Strings 101 - Guitar String History

The whole concept of the guitar began many centuries ago, but the concept of a musical string began before the guitar. The earliest stringed instruments date as far back as the Egyptian dynasty. Eastern instruments such as the rebab and other lute family instruments have existed since the early part of the 8th century. These instruments were based on the concept of having strings made of various materials such as hair and various livestock parts (mostly intestines). As time progressed, the preference towards animal intestines became the defacto string for most early stringed instruments. In the 13th century, an early instrument referenced by historians as a "guitar" emerged with sheep intestines as the strings.


The number of strings used on the instrument changed over the years. The original "guitar" string set consisted of a quadra-pairing set. This meant four pairs of strings, giving eight in total. In the 16th century, the string sets started to expand with penta-pairings (ten strings), quadra-pairing plus one (nine strings), and so on. The challenge was getting tonal range and volume. Thicker strings were introduced in the 17th century, borrowing the construction features of overspun piano strings. This eliminated the need to have various pairings to emulate extended range and fullness for the instrument. By the late 18th century and early 19th century a six string set started to become more frequent in guitar construction.


The 20th century made considerable gains in guitar string construction. The string material preferences shifted towards steel and nylon. These materials expanded just about every tonal aspect of the guitar. The electrification of the guitar also made manufactures start to focus on the magnetic properties of strings. Other string features such as micro-gauge strings and higher tensile strengths were put into production.


Today in 21st century, string makers continue to improve upon the guitar string by introducing anti-tarnishing technologies and improved string packaging technologies.


Strings 101
Cat Gut
Wound Strings
Nylon Strings
Metal Strings
Flat Wound
Round Wound
Semi Round
Coated Strings
Bass Strings