By Andrew Catania
There are more independent guitar makers than ever before, it appears, by all accounts making fantastic sounding and looking instruments.
Now these fine instruments have to be superior in every sense of anything that rolls out of a factory,. A guitar, whose words have been carefully selected and assembled with all the love and care of a master craftsman has to be intrinsically more musical and more valuable than any “production-line” guitar.
There are many guitar string manufacturers today, makes and brands around the world, but here’s an overview of some of the most popular:
“The Players Choice”
Both electric and acoustic guitar strings are supplied in sets packaged within a single ‘corrosion intercept’ environmentally-friendly package. Individual strings are identified by the color of the ball-end, and a key to colors is supplied on the packaging.
“Every product the very best in its field.“
With their headquarters in California and with their own manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Dean Markley Strings – or DMS for short – manufacture a wide range of popular electric and acoustic guitar strings that are used and endorsed by a wide range of artists, the most famous of which are the incredible guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen and more recently John5.
Acoustic strings include Alchemy, Vintage, and Blue Steel ranges, whereas electric strings include endorsed versions named after Yngwie Malmsteen, Jimi Hendrix and Floyd Rose among others. Floyd Rose “speedloader” strings are specially designed to be used with the incredible Speedloader Tremolo Bridge that enables you to change your strings and have them in tune in under a minute!
DR Handmade Strings
“Born in NYC, wound up in New Jersey.“
Founded by Mark Dronge, son of the Guild Guitars founder, DR Handmade Strings make a diverse range of acoustic, electric and bass guitar strings which, not unsurprisingly, the test on Guild guitars! DR believe in combining old-fashioned craftsmanship with modern materials to create strings that give the feel and tone that players want. Endorsing Artists include U2’s
“Heavy Metal Favourites”
Dunlop electric guitar strings are made in California by Jim Dunlop, famous for the Cry Baby Wah-Wah pedal amongst other things. Bright, well balanced and punchy, these guitar strings are designed for extremely long life and provide low tension with minimum break-in time. Popular with heavy metal artists like Zakk Wylde.
Hi-tech coated strings
In 1995 Elixir started experimenting with coating strings with PTFE. After much trial and error and analysis, prototypes were tried by over 5,000 guitarists and other musicians before Elixir final released their masterpieces. Today their NANOWEB and POLYWEB coated strings are used by guitar players worldwide. Not cheap to buy, but claimed to last 3-5 times longer than ‘regular’ strings!
“Probably the most famous brand of all.”
Ernie Ball invented the trade Mary ‘Slinks’ range of guitar strings back in the 1950s and built a worldwide brand known for it’s a wide choice of ‘custom’ gauge sets. The regular choice of millions of guitarists worldwide.
“Iconic maker of the Tele and Strat.”
Fender invented an alternative to the ball end – the bullet end –, especially for Fender guitars.
“America’s largest string maker.”
E. & O. Mari, Inc., the maker of La Bella Strings, is one of America’s oldest and largest manufacturers of fine strings for virtually every kind of stringed instrument including guitars. La Bella is one of the only companies in the world still making traditional, real gut strings for antique and Baroque guitars. Other materials used include three different types of nylon, Kevlar, copper, brass, bronze, silver, aluminum, in addition to numerous types of steel. Each string is created using a combination of tradition and technology. Sophisticated, computer controlled and automated string-winding machinery is used where applicable, but hand-winding is still used where it delivers the best results.
Martin Guitar Strings
A wide range of Bronze, Phosphor Bronze and Coated strings in every conceivable gauge and type. CF Martin & Co are well known as makers of top quality acoustic guitars, and their strings are made to the same high standard. Core and wrap wires must meet strict requirements to make the grade, and Martin Strings are wound to precise specifications.
Optima Guitar Strings
“Gold plated magic beloved of Brian May and others.”
Quirky, elusive, sometimes hard to find, but some top guitarists will use nothing else, but German made Optima strings. Previously known as Maxima strings, they are best known for their gold–plated electric strings used by Brian May, James Dean Bradfield and others.
“As British as the Beatles”
Famous for ROTO Color strings (ROTO Pinks, ROTO Yellows, etc.) developed in conjunction with some of the world’s top artists, these unique sets deliver a smooth, powerful tone that lasts while other strings have long gone dead.
“Superior strings for superior guitarists.”
Based in Santa Rosa, California, the Sforza String Company produce a range of strings including Nickel/Iron SFT Screamers; Signature
Their following is growing, especially in the Heavy Rock and Metal genre where they are renown for long-lasting strings that hold their tuning well