Strings for your acoustic guitar

A Guide To Buying Strings For An Acoustic Guitar

This article is a guide to buying strings for your acoustic guitar. If you are not sure which type of guitar you own, have a look at this article. This guide will give you an overview of the different types of strings you can get for an acoustic guitar, and how they differ from each other.

"But aren't all guitar strings basically the same?" you may ask. The answer: absolutely not! You will be surprised by how much the strings influence the sound of your guitar.

When you have read this article, you will have a better understanding of string materials, string thicknesses and much more.

You are also welcome to check out our guitar classes on, where you can learn guitar with your chosen tutor.

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String gauges

Typically, strings are available in these sets (All thicknesses in inches):

Set name e B G D A E
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

The "thin strings" are typically classified as the .010-.047 sets and the .011-.052 sets, i.e. "extra light" and "custom light".

The "thick strings" are therefore the .012-.054 sets up to the .014-.059 sets, i.e. "light", "medium" and "heavy".

Before we dive into types of strings, take a look at these general assumptions about string gauges:

Thin strings

  • Generally easier to play
  • Easier to bend and press down
  • More likely to break
  • Produce less sound and less sustain
  • More likely to produce fret buzz, especially on guitars with a low action
  • Result in less tension in the neck, which can be preferable on vintage guitars

Thick strings

  • Generally harder to play
  • Require more pressure to press down
  • Produce more sound and sustain
  • Result in more tension in the neck

Choosing String Gauge

Body Size

The rule of thumb on this issue states that guitars with small bodies work best with thin strings, and guitars with large bodies work best with thick strings.

Put differently, guitar models such as "Parlor" and "Grand Auditorium" will sound better with thin strings, while models such as "Dreadnought" and "Jumbo" will sound better with thicker strings. This is to better utilize the larger tone chambers (also known as sound boxes).

Playing Style

Fingerpicking is easier with thin strings, so if you are playing delicately fingerpicked folk tunes, consider using thin strings.

If you tend to primarily strum the guitar, thick strings will more often than not be the better choice.

If you play both styles, a good choice may be the "Light" set, which contains gauges .012-.054, as it works well for both styles. This tends to be the most commonly used string gauge. However, keep in mind that this varies from person to person, and may not be the right choice for you.

Desired Tone

Thin strings have a lighter and more trebly sound, whereas thick strings have a darker and warmer sound which emphasizes the bass frequencies.

String Materials

String gauge is not the only important aspect to consider: String material is also important.

The most common materials are:

  • Bronze: Bronze strings have a clear, light and somewhat "crisp" tone, but they age fairly quickly due to oxidation.
  • Phosphor bronze: Phosphor bronze strings have a warmer and darker tone than bronze strings, but retain the same "crispness". The phosphor extends the lifetime of the strings.
  • Brass strings: Brass strings have a lighter and more metallic tone.

Other types of strings

The types of strings listed above are the most common, but there are many others, among them "coated strings". These strings have a very long lifetime, however, this comes at the expense of treble and sustain.

A Few Closing Remarks

It is important to keep in mind that there is no right and wrong when choosing strings. Choose the strings which suit your personal playing style. This is simply a guide to help you on your way.

Now that you know all of this, it is time to learn to play guitar with our offline or online guitar lessons.

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