Flat Wound Guitar Strings

Flat Wound StringsI love flatwound 1 strings on electric guitars, particularly hollow body jazz guitars. I’ve currently got flat wound strings on three of my guitars, one of which is a solid body. There are many companies selling flat wound guitar strings. How do you choose? I can’t answer which strings you’ll like best but I have gathered data for a large number of brands and models of flat wound guitar strings. I hope this helps.

D’Addario

D’Addario is a popular brand and one of my favorite string makers. Their flatwound line of strings are called Chromes. Because of their popularity they are easy to find. Your local music store probably has some. All of the big online musical instrument suppliers carry D’Addario. They are reasonably priced and they have a fair selection of differently gauged sets.

Chromes 2

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
ECG23 10 (16.2) 14 (17.8) 20 (20.2) 28 (21.3) 38 (21.6) 48 (19.9)
ECG24 11 (19.6) 15 (20.5) 22 (25.3) 30 (24.6) 40 (25.8) 50 (21.5)
ECG25 12 (23.3) 16 (23.3) 24 (30) 32 (27.9) 42 (28) 52 (22.7)
ECG26 13 (27.4) 17 (26.3) 26 (35.1) 35 (35.1) 45 (32.9) 56 (27)

D’Angelico

John D’Angelico was one of the greatest archtop luthiers of the last century. Discussions between him and D’Addario led to the 80 / 20 Bronze string formulation in the 1930s. He once sold strings made to his specifications. I haven’t discovered definitively whether these were wound in his shop or if he had an OEM arrangement with D’Addario or someone else. However it is clear the new D’Addario company that is currently reproducing guitars based on D’Angelico designs, is essentially a virtual company that specified what they want and have others make it. That isn’t a criticism. It brings these great designs into a price range that we poor mortals can afford. I am not sure if the strings with the D’Angelico name are unique but they are available at a good price. I recently purchased a set but haven’t had a chance to try them yet.

Jazz Stainless Steel Flatwound 3

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
FW-UL 10 14 20 28 38 48
FW-XL 11 15 22 30 40 50
FW-L 12 16 24 32 42 52
FW-M 13 17 26 36 46 56

DR

DR Strings Legend Extra Life Flatwound Electric Guitar StringsDR’s “flat-wound” strings are actually polished rather than flat tape wound strings. These are probably brighter than true flat-wound strings while still reducing finger noise.

Legend Polished Flat-Wound

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
F-11 11 14 22 28 38 48
F-12 12 16 24 32 42 52
F-13 13 17 26 34 44 54

Fender

Fender doesn’t have much of a selection for flatwound strings. Although Gretsch and Guild guitars are now part of FMIC and have often been strung with flatwound strings, Fender guitars are not associated with flatwound strings.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
50L 12 16 24 32 42 52
50M 13 17 26 34 44 54

Galli

I apologize for this entry. It is the only incomplete listing. Galli makes more gauges of flatwound string than listed here.

I had not heard of Galli until recently when I found them listed on Musician’s Friend and other sites. They appear to be a well established company only recently expanding their markets. The company was founded in 1890.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
JF1150 11 15 22 30 40 50

GHS

The first four string sets listed are part of GHS’s Precision Flats series. These are not true flatwound strings but are made with a double winding, producing a smoother finish.

Not listed here are GHS Brite Flats. Brite Flats also are not a true flatwound string. These string are precision ground to produce a smooth surface. They use Alloy 52 which is becoming popular among string makers. It is a mixture of 52% nickel and 48% iron. The nickel makes the alloy corrosion resistant while the iron gives it great magnetic properties.

The Pat Martino flat wound set is currently not listed on the GHS website but can still be found at online merchants.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
750 9 11 16 24 32 42
800 11 14 22 28 36 46
900 12 16 24 30 40 50
1000 13 17 26 34 44 54
PMARTINO 15 17 24 32 42 52

La Bella

La Bella claims to have invented flat wound strings in 1940. That alone makes the strings worth consideration. I’ll admit I have never tried them, but I feel now I have to try them – if only for fairness.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
20PXL 9 11 15 20 28 39
20PL 11 15 20 28 39 52
20PCM 12 16 24 32 42 52
20PM 13 17 23 31 42 53
20PH 15 19 25 33 44 56

La Bella also makes an interesting, non-traditional flat wound string that are wound with black nylon tape.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
800L 12 15 28 38 48 56
800M 14 18 36 46 56 67

Optima

Optima Jazz Swing Chrome Flatwound strings are not easily found online. Strings by Mail has them.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
1947EL 11 15 22 30 37 49
1947L 12 16 24 32 44 54
1947M 13 17 26 35 46 56

Pyramid

Pyramid has been making strings since 1850. They are a European company (Germany) and are known for quality strings. They also seem to be among the most expensive strings (along with Thomastik-Infeld, another German string company). You’ll have to decide for yourself if the quality justifies the price.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
GF610 10 13 19 30 35 46.5
GF611 11 15 20 30 35 48
GF613 13 17 24 33 42 52

Rotosound

Rotosound are known for their monel flatwound bass string sets. They make a flatwound monel set for guitars as well. Monel is an alloy used by Gibson back in the 1930s. It was popular but difficult to work with. There are few companies currently making strings from monel.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
RS200 12 16 24 32 42 52

S.I.T.

S.I.T. makes a stainless steel flatwound string. No choice of gauges.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
F1250 12 16 24 30 40 50

Thomastik-Infeld

Thomastik-Infeld makes a Jazz Swing series of flat wound strings (JSxyz) and George Benson flat wound strings (GBxyz). I’ve used the JS strings and think they are great but expensive. Are they worth it? I’m not sure. However, the strings last a very long time and feel great. I like them a lot.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
JS110 10 (17.2) 14 (16.5) 18 (19) 23 (18.1) 33 (18.1) 44 (18.7)
JS111 11 (19.8) 15 (19.5) 19 (21.7) 25 (21.3) 35 (20.2) 47 (21.1)
JS112 12 (22.8) 16 (22.8) 20 (24.6) 27 (24.1) 37 (22.8) 50 (23.3)
GB112 12 (22.8) 16 (22.8) 20 (24.6) 28 (27.3) 39 (24.8) 53 (26)
JS113 13 (26) 17 (25.1) 21 (27.3) 28 (27.3) 39 (24.8) 53 (26)
GB114 14 (32.8) 18 (28.7) 21 (27.3) 31 (31.3) 41 (27.7) 55 (27.5)

Newtone

Newtone Archtop Masters are double wrapped strings, not traditional flat wound strings. As with double wrapped and polished strings from other companies, these are expected to be brighter sounding than traditional flatwound strings while still providing a reduction in finger noise when sliding your finger up or down the string length.

Cat No 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
AM-L 11 15 22 30 40 50
AM-ML 12 16 24 32 42 52
AM-M 13 17 26 36 46 56

All Flat Wound Strings sorted by gauge of 1st and 6th strings.

Brand Cat No Min-max 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Type 4
La Bella 20PXL 09 – 39 9 11 15 20 28 39 FW
GHS 750 09 – 42 9 11 16 24 32 42 FW
Thomastik-Infeld JS110 10 – 44 10 14 18 23 33 44 FW
Pyramid GF610 10 – 46.5 10 13 19 30 35 46.5 FW
D’Addario ECG23 10 – 48 10 14 20 28 38 48 FW
D’Angelico FW-UL 10 – 48 10 14 20 28 38 48 FW
GHS 800 11 – 46 11 14 22 28 36 46 FW
Thomastik-Infeld JS111 11 – 47 11 15 19 25 35 47 FW
DR FL-11 11 – 48 11 14 22 28 38 48 NT
Pyramid GF611 11 – 48 11 15 20 30 35 48 FW
Optima 1947EL 11 – 49 11 15 22 30 37 49 FW
D’Addario ECG24 11 – 50 11 15 22 30 40 50 FW
D’Angelico FW-XL 11 – 50 11 15 22 30 40 50 FW
Galli JF1150 11 – 50 11 15 22 30 40 50 FW
Newtone AM-L 11 – 50 11 15 22 30 40 50 NT
La Bella 20PL 11 – 52 11 15 20 28 39 52 FW
GHS 900 12 – 50 12 16 24 30 40 50 FW
S I T F1250 12 – 50 12 16 24 30 40 50 FW
Thomastik-Infeld JS112 12 – 50 12 16 20 27 37 50 FW
D’Addario ECG25 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 FW
D’Angelico FW-L 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 FW
DR FL-12 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 NT
Fender 50L 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 FW
La Bella 20PCM 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 FW
Newtone AM-ML 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 NT
Rotosound RS200 12 – 52 12 16 24 32 42 52 FW
Thomastik-Infeld GB112 12 – 53 12 16 20 28 39 53 FW
Optima 1947L 12 – 54 12 16 24 32 44 54 FW
La Bella 800L 12 – 56 12 15 28 38 48 56 NT
Pyramid GF613 13 – 52 13 17 24 33 42 52 FW
La Bella 20PM 13 – 53 13 17 23 31 42 53 FW
Thomastik-Infeld JS113 13 – 53 13 17 21 28 39 53 FW
DR FL-13 13 – 54 13 17 26 34 44 54 NT
Fender 50M 13 – 54 13 17 26 34 44 54 FW
GHS 1000 13 – 54 13 17 26 34 44 54 FW
D’Addario ECG26 13 – 56 13 17 26 35 45 56 FW
D’Angelico FW-M 13 – 56 13 17 26 36 46 56 FW
Newtone AM-M 13 – 56 13 17 26 36 46 56 NT
Optima 1947M 13 – 56 13 17 26 35 46 56 FW
Thomastik-Infeld GB114 14 – 55 14 18 21 31 41 55 FW
La Bella 800M 14 – 67 14 18 36 46 56 67 NT
GHS PMARTINO 15 – 52 15 17 24 32 42 52 FW
La Bella 20PH 15 – 56 15 19 25 33 44 56 FW

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Footnotes

  1. How do you spell Flat Wound Strings? I’ve tried to keep the spelling used by the string maker’s website. Flatwound (one word): is used by D’Addario, D’Angelico, Fender, Galli, GHS, Optima, Pyramid, Rotosound and S.I.T. Flat Wound (two words) is used by La Bella and Thomastik-Infeld. DR strings hyphenates to flat-wound.
  2. D’Addario is one of only two companies who make string tensions available. The table presents string diameter in 1000ths of an inch and tension in lbs at standard tuning and scale length.
  3. Diameters given in 1/1000ths of an inch
  4. FW: traditional flat wound strings; NT: non-traditional smoother strings due to nylon tape, double wrap or polishing.

2 comments

  1. I think it would be really helpful to indicate which strings are plain steel rather than flat wound.
    It’s probably a safe bet that most 1st- and 2nd strings listed here aren’t wound at all, but are just unwrapped core wire.

    1. You are correct. Unlike round-wound electric guitar strings (or nylon classical strings) where either the first three strings are plain or you have an option of a wound or plain third string, almost all flat-wound strings are wound for the 3rd to 6th strings. Only the 1st two strings are plain. I am not aware of flatwound strings with a plain third (but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – I just don’t recall them).

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