10 Tips for Choosing the Right Acoustic Strings

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When was the last time you changed your strings? Well, before you do this time, check out these tips for picking out the perfect strings for you.

Guitar type

This might seem obvious, but first and foremost, take a look at guitar and determine which type of strings you need. Acoustic steel, electric, classical nylon? Most of the time these stri

ngs are not interchangeable. You can’t use steel strings on a nylon string guitar for example. It could damage your instrument. Check your bridge and see if your guitar uses ball-end strings or needs strings that tie at the end. Typically all steel string guitars are fitted to use ball-end strings, but nylon string guitars can go either way.

Gauge preference

Here’s where things get tricky. Strings come in a wide variety of different gauge ranges. The gauge is the diameter of the string…or how fat it is. The gauge of your strings can really change how the guitar feels when you play, and the sound, too. Typically lighter gauge strings are easier to play, but can break more easily. Beefier strings can have a fuller tone, can be louder and are harder to break, so if you like to dig in, consider a heavier set. Here’s a general run down of acoustic string sets:

  • Extra light: .010 .014 .023 .030 .039 .047
  • Custom light: .011 .015 .023 .032 .042 .052
  • Light: .012 .016 .025 .032 .042 .054
  • Medium: .013 .017 .026 .035 .045 .056
  • Heavy: .014 .018 .027 .039 .049 .059

Picking a gauge

So how to you know which gauge set will fit you just right? Here are some general things to think about.

Body size: Are you playing a small bodied guitar or a jumbo? Typically a smaller bodied parlor guitar will sound and feel better with lighter gauge strings. While you might want to try a medium or heavy gauge on a larger body or jumbo to take full advantage of their larger sound chamber.

Tone: Heavier gauge strings tend to emphasize the lower end of the guitar’s tonal spectrum while lighter strings are more treble-y and sweet.

Playing style: Are you a fingerpicker, a strummer? Typically lighter gauge strings are easier on the fingertips for pickers and if you’re a heavy strummer, you’ll want heavier strings. If you do both, try a medium set, that have heavier guage on the bottom and lighter on the top.

Instrument age: If you have a vintage instrument, be careful about putting heavier gauge strings on it, as they put more tension on the neck.

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