Regardless of how experienced guitar player you are, choosing the best guitar strings is essential for achieving the perfect sound.
Acoustic guitar strings come in various types, and it’s perfectly normal to feel confused when choosing new ones.
Knowing your requirements and what exactly you are looking for is very important. Still, it is also good to learn most types of strings so that you can experiment until you choose the best acoustic strings.
That’s why we’ve prepared a unique guide to reveal all the ins and outs of choosing new strings.
Basic types of an acoustic guitar
The acoustic guitar’s sound depends on the properties of the materials from which they are made. This means that the sound is affected by both the tonewood of the guitar and the strings’ type.
There are two main types of acoustic guitars: Steel-string and Nylon-string guitars.
The steel-string guitars are the most common. They have a strong and sustained sound with a more percussive attack. You can find them in various shapes, sizes, and classes. To choose the right strings, you need to consider the style of the guitar and how you play it.
Steel strings are characterized by gauges.
Nylon-string guitars are smaller and produce a softer tone. They don’t have as many options as steel-string guitars but choosing the strings according to the way you play, and the style of music you create is essential. They are suitable for classical guitars that do not have enough neck strength for steel strings.
Nylon strings are available in tension ratings.
How to choose strings according to their material
As we have already said, the main categories of strings are steel and nylon. These categories include strings of various materials. Let’s take a look at them:
Different types of steel strings
- Silk and Steel strings provide a gentle and light tone with a soft playing feel. We recommend starting with Silk and Steel strings because they are gentler on the fingers
- Bronze strings give a strong and brighter tone but break rather quickly
- Phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings have a warmer tone and more durability than ordinary bronze strings
- Brass strings create a clear and loud metallic sound
- Polymer-coated strings sound warm and muted. They require less maintenance and last longer.
Different types of nylon strings
- Transparent nylon strings create a loud and clear tone
- Black nylon strings are recognizable by their clean and warm tones
- Rectified nylon strings deliver round tones and a mellow sound
- Composite nylon strings are known for smooth transitions and brighter sound
- Titanium strings feel soft, produce a bright tone and are corrosion-resistant
How to choose strings according to string construction
Steel strings have a steel core wrapped with one of the materials listed above. There are three basic winding techniques:
This method is used with most strings. It is the easiest because the string material is just tightly wound around the core.
The sound these strings produce is well-known to everyone, and that is why most people prefer them. Some guitarists comment that Roundwound strings cause more wear on fretboards and frets than others.
Flatwound strings are more complicated to produce, so their price is higher. They are more difficult to bend and are less sustainable than Roundwound.
Their positive sides are that they don’t wear out the fretboard as much and are more comfortable for the fingers.
Semi-flatwound strings are made the same way as Roundwounds, but in the end, they are polished and ground to become flat. In terms of price, they are in the middle between the previous two.
For recording, we recommend using Flatwound or a Semi-flatwound set of strings to avoid finger noise in your recordings.
Coated acoustic guitar strings
These types of strings are coated with a thin layer of polymer that protects them from corrosion and dirt. They are more expensive but durable and retain their tone for longer.
According to some musicians, coated layers affect the tone they create, and they prefer uncoated strings.
Everything you need to know about guitar string gauge
Gauges mean the string’s diameter and are described in thousandths of an inch. You will find it on the string package.
How to choose a gauge for your acoustic guitar
The gauge depends on the size of the guitar, what kind of music will be played, where it will be played, and the skill level of the musician.
It can be lighter and heavier. These two categories contain characteristics you should know when choosing the right gauge for your guitar.
Lighter guitar string gauge
- Еasy to fret and to bend
- Achieves good resonance even with a light touch
- A good choice for small and cutaway guitars because they exert less tension
- Suitable for country, folk, rock, and blues
- Perfect for playing with a softer attack
- Strings will break easily if your playing style is more aggressive
If you have just started learning to play, we recommend starting with the lighter gauge acoustic strings. They are gentler on the fingers and are good while you exercise. You can gradually increase your gauge as you improve your skills and build strength.
Heavier guitar string gauge
- They give a stronger and more voluminous sound with more resonance
- Easier to tune because the strings stay in key longer
- Suitable for bigger guitars because they exert more tension
- Ideal for playing in styles such as rock, country, and blues with a stronger attack
- Good for playing genres that require more tuning
There are also medium gauges that are something in between Lighter and heavier gauges. They provide a balanced tone and strong mids.
How often should I change my strings?
It depends on how you play and for how long. If you notice dirt and stains on the strings, or they become stiff and hard to tune, it’s time to restring your guitar.
How to choose acoustic guitar strings for beginners?
We recommend starting with thinner strings of a lighter gauge and gradually gaining experience and strength, smoothly moving to thicker. You might begin with “10-47” or “11-52” which are easier on your fingers. You can also find “9’s” if you think they are too heavy.
String choosing is an individual process that includes your style and taste, your goals, and the requirements of your instrument. The best way to get to know your guitar, and yourself, is by experimenting and trying different things.