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My Epiphone SG is strung rather strangely. All but one of the strings are Elixir strings, but the G string is a Gibson string. This is because the G string broke while I was restringing, so I had to make do with what I had.

Is there any problem with this? Does it damage the guitar or the strings in any way? Does it alter the sound?

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    I'm sure if this 100% correct, but if they are pretty much the same quality, there won't be much of a difference – Shevliaskovic Aug 7 '15 at 10:49
  • Far more relevant is the gauge of the string. If it's the same as the original, there will be little difference, except if the original belongs to a set that's been on for ages. A G string could be anything from .010 to .020, which is a pretty large discrepancy. – Tim Aug 8 '15 at 7:29
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I often, though not always, find a difference in the quality of sound between new and old strings because of the age of the strings. I usually change them all when one single string breaks, for this reason.

Some brands have a different quality of metal, or nylon, but for the most part the quality is consistent across brands. I have a negative opinion of the Gibson strings, and a positive one of Elixir, but there is probably not a significant difference. Except of course that the polyweb and nanoweb coating is a significant difference.

It is true that if the gauge is different then what the old string was, it will effect the sound, balance, tuning, and setup of the guitar in some slight way.

For certain types strings there is a difference in the materials in strings when looking at acoustic vs. electric vs. classical. This could account for a significant difference in the effectiveness and sound of the strings. Most string manufacturers sell many types of strings that fit into those three categories.

To Fully address the question: There could be some difference in sound quality depending on the factors previously stated, but there is unlikely to be any damage to the guitar from mixing brands of string.

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If the replaced string is a different gauge from the string that you broke it might sound different and it also might sound odd if the gauge is not similar to the string gauge that is already on your guitar. And for the changing brand of string if it is different material it might sound different, and all different string brands and types have a different sound from each other, but with saying that have a listen to it and if it sounds bad to you then replace the whole set of strings on the guitar, and if not keep it but you decide if you like it. And by replacing the string it will not damage the strings in anyway.

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I've heard that non-wound steel and electric strings all use the exact same wire regardless of manufacturer. Whether that is true or not, it certainly seems to be the case that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between two new non-wound strings of the same gauge.

For wound strings this is not the case. It's quite possible for two wound strings of the same gauge to be quite different both in sound and appearance.

Whether a mixture of strings from different manufacturers (or a mixture of strings of different ages) is acceptable is up to you.

Mixing strings is certainly something I avoid, and I tend to change the whole set at once. But when a string snaps when installing a brand new set I'd probably go ahead and put another one on.

Non-wound strings are, as I say, virtually identical, and your guitar store should be able to sell you a single string of the right gauge. Wound strings would be best from the same manufacturer as the original set, if your store has them in stock. For electrics, it's fortunate that the thinnest unwound string generally goes first. For acoustics it's often the thinnest wound string, which is more of a pain...

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Guitarists of all stripes and abilities mix and match strings all the time. Sometimes it's intentional and deliberate, sometimes it's just because (as in your case) that's all they had laying around at the time.

Many pro guitarists buy an inventory of individual strings instead of buying prepackaged sets...they prefer a slightly lighter gauge this string or a slightly heavier gauge that string than what the string company sets up as a "standard" set, or they buy a G string that's an entirely different manufacturer or metal type...based on their years of experience.

Mind you, the difference between a professional guitarist and the OP is that the pro is likely changing strings every night if not more, and the OP is likely changing strings only when they break.

The guitar itself cares not.

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String manufacturers put together string sets based on what they expect that the guitarist will want. They know that some guitarist want light strings, others medium and a few may even want heavy gauge strings.

Within each classification (super light, extra light, light, custom light, medium, heavy etc.) the string makers will choose a gauge for each individual string, that is consistent in terms of the amount of tension needed to tune that string to concert pitch relative to the tension required to tune the other strings in that particular set to concert pitch - assuming standard tuning.

Guitars are also "set up" either in the factory or by a luthier or guitar technician based on the gauge of strings that are most likely to be used - or in the case of a custom set up, the actual gauge that the user specifies. The set up will be completely different for medium strings than for light strings.

One thing that will be different in the set up would be the truss rod tension - which compensates for the string tension - which will be different with different gauge strings. Another thing that might be different would be the width of the slots in the nut and possibly the height of the bridge. Heavier strings will have a wider oscillation pattern but also have a higher tension. These factors can affect how much clearance the strings need from the frets to prevent buzzing.

For a given guitar, set up for a particular gauge string, you could mix and match strings from different manufacturers without damaging the guitar or affecting the playability - as long as the gauge was close to what the guitar was set up for.

The type string and manufacturer of a mis-matched string, even if the gauge is the same as what was in the original set, could affect the tone. And it may feel different than the other strings - especially if you mix coated and non coated strings or flat wound with round wound.

But to answer your question - you could get by with a G string from a different manufacturer and of a different type (don't put a wound acoustic string on an electric guitar). As long as the gauge is not radically different (the other strings are ultra light and your oddball string is from a medium set) you should be able to get by with it with no issues.

As a side note, the G string is the string that breaks most often on sets with a wound G string (includes almost all acoustic sets). That's because the steel core of a wound G string is thinner than even the high E-string. That's why I order extra individual G strings and keep at least one extra G string in my guitar case (along with a full replacement set) so if I break a G string during a live show, I only have to change the one string and I don't have to rob the G string from a full set.

I also sometimes customize my string sets and have my guitar's set up accordingly. I like to use a different combination than what the manufacturers deem as the most common. For example - I have a guitar that is a little weak on the bottom end, so I use heavier bass strings. But again I have the guitar set up specifically for that type of custom string set.

One other note that is on the subject of guitar strings and breaking strings. You should change your guitar strings on a regular basis if you want them to sound good and not break. As you play - pressing the strings against metal frets will wear flat spots on the strings where they contact the frets. Also, the sweat and oils from your fingers will contribute to corrosion of the strings. Even if you don't play the guitar much, the natural oxidation of the metals will cause the strings to weaken and begin to sound dull over time.

There are many excellent answers and recommendations to this question on Music Stack Exchange When and Why to replace guitar strings It is recommended reading for any guitarist.

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