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String Training


Action refers to the amount of space between the string and the fretboard of a guitar. String tension pulls a neck forward from a straight line to more of a curve, and it is often the amount of curve (or "bow") in a neck that affects the action of a guitar. Largely a matter of personal preference - some heavy players prefer high action, while some soloists prefer low action (also known as "fast" action), action can affect tone as well as playability, and adjustments to this are usually best left up to professionals with a good set-up.

action image

Ball end

This is the business end of an acoustic guitar string, where the metal meets the wood - the part of the guitar string that comes into direct contact with your guitar's bridge plate and end pins. This means that this is the part of the string that pull with 100+ lbs of string tension against the wood of your guitar. We've created strings with silk-wrapped ball ends to help protect your vintage, boutique, or favorite guitar, available in our Marquis line.

Body size

Body size is a significant factor on which strings to use - for instance, using Medium gauge strings on certain small-bodied guitars can sometimes even do damage. To find out the recommended strings for your guitar, find yours over in our guitars section. The recommended strings are usually at the bottom of the product page.

80/20 Bronze

One of the two most popular "flavors" of guitar strings (the other being 92/8 Phosphor Bronze), 80/20 Bronze refers to the 80% copper/20% zinc composition of the bronze alloy* in a string's wrap wire. 80/20 strings tend to be bright and articulate with a rich low end, though the nature of this bronze alloy means that they tend to become "broken in" faster than some other sets of strings.

Core wire

Core wire is the heart of any guitar string. On higher strings (B & E), the core wire is the string itself. On lower strings (E, A, D, G), a thinner wrap wire is wound around the core, for tone and durability. A thicker core will mean a stronger, stiffer string (like Martin SP or SP Lifespans), whereas a thinner core will be more bendable, delicate string (such as Martin FX strings). Most core wire is composed of steel.

wire image

Dead strings

There is a lifespan to any guitar string. Over time, oxygen, the naturally produced oils and acids of our fingertips, and other factors will corrode the material of your guitar string. As this happens, you will often notice that your strings will sound less "bright" and vibrant. For some, a little bit of deadening is good - it is a slightly mellowed, "broken in" guitar string. For others, any loss of brightness is to be avoided at all costs.  The longer strings are played, the more dead they will become, until they no longer produce the tone you've come to love from your guitar. Most players prefer to change their strings long before this happens - once a month, or even once a week - but what, exactly, dead means to you is really up to your fingers and ears. Use of different materials or chemical treatment can extend the lifespan of guitar strings.


Gauge refers to a string's thickness, measured in thousandths of an inch, and is usually identified by a set's high E string (i.e. a set of "12s" would refer to a set whose high E is 0.012" thick). String gauge affects the tone, playability, and volume of any set of strings. Therefore, a player will notice a significant difference between an extra light set of strings from one line of strings - like Martin SPs, for instance - and a set of Medium strings from the same line. Gauge is largely a personal preference based on playing experience, guitar body size, and preferred tone and feel.


Monel is a nickel alloy that is known for its incredible, lush tone. Though it fell out of popularity due to being a difficult material to machine, we are thrilled to have brought it back for use in our Tony Rice Signature string series. Most players tend to describe Monel strings as sounding perfectly broken in, right out of the box.

92/8 Phosphor Bronze

One of the two most popular "flavors" of guitar strings (the other being 80/20 Bronze), 92/8 Phosphor Bronze refers to the 92% copper/8% tin composition of the alloy of the wrap wire. In this case, it is the phosphor in the tin that gives this alloy its name. This alloy also results in a string that holds its original tone longer than 80/20 Bronze over time. While not as bright out of the box as 80/20, these strings have a rich tone all their own.


A guitar set-up is basically a tune-up for your guitar. It can include a number of things, but most commonly includes adjusting the the string action, fretwork, and polishing. As different strings put differing amounts of tension on your guitar, a set up is usually recommended when changing gauges or types of strings.


Silk-wrapped strings have their ball-ends wrapped in silk to keep the raw metal of the string from coming into contact with your instrument's bridge plate or end pins. Additionally, the added padding on these can help to sit loose bridge pins. Available in our Marquis line, these are great for vintage, boutique, or simply favorite guitars.

String tension

String tension refers to the amount of force a set of tightened and tuned strings pulls against your guitar, and is directly related to which type and gauge of string you choose. Too much tension can even mean a top that is pulled to the point of cracking, or a neck that is pulled forward. For this reason, changing the strings on your guitar from one gauge to another should always be accompanied by a set up from a qualified guitar technician.

Treated strings

Treated for long life, our strings repel dirt, grit and other environmental elements that can quickly alter the sound of your strings. The treatment is so incredibly thin, you won't even know it's there. We use this treatment on our Lifespan line of strings, which sound great, feel great, and hold their tone night after night.

Wrap wire

Wrap wire is wound around the core wire on thicker strings (E, A, D, G) for tone and durability. Different materials (like bronze, phosphor bronze, or Monel) are used to make our various wrap wires, and greatly influence the tone, responsiveness, and overall personality of any set of strings. The difference in materials between a core wire and wrap wire are why some sets of guitar strings have treble strings (B & E) that are a different color than the bass strings (E, A, D, G).

*An alloy of copper and zinc is technically known as brass, but as it is tradition to refer to this combination as 'bronze' when making guitar strings, we do the same in our factory.

Frequently Asked Questions: Strings

Is it safe to use medium-gauge strings on my scallop braced guitar?

Yes it is safe. All of our six-string guitars designed for steel strings have been tested to withstand the tension of a medium gauge string. However, since each top is unique, take note if the top starts to raise abnormally. If this happens, go back to the lighter-gauge strings.

What is the difference between phosphor bronze and regular bronze strings?

Simply put, the difference lies in the tone of the strings. Phosphor bronze has a copper/tin alloy, making them sound brighter.

Why do steel strings tarnish?

Longevity of a string can sometimes depend on the player's body chemistry; and if a player has a high acid content in his/her perspiration, it could cause the strings to tarnish more quickly. Environmental factors such as humidity, can also cause tarnishing.

Why are your strings packaged in three envelopes instead of six?

It’s an ecological decision that literally saves tons of excess paper every year. We package pairs of strings in alternate order to avoid confusion for beginner players who may not be familiar with different string gauges.

What type of strings came on my Martin?

From time to time we change the type of strings used on new Martin guitars. Generally, all non-cutaway dreadnoughts and jumbos get medium gauge. All X-Series, cutaways and smaller models such as the 000 and 00 get light gauge strings. All 12 string guitars get extra light gauge. Of course we have a few exceptions with nylon string guitars and bass guitars. For the most current information of what type of strings came on your Martin, please refer to the model spec page for recommended strings.

Why did the Martin Guitar Company choose the packaging they are currently using?

Our 100% recyclable packages and envelopes are safe for the environment and reduce the chances of the strings becoming tarnished.

I keep breaking strings. How can I prevent this from happening?

Your string breakage problem may not be the result of the strings you are using. Strings often break due to an excessively sharp break angle or rough area at the saddle, or a rough area at the nut. Analyze the frequency you break strings and the location of the break. If you think it is the guitar, take your instrument to an authorized Martin Warranty Repair Center. If you are a heavy strummer, a medium-gauge string may be preferable.

Click here for Guitar FAQ.

Strings Catalog


2015 Martin String Catalog
C.F. Martin Strings are engineered by guitar players, for guitar players with the same care and compassion that we pour into making all of our fine instruments.
View Online | PDF


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