How to Choose Guitar Strings for Acoustic, Classical & Electric Guitar
Last Updated on November 3, 2020 by Editorial Team
If you are new to guitar and figuring out which string gauge to buy, it might be pretty confusing for you.
These questions might come in your mind.
Many beginners, as well as professionals, face similar situations. You can simply visit a local store or buy a new one online. Changing guitar string is a simple procedure and essential too. You should only do it yourself when you are sure how to change guitar strings.
But how do you know if it is a perfect time to purchase a new string for your guitar?
If you have acoustic and electric guitars, just check the following things.
- If you are using the same strings for more than 2 months.
- The strings sound dull.
- Check if your strings are rusty
If you find yourself in any of the situations, then it’s time to change your guitar strings.
On an average, a guitarist should ideally change the string once in a three-month.
But it also depends on some other variables. Such as:
- How much you sweat while playing the guitar
- The climate and temperature of your surrounding.
- How well you clean and take care.
- You should wash your hands before playing.
- Clean your guitar before and after practice.
- How often you play with different techniques like slurs, bends, and vibrato
- Your frequency of use
How to choose the right guitar strings for your guitar?
It is a common situation when many of the beginners visit a store or search online for the best acoustic guitar strings. But they get confused by seeing plenty of options to choose from.
Don’t worry as I will help you with how to figure out which string you need. So keep reading this last.
These are the most common types of string:
- steel and nickel (generally used on electric instruments),
- and nylon.
Phosphor bronze string: They are warmer and darker than bronze. They give you a really nice warm rich kind of a tone. It is made up of phosphor which makes them durable.
Bronze string: These string are a little bit brighter and hence sounding more. They have clear, ringing and bright tones. So if you want to provide more twin to your music then go ahead and buy this.
Each string has a different response and feel. Choosing the right type of strings for your guitar is incredibly important as it makes a pretty big mistake on the way your instruments sound.
The very first thing you need to do is know your instruments. Find out if you have a classical, acoustic, or electric guitar.
The reason you need to know what type of instrument you have is that you want to have those kinds of strings on the right instrument.
Choosing strings for classical guitars
It has a little bit smaller body and a bigger neck. They usually have nylon strings. They are a lot softer to the touch and don’t hurt your finger as much. But they really are not as loud. You should not use steel strings as your instrument is not built to withstand the higher tension. It can cause serious damage.
- Get low tension nylon strings for easier fretting: If you are a beginner and facing difficulty in getting a clear sound, you can get a low string on your classical guitar.
- If you want your instrument sound loud, buy a high tension string: If fretting is not an issue, give your guitar a projection by putting high tension string on it. This good suit for rhythm players as it harder to pull down the strings.
- Always choose the right material for your nylon strings: There are three kinds of materials used in nylon strings – clear nylon, rectified nylon, and carbon fiber. If you want clean and crisp sound, go for clear nylon.
Choosing strings for acoustic guitars
This is the most common instrument. These have the metal strings on the neck.and is a little skinnier. They are comparatively louder when you play.
Get heavier strings for larger-bodied acoustic guitars. If your acoustic guitar has a large body, the heavier string will sound better. Similarly, if the guitar has a smaller body than go for the lighter string. If you have a medium size guitar, then you should choose medium to heavy gauge strings.
Acoustic Guitar String Set Gauges
Picking strings for electric guitars
If you have an electric guitar, you can use steel electric guitar strings. Nickle wound string is most common.
Go for lighter gauge strings if you do frequently solo on guitar. If you’re a rhythm guitarist, you should get medium-heavy gauge strings.
If you have a classical string guitar, you need to have a nylon string on it. Similarly, you need a steel string on steel string guitar. You should always stick to the same string those were present at the time of buying.
The beginners may not find any difference between different string materials. But once you try these all and hear the difference, you soon will be able to know what you should prefer.
Once you know the types of string material, its time to choose the right string gauge.
The Guage is the thickness, size, or capacity of guitar strings. The size and thickness have a big impact on how your instrument sound.
First, we are going to focus on three sets of semi-standardized gauges that you are probably going to see most often.
- 11’s – heavy
- 10’s – medium
- 9’s – light
They refer to the thickness of the high E string. You will see this number on the packs.
So you might be asking-
- Which string gauge to use?
- Why would I want thicker strings?
- Why would I want thinner strings?
Lighter gauge strings:
- They are generally easier to play
- It allows easier bending of notes and fretting
- They are prone to cause fret buzzing, especially on guitars with low action
- It breaks more easily
- They exert less tension on the guitar neck and are a safe choice for vintage guitars
- It produces less volume and sustains
Heavier gauge strings:
- They are generally harder to play
- Heavy strings tend to sound thicker but less bright and “twangy” than light strings.
- Thicker strings are louder. They produce more volume and sustain
- It requires more finger pressure to fret and bend notes
- They exert more tension on the guitar neck
The thicker strings = more tension.
So the strings are harder to press down and you have less ease of play. If it is hurting your hand and it happens every time you play, you should probably about changing about your string gauges. But it has one positive effect. The thicker strings have much greater tuning stability.
The thinner strings = less tension.
It has the same effect but in opposite direction. It provides more ease of play, less tuning stability and more bending ability.
Here is a good way to decide the perfect string gauge for you.
If you are looking for tuning stability, down tuning, your guitar has a short scale length, you are a rhythm player than these things will have you leaning towards thicker strings.
If you are looking for ease of play, you like bending, your guitar has long scale length, you are more of a fast type lead player – these things will lean you towards thinner strings.
It is better to try out a whole lot of different sets and see what works for you. Every time you change your string, try a different gauge or a different brand.
Getting the right string gauge for your instrument or your playing style will have a mile difference in your playing. There are so many different types of gauges and brands out there. There is really something for everyone if they are willing to look for it.
One other type of string set, that I would like to mention here is like a top heavy bottom string. This is where the highest three strings are light and lowest three are a heavy gauge.
So if you are a rock or a metal player who usually uses the lowest strings for power chords, rhythmic stuff, you want that tuning stability, but you use the highest three strings for your fast bendy lead then light top heavy bottom strings are definitely something you should check out.
Guitar Strings – Which Brand is Best?
These are the top three brands of strings.
D’Addario NYXL string produces a very neutral and right down the middle sound. They are balanced tension. You can feel the steel, the metal of the strings.
Paradigm string provides a little bit toner character. It claims to be the most advanced string in the word and you will definitely feel that.
Elixir octave guitar string has a good coating. The tone sounds crisp and smooth.
They are best in their class and all feel good. But if you have to choose one, you should prefer Elixir octave guitar strings for its longevity. They last long and not get rusty.
What kind of string you like to use and what you look for in a string. Tell us in the comments.