So, you’ve noticed that your guitar strings have started to look like a glam metal band from the mid-80s? If that’s so, you’ve undoubtedly come to the right place. In today’s article, we’ll show you just what could cause your guitar strings to look hairy. Stay tuned! 

Okay, are we really going to talk about hairy guitar strings? If your reaction’s very similar to the previous question, it only means you’ve probably just recently started your adventure in guitar playing. Anyway, once you’re finished reading this article, you’ll know that guitar strings can actually turn hairy. Also, you’ll find out why it happens!

This issue mostly happens to coated guitar strings. Needless to say, if you’ve noticed that your strings have grown hair – it’s the coating that’s coming off. However, keep in mind that this ain’t a reason to panic. Some folks even like the sound of hairy strings, or the sounds your strings will make once all the coating’s off. 

As the age-old saying goes: reading only the preview will turn your guitar strings into Mötley Crüe. Read the whole thing!

Table of Contents

What are guitar strings made of?

Before we delve deeper into the subject matter (why have your guitar string gone hairy?), let’s see what they’re made of. Tackling this issue, there’s a good chance that we will stumble upon some hints as to why guitar strings turn hairy. So, what are guitar strings made of?

In this first bit, we’re not going to talk solely about materials used in the production of guitar strings. That’s right, let’s consider their anatomy. So, a guitar string consists of:

  • Core. If you were to split a guitar string up, you’ll immediately notice that the core is probably the most important part of it. After all, it is THE CORE. Anyway, you’ll find two types of core present on the market: hexagonal and circular. Also, if we’re speaking of materials, you’ll find steel, nylon, and nickel guitar string cores.
  • Winding. Needless to say, the aforementioned core is coated with winding. Keep in mind that strings B and E (and sometimes – G) don’t possess winding. When it comes to winding, we can differentiate between roundwound, half-round, and flatwound strings. Speaking of flatwound strings, here’s an article about their durability.
  • Gauge. We’re basically talking about the diameter of the strings. When it comes to gauges, we can differentiate six categories that are measured in inches.
  • Coating. During their production, strings are coated with a synthetic material that’s applied over them to help prevent sweat or other forms of moisture from damaging them. Keep in mind that not all strings are coated. Needless to say, they’re often a bit more expensive than their uncoated counterparts.

Have you noticed any hints? You’re two paragraphs away from finding out whether you’re on the correct path!

What are acoustic guitar strings made of?

So, shall we take a look at what materials are acoustic guitar strings made of? Here’s the typology:

  • Bronze. Made from 90% copper and 10% tin, bronze strings are well-known to be really bright in sound.
  • Phosphor bronze. They possess a much warmer sound than their above counterparts. They’re made of 92% copper, 8% tin, and less than 1% of phosphor. Thanks to the last ingredient, they’re also known to last much longer. Also, folks say that they’re fantastic when it comes to fingerpicking.
  • Silk and steel. They’re known to possess a pretty sweet sound and they’ve got a nylon or silk layer in between the metal core and the silver alloy winding.
  • Brass. These strings are made from 80% copper and 20% zinc. You could say that they’re a pretty old-school choice.

Speaking of acoustic guitar strings, here’s an article on whether extra light acoustic strings are any good. What about electric guitar strings?

What are electric guitar strings made of?

Without further ado, here are the materials electric guitar strings are made of:

  • Nickel plated. You’ll want to know that these are probably the most popular choice since they’ve got a bright, yet pretty balanced sound.
  • Nickel. Made only of nickel, they’ve got a somewhat warmer sound than their nickel-plated counterparts. Here’s where you’ll shop for them.
  • Polymer coated. They’re quite famous for their durability.
  • Stainless steel. Folks say that these have the brightest and sharpest sound you can come across. You’ll mostly find hard rock guitarists using them. Speaking of stainless steel here’s an article about whether stainless steel frets sound different.
  • Chrome. Not so great when it comes to the sound, as many guitarists will probably confirm. However, they’re very popular among jazz guitarists.

We might’ve gotten a bit carried away with this introduction and everything. However, we hope you’re still with us since we’re about to tackle the issue of why your guitar strings look, well, hairy!

A man playing the bass guitar with hairy strings.

Why do my guitar strings look hairy?

First of all, don’t let the picture above misguide you or something, bassists too might experience the issue in question. Certain bass strings also tend to become “hairy” over a good period of time. Let’s see what’s the deal with the so-called hairy strings!

You’ll want to know that this happens mostly to coated guitar strings. Also, we thought that talking about strings being coated in synthetic material was a good enough hint. Maybe we weren’t so on-point with that one, though. Anyway, here’s the simplest answer: your guitar strings look hairy because the coating’s coming off. We’ll take a guess and say that you haven’t replaced your guitar strings in a while if you’ve noticed THE HAIR.

However, this info we’ve shared above doesn’t mean the way your guitar sounds will change thoroughly. Most likely, you won’t feel the difference. Additionally, some folks add, you’ll want to wait ’till their hair completely falls off, cause once that happens – they start sounding awesome. While we’re on the subject of weird guitar-related questions, have you ever wondered why your guitar smells like garlic?

Now that we’ve uncovered the veil of mystery that shrouded the so-called hairy guitar strings, let’s see some additional info surrounding the topic.

How do you know when guitar strings are bad?

One might wonder: well, if my guitar strings aren’t obviously bad once they start losing their hair (coating), how do I know when is the right time to replace them? Here we’ll show you some of the signs that it’s time to obtain a new set of guitar strings. As always, stay tuned!

#1 You’re having a pretty hard time staying in tune

Okay, so let’s start this one off with a disclaimer: there are a lot of reasons why your instrument might go out of tune on a regular basis. In other words, it mightn’t have anything to do with your strings. However, if you notice your nut’s alright, your tuners too, and you’re not sporting a warped neck, these factors might point out the fact your strings are to blame. Usually, the strings that cause tuning issues are either completely new or too old. Once you buy a new set of strings. don’t forget to stretch them out a little the first couple of times you play with them.  

#2 Your strings look “injured”

That’s right, if you’ve noticed some dents on your strings, it means that it might be a time for a change. You know how they say: the more dents you notice, the better are chances that your strings will break. So, yeah, once you notice dents, replace your strings.

#3 Issues with discoloration

One of the more obvious signs that it’s time to conduct a string replacement process is discoloration. How to notice this? Well, while they’re “healthy” nickel and steel strings are known to give off a silver vibe, and acoustic ones are known to keep a vibrant bronze. If you’ve noticed that they’ve become dull in color, it’s time for a change. 

Keep in mind that this discoloration issue might occur as a result of dirt or oil getting into contact with your strings. Check that one by giving your strings a good clean, and if they’re still looking discolored and everything – it’s time to change ’em. Oh, and speaking of color, here’s a piece about whether colored guitar strings sound different.

#4 The sound coming from your instrument sounds a bit dull

It’s not only the color that can end up being dull, your guitar might sound dull too. Therefore, if your harmonics refuse to pop and chords refuse to chime, that might mean that your old strings are to be carried to the nearest garbage can (what a way to treat old strings…). Still, we should keep in mind that, in the end, it all comes down to personal preference. If a certain guitarist likes a more mellow guitar tone, then the individual will most probably enjoy worn-out, a-bit-on-the-dull-side strings. 

Final thoughts on the subject of hairy guitar strings

That’s about it on the whole talking about guitar strings looking a bit hairy, dear folks. We hope that you’ve had a fun read and that you’ve learned a new thing or two about why strings sometimes tend to look like this or that. If you’re on the lookout for more tips and interesting info concerning your favorite instrument in the whole world, please click right here.