It’s that time, you need new strings on your guitar. Maybe you broke that high E string while tuning it? Picking the right strings doesn’t have to be a guessing game.
There are a number of factors that play into choosing the right strings when finding that perfect tone. None of us have the same guitars, acoustic backgrounds, amps, or even the same taste in music. On top of that acoustic strings come in a seemingly endless variety. Personal preference paired with a quality product will lead you to the right strings.
Quick Look – Our Favorite Strings
Feel free to read through the entire article, in fact, we encourage it. However, if you are looking for a quick guide to picking up some strings, check out the table below for details!
- Elixir Nanoweb Coating Strings
- Martin Bronze Acoustic String
- D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze
- Cleartone Strings
Good guitar strings are made by quality companies, and quality companies will only use the best materials when it comes to manufacturing a set of strings. Different materials give us the sounds we love and the tone that defines our preference.
Before we talk materials, lets go over some must know basics…
Table of Contents
- Must-Know Details
- Gauge Types
- String Construction
- Top Picks
Light strings are actually the default gauge for acoustic strings
This is a common misconception, and often times, first-time acoustic string buyers will pick medium or heavy gauge strings. Heavier gauge strings can definitely give you a thicker tone, but it’s not always needed and thicker strings can be harder to play.
See the table below for a complete reference of acoustic string gauges.
Technically a classical guitar is an acoustic guitar, although classical guitars use nylon strings and you wouldn’t want to use those for a typical acoustic guitar. Use of the wrong type of string on classical or regular acoustics could result in warping the neck.
The same set of strings will produce a different sound on a different guitar. Each guitar will have differences whether subtle or great, it depends solely on how the guitar is made and the materials used.
Guitar strings may be constructed differently
Strings are made differently, even strings in the same pack depending on gauge. Wounded strings are some of the most popular, and they usually include the G, D, A, and E strings on your acoustic guitar. There are a few different types of wound strings as well.
Common winding materials include:
- 80/20 Bronze
- Phosphor Bronze
One of the most common and easiest to manufacture a type of wound strings are round wound. They usually comprise a type of round wire wrapped tightly around a steel core. Chances are you’ve played strings like this, and they are even on your guitar right now.
Have you ever noticed that squeaky sound generated by the strings as you move your hand position to a new chord? If you have there is a good chance you were playing round wound strings. This is sometimes viewed as a disadvantage, although guitarists can also use this sound creatively to their advantage.
- Usually the most afforable type of strings
- Flexibility provides a wide range of tones to experiment with
- Generally easier to play
- Wide selection
- Tend to corrode more easily than other types of strings
- Can increase wear on your guitar’s fretboard
Flatwound strings are similar to round wound strings, except the wire wrapped around the core is engineered a tad differently. Flatwound is particularly popular among jazz guitarists and older rock music.
- Less squeaking noise when changing position
- Likely to last much longer
- Reduces the amount of wear on your frets
- Can be harder to play
- Bending strings is harder
- Can be restricting to certain tones
- More expensive due to lack of demand
Halfwound is really just a hybrid of both roundwound and flatwound strings. Typically a string manufacturer will start with a complete roundwound wrapping wire. Then the string will be polished on the outside and significantly reduce the mass of the string. To account for this, heavier gauge wires are used, and the end result is a more flexible string along with the benefit of eliminating much of the squeaking you may get with a roundwound string.
Many strings you may come across with have a coating that acts as a shield to protect strings from particles that can contribute shorter string life. Some guitarists really appreciate the smooth feel that this can provide as well as the added life to their strings. Still, coating strings can reduce the ability to get the proper tone they desire. Elixir is a popular brand that sells a variety of coated strings, and they tend to have great reviews by guitarists.
Elixir is known for producing premier strings that last long and produce quality sound. Get a pack on Amazon starting at $13.
- The coated wiring will provide a long life for your strings
- Tone is great for songwriting and provides a clean crisp result
- Has some of the best reviews on the web
- You may need to adjust to coated strings if you’ve never played with them
- The are more expensive than other quality acoustic strings
When you restring your guitar with these you may find a new tone to help spark songwriting.
|Gauges Available||Extra light, Custom light, Light, Light-medium, HD, Medium|
|Wind Material||80/20 Bronze|
Where to Find Elixir Strings:
If you know the quality behind Martin Guitars then you’ve probably used their strings as well. These strings are a common musician pick and offer a bright tone that is perfect for live shows, as well as in the studio. Depending on how many you want you can get them for around $6.
- Martin is a quality company
- Bright tone perfect for live shows
- Quality strings at a very affordable price
- Seems to have unfavorable reviews at times depending on the guitar
- Without coating the strings have a shorter life
If you have a Martin Guitar, these strings will pair particularly well with that, and offer you superior sound (I currently have this setup).
Where to find Martin Strings:
These strings are consistently reviewed favorably by guitarists around the world. With a wide range of gauges there are plenty of tones you can experiment with. These are a great value, snag a set for only $5 online.
- Best value out of all our picks
- Balanced tone suits many styles of music
- Corrosion reducing packaging keeps the strings fresh when you buy in bulk
- Great for beginners
- Lack of coating will shorten the string life
- More experienced guitarists may want a more specific tone
Buying in bulk can save you money, and you’ll always have strings available should one break.
|Gauges||Extra light, Custom light, Light, Bluegrass, Medium, Heavy|
|Winding Material||Phosphor Bronze|
Where to find D’Addario Strings:
Cleartone made our list initially back in 2017 for a number of reasons, but overall they are great strings for a good price. Although they may be a few bucks extra than other options, they will definitely have some added life meaning you can save money in the long run.
- Corrosion resistant, and extremely long lasting
- The coating is lighter than typical coated strings, giving it a natural feel
- Tone that really pops and gives you come volume
- Price is slightly higher
- Some guitarists do not like coated strings
Immediately after restringing your guitar, trying gently stretching each string and then tune again. This will help your guitar to stay in tune by getting the strings loser right away.
|Coating||Patented “No-Feel” coating|
|Gauges Available||Extra light, Custom light, Medium, Bluegrass|
|Wind Material||80/20 Phosphor Bronze|
Where to find D’Addario Strings:
Where to go from here
There are plenty of options for acoustic strings. Luckily they are pretty inexpensive, so you can do a lot of experimentation to find your preferred sound, and have some fun while doing so. Get your hands on some, string them up, and see what you like.
Let us know if you have any favorites that we might have missed and we will be happy to take a deeper look into them.
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