flatwound acoustic strings

Flatwound Acoustic Guitar Strings: What are they?

Flatwound acoustic guitar strings offer an alternative to traditional roundwound strings. The flatwound method of winding a strings core allows for some subtle advantages over ordinary strings.

While it is difficult to say one style of winding is better or preferable than the other, flatwound strings have a distinct advantage in certain scenarios.

Below we will discuss why you might want to string up your acoustic guitar with flatwound strings, over bronze round wound strings.

What are flatwound acoustic guitar strings?

 Flatwound acoustic guitar strings are nearly identical to regular flatwounds, just made for acoustic guitars. Aside from variation in tension, acoustic guitar strings are traditionally phosphor bronze wound strings.

This stays true with acoustic flatwounds, just that the phosphor bronze windings are flattened, rather than round. Flatwound strings also typically have windings on the 3rd string or G string.

This is normal for acoustic strings, but not common on electric strings. This means you’ll have less trouble getting a feel for flatwounds on an acoustic, over an electric guitar.

Pros:

  • Reduced string noise from finger changes
  • Darker tones
  • Better for recording in many scenarios
  • Great longevity over roundwound strings
  • Great for slide guitar

Cons:

  • Usually higher gauge
  • Reduced/ more subtle tones (not bright sounding)
  • Less ideal for bending 
  • More expensive

Because flatwounds do not have ridges along the strings, you won’t get the same finger noise when you move string to string, or fret to fret. This is of course a subjective preference, but if the noise is unwanted, flatwounds help with the finger noise issue.

On the other hand, is you’re going for the classic characteristic finger noise sound, you won’t get it with flatwound strings.

Many musicians speculate that flatwounds also have more “true” tone. Again, a very subjective statement. However, flatwounds do offer a more solid string that may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Of course if you’re looking for soloing strings, flatwounds are not likely going to fit the bill. Flatwounds can be great for Blues, but for typical metal or rock soloing, you’re probably not going to find them ideal.

The reason for this is the higher gauge and more ridgid composition of the strings. The strings simply aren’t as “bendy”.

Another consideration I want to point out about flatwound acoustic strings is price. Flatwound strings, in general, are more expensive. This is doubly true for acoustic flatwounds.

Flat wound strings for acoustic guitars are a little less common, so demand does drive up the price, by a few dollars. There is also far fewer options for acoustic guitar string gauges when looking at flatwounds.

Lastly, if you’re a slide guitarist, flatwounds might just be exactly what you’re looking for. Flatwounds will offer a very different feel and playstyle than roundwounds. Give them a try, it will be a pretty clear distinction, whether you like them or not.

Can you put flatwound strings on an acoustic guitar?

Yes, you can put flatwound strings on an acoustic guitar. Ensure you do buy acoustic flatwound strings, as you don’t want to put electric flatwound strings on your acoustic guitar.

So long as you make sure you’ve purchased acoustic flatwound strings, you’re all good to go. The main difference between electric and acoustic flatwound strings are the tension ratings and the 3rd “G” string being wound.

The materials used in manufacturing the string is also different. Though they don’t differ much from roundwound phosphor bronze strings, flatwounds are slightly different. The differences are much larger when looking at electric vs acoustic flatwound strings.

Here’s a video that gives audio examples in the differences between flatwound and roundwound. Not acoustic specific, but it still applies.

Flatwound vs roundwound acoustic guitar strings

No type of string is “better” overall than another, rather just better at some characteristics over others. Personal preference and musical taste is the leading factor when looking at flatwound vs acoustic guitar strings.

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, and want to try strings that don’t have finger noise issues, have deeper/darker tones and last a little longer, try out flatwounds.

If you really like bright tones, you like that classic “scratch” noise you get when changing chords or frets, you might not be the target demographic for flatwound strings.

If you’ve never tried flatwounds strings before, regardless of taste, I recommend you try out at least one pack in your life time. They are a very different style of string. You might just have them surprise you with how the feel and play.

The nice thing is they’ll last you a little longer than traditional strings. Roundwounds have more surface area for grime and oil to get stuck in. Flatwounds greatly reduce this problem, meaning you’re strings won’t show signs of corrasion near as quickly as roundwounds might.

One downside of flatwound guitar strings is the lack of options you’ll have when choosing the gauge you want. Flatwound acoustic guitar strings are less common. Most shops either won’t have them or will only carry one variety of them.

This means you have one option for gauge. If you like light or heavy strings you’ll probably have to shop online for strings to find the gauge  that’s right for you, if you can even find it.

It’s not that you won’t find the right gauge for you, it’s that it will be harder to find and more expensive when you do. With roundwound, you’ll know that every shop you come across will have a least a few options for acoustic roundwound strings.

It really is a matter of taste. Flatwounds on acoustic guitar can some great for some things. Others might be looking for brighter tone, neither preference is wrong. Your playing style will impact what your string choices will be.

It’s easy to stick with your usual choice of guitar strings. I would however, encourage you to try out a variety of different types of strings, made up of different materials.

If you enjoy brighter tones, you won’t end up in guitar jail should you try out a pack of flatwound acoustic strings. It’s simply a matter of taste and playstyle, there’s no clear winner or wrong choice.

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