boiling, they will tell you the strings won’t come back to life as well or for as long as new strings. Not worth the effort imo..

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