Acoustic guitar stringsIs it important to know how to choose acoustic guitar strings? Yes. It influences the sound produced by your guitar and it matches your playing style.

The choice is also based on the type of guitar you own: steel-stringed, classical, electric, etc. Let me first introduce a few basics.

1. Strings name

Before entering any music shop or searching for new strings on the web, let’s see what is the standard tuning:

Guitar String Names

The first string is the bottom one, and the 6th the top one. Note that for 7-stringed guitars, the seventh string is B.

2. Different strings for different guitars

2.1. String material.

You probably already know that but let’s review the different strings available:

  • Classical / Flamenco guitar: nylon strings. They have replaced gut strings overtime and produce a warmer sound than steel.
  • Any other acoustic guitars: steel / metal strings. They usually sound brighter than nylon or gut strings.

2.2. Nylon Strings

Note that nylon and steel strings are subdivided into several types. Let’s start by nylon treble strings:

  • Clear nylon: a classic. It’s usually the type of strings you’ll get if you don’t know what you want. It’s perfectly balanced in terms of warmth, projection and brightness.
  • Black nylon: a great choice for folk players. Is it because of its warmth? Hmm… Maybe.
  • Titanium: brighter than clear nylon but also darker. You’ll feel the melancholy with these strings.
  • Composite: the G string will sound brighter and have a better projection. Ideal for a better balance between bass and treble strings.
classical guitar strings

Never put nylon strings on a steel string guitar or steel strings on a classical guitar. You could either damage the guitar or end up with broken strings.

What about the basses? Round-wound is the most popular type of construction. And for materials:

  • Silver-plated copper: THE most popular type. As for clear nylon, balance is its best asset.
  • 80/20 Bronze (brass): 80 % of copper and 20 % zinc. Good projection for this type of strings, it also offers more brilliance than the silver-plated copper type.

2.3. Steel strings

Brighter than nylon strings, they are also subdivided into several types. Let’s see…

  • 80/20 Bronze (brass): 80 % of copper and 20 % zinc. Good projection for this type of strings, it also offers more brilliance than the silver-plated copper type.
  • Phosphor Bronze: 92 % of copper and 8 % tin. Phosphor helps the strings “live” longer. As the silver-plated copper type of strings, it’s also well-balanced.
  • Silver-plated copper: THE most popular type. Balance is its best asset.

Note that round-wound is also the most popular construction for these strings.

3. Size does matter.

3.1. Steel strings gauge.

The reason size matters is that it matches your style or your level. Light strings are perfect for beginners as it’s easier for strumming and finger-picking. But as regards the music style you play, you have to understand that:

  • If you do a lot of strumming, medium strings are better.
  • If you prefer finger-picking, light strings are better.
  • If you like both: a light-medium set is recommended (medium gauge for the last 3 strings, and light for the others).
guitar strings

Avoiding the string to overlap itself with lengthen its life time

3.2. Nylon strings tension.

Again, the tension chosen is important as regards what you want to play and your level. Are you a beginner? Then preferably go for low tension strings. However, it’s really up to you to chose any tension you like. “Pros” like to play on high tension strings. But there are also a lot of them playing with low tension type.

4. Choose guitar strings you love.

This is probably the best advice I will give on this page. The best I’ve been given. Do you play guitar to please the others? Or yourself? I’m not saying to ignore completely what people say but… Trust me, the way your playing will shine is by first pleasing yourself. So… Try any string you’d like. If you feel they lack something, then try other ones.

Finally, several tips before you go purchasing some:

  • Buying a set of strings will cost you less than separately. Consider this before changing any of them.
  • Try not to choose guitar strings with different gauges or tensions at the same time. It will just create some balancing issues.
  • Listen to the “tone” of a string. If it sounds flat and dull, it’s probably time to change it.
  • Bring your guitar to a shop. Ask them if you can test how a typical string sounds on your guitar. They’re normally here to help. Especially if you buy afterwards.

Also:

  • This page relates a lot of information on acoustic guitar strings.