How to choose perfect strings for your acoustic guitar?

Your six strings mean the world to you, and it is extremely essential to get them right. Six strings on any guitar (acoustic or electric) changes the whole game of your music! It impacts the sound and your style of playing to great extends. Which is why with this BAJAAO Knowledge Base Article, we will guide you to choose the perfect six strings.

What you need to know when purchasing Guitar Strings?

The first and foremost thing you need to know about Guitar Strings are their Gauge, before we jump into the technical bits of buying a string, let’s take a quick look at what Gauge means. Basically, strings are manufactured in a range of thicknesses also known as Gauges. These gauges are designated in thousandths of an inch. The lightest strings are typically an .010 and the heaviest a .059. String gauge has a big influence on playability and sound.

The simple difference between Lighter Gauge Strings and Heavier Gauge Strings are:

LIGHTER GAUGE STRINGS

HEAVIER GAUGE STRINGS

Lighter gauge strings are generally easier to play.

Heavier gauge strings are generally harder to play.

Lighter gauge strings allow easier bending of notes and fretting

Heavier gauge strings require more finger pressure to fret and bend notes

Lighter gauge strings break easily

Heavier gauge strings produce more volume and sustain

Lighter gauge strings are prone to cause fret buzzing, especially on guitars with low action

Heavier gauge strings exert more tension on the guitar neck

Lighter gauge strings produce less volume and sustain

 

Lighter gauge strings exert less tension on the guitar neck and are a safe choice for vintage guitars

 

 

Acoustic guitar string set gauge differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, it is not a ground-breaking difference, but you can make out the difference.

To make things easier, we will define what terms as “extra light” and “heavy.

  • “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

Now that you understand the specifics of Gauges, you need to understand a few about the factors about the gauge.

Body Style: A general rule of thumb is to string smaller-bodied acoustics with lighter gauges, larger bodied instruments with heavier gauges. A big dreadnought or jumbo will generally sound better with medium-gauge strings that take fuller advantage of their relatively larger sound chambers. Smaller grand auditorium and parlor guitars will sound better with lighter gauges.

Playing Style: Fingerpicking styles are much easier to play with lighter-gauge strings. If most of your playing involves hard strumming, medium-gauge strings will likely be a better choice, though they may prove a little more challenging to new players’ fingers. If your playing is a mix of strumming and fingerpicking, a light-medium string set may be a good choice. These sets have heavier gauges on the bottom three strings, lighter gauges on the top three.

Desired Tone: As you’ve probably figured out by now, heavier-gauge strings will accentuate your guitar’s bass register producing the deep and strong tones that dreadnoughts are prized for. On the other hand, lighter gauges will provide more emphasis to treble notes and can help bring out subtle picking and strumming techniques.

Instrument Age and Condition: Vintage guitars are often frail, and the greater tension of heavier strings can cause necks to bow and shift and bridges to lift. If you’re not sure how heavy a gauge is safe for your guitar, consult the manufacturer, or in the case of vintage instruments, talk to a trusted guitar tech or luthier.

You can choose either a nylon string or steel strings. Both of them have their pros and cons.

Firstly, Nylon is a misleading term, the proper term would Classical Guitar Strings. Modern classical, folk, and flamenco guitars use plain nylon, fluorocarbon, or other synthetic filaments on the treble strings (G,B, high E) and multi-filament nylon cores wrapped with various metals or nylon windings on the bass strings (E, A, D). There are several types of Classical Guitar Strings you can opt for, such as:

  • Clear Nylon: Most popular, they’re made of clear nylon monofilament in note-specific gauges and known for their richness and clarity.
  • Rectified Nylon: Also made of clear nylon, they are then precision-ground to create a very consistent diameter along the string’s entire length. They have a mellower, rounder tone than clear nylon.
  • Black Nylon: Made from a different nylon composition, they produce a warmer, purer sound with more treble overtones. Popular with folk guitarists.
  • Titanium: Brighter than traditional nylon with a smooth feel. Often used on guitars with darker voices.
  • Composite: Made with a multi-filament composite, they have pronounced brightness and strong projection. They’re popular for use as G strings offering a smooth transition in volume between bass and treble strings.

The other options you have for strings are:

  • 80/20 Bronze: Made of 80% copper and 20% zinc, it is sometimes referred to as brass. This alloy has pronounced brilliance and projection. Some manufacturers call them “gold” strings.
  • Silver-Plated Copper: The silver plating offers a very smooth feel while the copper produces warm tone. Some manufacturers refer to them as “silver” strings.
  • Roundwound strings are by far the most popular and common winding method found on classical guitar bass strings. Some manufacturers polish roundwound strings to flatten the top of the winding, resulting in a smoother feel and less finger noise.

Most classical guitar strings have straight ends and are designed to be tied on to classical guitar bridges. A few nylon strings have ball ends that are preferred by some folk guitarists. Unless ball ends are specified, you can assume classical strings have tie-ends.

 

We hope this article was helpful to you, you can check out the amazing collections of Strings and Accessories here! Now go play.  


Nishtha Pandey
Nishtha Pandey

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