I have noticed that it is more common than not for a set of guitar strings for electric guitar to have a plain steel G string instead of a wound G string as would be found on a set of acoustic strings.

The steel core of a wound G string is actually thinner than a plain steel string so the plain steel will usually require more tension to tune to the same pitch. I have seen .18 gauge wound G strings which probably have like a .07 core meaning it will have far less tension than say a .13 gauge plain steel string which has a .13 gauge steel core. So I don't think the plain steel G string offers lower tension or easier bending.

I know some electric sets do have a wound G string and I have seen sets that include both a wound and plain steel G string. So what are the advantages/disadvantages of a plain steel G string over a wound G string and what are the practical applications that favor one verses the other?

I personally find a plain wound G string in .20 or .18 gauge far more forgiving on my fingertips and easier to fret and bend than a .14 -.16 gauge plain steel string tuned to G. But I assume there must be a good reason most electric sets include the plain steel string for the G string.

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    "de gustibus..." , so if you're happy w/ your setup, no reason to change. If you find that certain effects (bending or otherwise) are easier to produce w/ nonwound strings, then consider changing. – Carl Witthoft Jun 16 '15 at 17:06

It's 40 plus years since I played electric with a wound 3rd, but a plain is easier to bend. The core isn't the be-all and end-all, as tension is less in a plain string. The 3rd is a string that gets used a lot in bends, also, a plain is slightly better to slide up or down a fret or two. As mentioned in another answer, we used to use banjo strings or a second (both plain), as there was no alternative except the wound 3rd, which wasn't as good for bends.

  • Mainly about bends, as @Tim says; I wonder if somewhere along the line slide guitarists influenced it as well, since slide on 3 plain strings gives quite a different sound from 2 plain + 1 wound. – wolandscat Jun 20 '15 at 23:03

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