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Most string manufacturers offer some kind of coated or treated string for acoustic and electric guitar in their product line (very few people seem to choose coated/treated strings for electric guitar). The different coatings and treatments can be read about on the manufacturers’ web sites. The purpose of these kinds of strings is to prolong string life and to preserve that bright, “new-string” tone. But should you buy one of these “premium” brands the next time you are in the market for new strings?

Coated or treated strings definitely last about twice as long. (However, even this is very subjective, as the longevity of any guitar strings depends on several factors, including your body chemistry, how much you play, and the environment your guitar is stored in). These strings do last twice as long, but they also cost at least twice as much. So, in this sense, premium strings don’t really seem to be any better in terms of value.

You may think that just by saving you the trouble of having to change your strings as often, that this would make premium strings a better value, but I want to caution you against this line of thinking. For many players, the only time the overall health of the instrument is even remotely evaluated is during the string change. Therefore, if you change your strings half as often you are only half as in-tune with the needs of your guitar. Many guitar problems get worse over time, and become more difficult and more expensive to repair the longer they are left unattended. Ideally you would want to notice a problem when it is just barely developing and have it corrected/repaired as soon as possible; and you are more likely to notice a problem the more often you change strings.

As to the effect premium strings have on the tone of your guitar… the bright, new-string tone does seem to stay around longer – some players like this aspect and some don’t. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

I would never discourage one of my customers from buying a coated or treated string – players like what they like – and I am always encouraging my customers to get to know their instruments better. That being said, if you are undecided about premium strings, I recommend that you just buy the normal, basic, cheap strings, and prolong the life of those by always washing your hands before you play, wiping your strings down with a dry polish cloth after you play, and storing your guitar in a case or bag. You can try the various string cleaning products if you like, but although they can help your strings last longer, I believe that if your strings are dirty enough that you think you should clean them, you should probably just change them. For tips on identifying when it is time for new strings, read the entry entitled “How often should I change my strings?”

This is one technician’s perspective.

What are your thoughts?