What Are the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Me?
Choosing the right pack of acoustic guitar strings doesn’t have to be hard. In this Buyer's Guide, we take you through the answers to all the most important FAQs, so you can quickly decide which steel-string acoustic or classical guitar strings you need. Can’t see your question below? Feel free to contact us!
Acoustic guitars can generally be split into two types:
The Classical Guitar, also known as the Spanish guitar. This type of guitar almost always has nylon strings. See Questions 5 and 6 for more about this.
Steel-String Acoustic Guitar, also generally known as an acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars almost always have steel strings. See Questions 2,3, and 4 for more on this.
Please note: Never use steel-string acoustic guitar strings on a classical or Spanish guitar since this can cause damage! Classical guitars are not built to withstand the same level of tension as a steel-string acoustic guitar. Also, putting classical guitar strings on a steel-string acoustic guitar is not a good idea. For a start, installing the strings will be problematic and won’t result in an optimum, pure sound. In short, always use a set of strings with the instrument they’ve been designed for!
Most acoustic guitarists play using a set of .011 or .012 gauge strings. However, .010 and .013 gauge strings are also used. This number indicates the thickness of the thinnest string in the pack (the highest pitched string, or the high-E) in inches. The number indicating the thickest string in the pack is always included and written like this: .012 to .054, or .010 to .047. In this way, you can find a pack that has thin high strings and really thick low strings, or the other way around. When picking the right set, it’s all about what feels right when playing.
Tip: Use the filters found on the left of the page when searching through all of our acoustic guitar strings. Here, you can specify the string gauge that you’re looking for.
So, it’s not necessarily the case that a thicker set of strings is better than a thinner set, and so on. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. If your fingers quickly start to hurt, especially if you’ve just started playing, then a thinner set might feel more comfortable, like a pack of .010s. If you want a tighter playing feel, then try out a thicker set.
Please note: Some very compact or very old and fragile steel-string acoustic guitars can only take extra thin strings (Extra Light), since thicker strings will cause too much tension and may cause damage. When buying a new guitar, the manufacturer will always make this clear.
.010 – .047 Steel-String Acoustic Guitar Strings
.011 – .052 Steel-String Acoustic Guitar Strings
.012 – .054 Steel-String Acoustic Guitars Strings
.013 – .056 Steel-String Acoustic Guitars Strings
All Steel-String Acoustic Guitar Strings
Steel-String acoustic guitar strings usually have a steel core. With the lower strings, this core is then wound with a different metal. A coating is a protective layer that some manufacturers add to their strings. This ensures that the strings retain their original sound for much longer. This also means that the strings will cost a little more.
The most popular windings are Bronze and Phosphor Bronze. If you want a long-lasting, bright sound, then Phosphor Bronze strings are the best choice. There are also other, less-used winding materials available. If you want more clarity and distinct bass-tones, then as well as Bronze, there are Aluminium Bronze wound strings. For the special ‘wooden sound’ of Bluegrass, there are Nickel & Copper wound strings. To add more warmth to smaller acoustic guitars, you could use a set of sweet-sounding Silk & Steel wound strings. And, to get that sharp and bright Gypsy Jazz sound, simply use a set of silver-wound strings.
Also see Question 4.
Phosphor-Bronze Wound Acoustic Strings
Bronze Wound Acoustic Strings
Aluminium Bronze Wound Acoustic Strings
Nickel & Copper Wound Acoustic Strings
Silk & Steel Wound Acoustic Strings
Coated Acoustic Strings
Besides the materials used to make acoustic guitar strings (see Question 3), different windings are also used. Clear sounding roundwound strings are the standard, but to reduce the string noise produced as you move your fingers along the strings, you can try some half-round strings, which have a less bright and more warm sound. If you want a ‘vintage’-style sound, even more warmth, and a smoother feel beneath your fingers, then you might prefer a set of flatwound strings, but these are rarely seen on an acoustic guitar. In this image, the difference between each winding is pretty clear.
String thickness and tension works differently with classical guitars than it does with steel-string acoustic guitars. With most classical guitars, a set of normal tension strings will be used (also known as medium tension). If you have a standard-sized classical guitar, then it’s really very simple – you just need a set of normal tension strings.
There are also hard tension and extra-hard tension classical guitar strings. Strings with this level of tension are usually used with ¾ and ½ sized classical guitars. Since the scale length of these classical or Spanish acoustic guitars is shorter, the tension is balanced out to match that of models with a standard scale length. Another option is to simply use a pack of strings that has been made specifically for ¾ or ½ sized guitars.
For some particular playing styles, like flamenco, higher tension strings are often used since they provide more volume and clarity. Please note: If you want to use strings with a higher tension on a standard (4/4) classical guitar, then it’s essential that you know that the construction of your guitar is able to withstand them and that your fingers will be strong enough, since higher tension strings are more difficult to press down and may lead to blistering. If you’re ever in any doubt, you can always contact us and one of our guitar specialists will be glad to help you out.
The core of any classical guitar string is almost always made of nylon, where the thinner strings of a full pack are made entirely of nylon while the thicker strings have a nylon core wound with a different material. Most of the time, this is silver-plated winding, to ensure the pure sound that’s characteristic of a classical guitar.
If you’d prefer a more prominent and warm sound, then maybe try out a pack of Bronze Nylon strings. If you want more brightness, then you could even try a pack of strings with gold-plated winding.
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