The Great Martin String Challenge
2015 Martin String Catalog
Frequently Asked Questions: Strings
Is it safe to use medium-gauge strings on my scallop braced guitar?
What is the difference between phosphor bronze and regular bronze strings?
Why do steel strings tarnish?
Why are your strings packaged in three envelopes instead of six?
What type of strings came on my Martin?
Why did the Martin Guitar Company choose the packaging they are currently using?
I keep breaking strings. How can I prevent this from happening?
Where to Buy
Where to Buy
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Inspired to preserve tone through chemistry, we've worked with ClearTone to create strings that are dipped in a supercharged compound that alters the chemistry of a guitar string without changing the feel or harming the tone, resulting in a string with a much longer life. We use this treatment on our Lifespan line of strings, which sound great, feel great, and hold their tone night after night.
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).