Coated vs Uncoated Guitar Strings – The Power Of Corrosion

Hello all, this week I came back home from college as it was reading week. Most of my gear and guitars are here which meant that this week I had the opportunity of using them and checking up on how all of my gear has been fairing being stored long term.

This gave me a great idea to showcase coated vs uncoated guitar strings and just how effective coated strings can be. this is especially true if you know your guitar isn’t going to be played very often or there is going to be a long period where it goes unused.

Coating on guitar strings is used to protect the metal from corrosion, in an ideal world that was very dry and your strings never came into contact with moisture then there would be no need to ever change your strings! This of course is not the case because we have to touch our instrument in order to play it right? There are many reasons why you might want to consider here are a few:

  • You live in an area with a high level of humidity
  • Your finger sweat a lot when you play or more importantly your sweat is very acidic
  • You have an instrument that gets used infrequently
  • You like the feel of coated strings

Below I have displayed 3 of my guitars the first two are ones that I have left here at my parents house, my Harper brand guitar and my Seagull brand guitar. Neither of these guitars have been used in almost 6 months. The difference of coated vs uncoated guitar strings here is quite staggering.

The Harper Guitar (Uncoated Strings)

This here is my Harper brand guitar, I’d never heard of the brand until I bought this guitar for cheap on Kijiji. It’s not a great instrument which is why I didn’t bother with putting expensive coated strings on it.

Uncoated Guitar Strings

After seeing how bad these strings are I will definitely use coated ones next time because it’s almost useless to me with the strings that are on it now. I don’t use it very much so when I’ve put strings on it in the past by the time I use it again they are half-way rotted.

The Seagull Guitar (Coated Strings)

This one is my Seagull guitar and as you can see the lower bass strings are miles away from the grungy brown of what we saw earlier. In fact the low strings feel practically brand new and sound like it too.

It is worth mentioning that I used phosphor bronze strings on both guitars so you can see just how far gone the rotted strings are on the Harper. The brand of strings I used here for the coated strings are Elixir strings which coat around the whole string which is why I think they stayed so crisp.


Coated Guitar Strings


Having said that the 2 high strings that are not wound are not looking so great. I can assure you they feel as rusty as they look. Between the 9th and 12th fret is the most accurate representation of what they look like in real life as my camera has picked up a bit of glare in a few spots in the picture.

Here is another picture with a white pick behind for reference.

The Fender Acoustic

This guitar I actually have at college so It gets used a fair bit, neither of the two guitars above have been played much since their last string change. The main purpose for the coated strings on the seagull guitar was to put on strings that wouldn’t rust out while I was away, so it was more of a storage purpose. My Fender acoustic guitar also has a set of Elixir strings on it and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of them over a year! (and they still sound and feel great)

I play my acoustic guitars with 11-52 gauge sets because Iv’e learned to play with a somewhat light touch and because of this I don’t dent strings and it keeps the wear to a minimum. This in combination of my electric guitar being my main instrument has allowed these strings to really last.

Most of the wear that showing is from the pick down by the bridge area. The rest of the coating seems intact, there are some corrosion spots but as a whole they still feel very slick which is my main criteria when deciding if I will change out a set of strings.

As a side note, being a college student these coated strings are great on your wallet I wasn’t joking when I said that they haven’t been changed in over a year. Not just being stored but being played somewhat frequently. I usually find with coated strings on this guitar that they finally do break because of being tuned up so many times, breaking at the tuners.

So Which Is Better?

In a nut shell I would say that coated strings are better if you can deal with the feel of them. When I first tried playing coated strings I couldn’t stand them. I was using higher tension (bigger gauge) strings and because coated strings are much more slippery I had a very hard time gripping the strings. I’ve grown to really like coated strings on acoustic and I don’t think ill be making the change back anytime soon.

I still much prefer regular strings on my electric guitars so it really comes down to preference. If your someone who needs to change strings regularly to avoid breaking strings (for example on stage) than I would say coated is probably not the best way to go as they coast more per set.

My advice to someone who has never tried them before would be to just give it a shot because if you like the feel of them you can really save some money.

Coated vs uncoated guitar strings…. it just depends if the coating bothers you or not.

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