The type of strings you use massively impact your tone and performance when playing acoustic guitar!
There are hundreds of guitar strings available on the market, all diverse in types and price. Making it hard for a beginner to choose which is the most suitable for them.
What are the best guitar strings for acoustic guitar? My personal favorite guitar strings for acoustic guitar are the Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze (medium light gauge). Aluminum Bronze have more projection and clarity than typical bronze strings. In addition, the steel hex cores and aluminium bronze wrap wire provide deeper lows and brighter highs. Overall, giving you a lot of depth. They’re also better corrosion resistance giving you longer wear time.
In this article, we will cover my 4 favorite acoustic strings, and then EVERYTHING else you need to know for better tone…
1. Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball was a pioneer in the development of guitar strings. Making strings for over 50 years, they have registered numerous firsts in combinations of materials used, string making techniques, and string gauge combinations. Featuring the finest materials from California, U.S.A and can justly claim to be an industry standard.
So, I just put a set of Ernie Ball Aluminium Bronze Medium Light (12 – 54) strings on my big-bodied acoustic, and I’m completely blown away.
Deep bass, sweet mids, and a crisp, clean top end abound, but the sustain, articulation, and projection between strings sound fantastic. When playing fingerstyle, there is a big contrast between the low strings and highs giving you massive depth, and chords have this perfect resonance.
2. Elixir Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Elixir were developed with US acoustic guitar giants Taylor which are known for their premium acoustic guitars.
The Elixir Phosphor Bronze HD Light (.013-.053) are usually my go to. Strings include: .013 .017 .025 .032 .042 .053.
The Elixir Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings have a phosphor bronze wrap-wire which provides a solid, pronounced low-end and bright highs. I also notice it picks ups less of the finger squeak, that is caused by the fingers when moving across the fretboard. Thanks to their patented coating technology protects against common corrosion. they won’t go dead on you after three days of heavy playing. They will perfectly fit with a dynamic balance of rich, full-bodied tone and sparkling high-end clarity with Ultra-thin NANOWEB Coating provides a traditionally textured, “uncoated” feel.
3. Martin 80/20 Original Acoustic Guitar Strings
Martin is one of the world’s oldest acoustic guitar manufacturers. It’s not worth knowing what they don’t know about creating acoustic guitars. Martin has been manufacturing acoustics for professional musicians since 1833, and is based in the United States.
Martin Guitar Original Acoustic M170, 0.010″ Guitar Strings. Thanks to their thin gauge, measuring from a 0.010″ high E string to a 0.047″ low E string with the tension of 130.2, it also requires little effort for pressing, these strings are significant for building finger strength in beginners and skilled guitarists who do a lot of fingerpicking will be delighted with the feel and performance of the Martin strings as well.
The Martin M170 acoustic guitar strings are an excellent recommendation for all Guitarists. Thanks to its 80/20 composition, the M170 strings produce clear and bright trebles, deep and rich bass tones with bright clarity. It is manufactured with high-quality bronze, engineered to withstand rigorous playing practice and performance schedules, which make it a great addition to your touring gear or studio equipment. Overall, these are perfect for daily use in all playing styles from folk, blues, rock, country to pretty much any other music genre.
However, these benefits do come at a price – quite literally, as Martin strings are typically more expensive. But if you can fully uncover their potential, it is totally worth money!
4. D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
D’Addario is a well-known brand that dates back to the 17th century. This was back when strings were made of gut rather than steel or nylon. To be more exact, fibre from the walls of animal intestines (also known as “catgut”), which comes from sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, hogs, horses, or mules. Since then, times have changed, and they no longer do so.
When purchasing the D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings i recommend the Light – EJ16, which range from 0.012 to 0.053.
With bell-like clarity balanced acoustic tone and a wide treble-forward frequency response. Apart from that, the material aids a warm and bright tone. This combination perfectly gives a clear and bright sound, produces a crisp and projecting tone that many vintage enthusiastic guitarists love. They also provide the quintessential acoustic guitar tone without much mids.
Another type of bronze strings is phosphor bronze. As the name suggests, phosphor bronze sees phosphor added to the alloy to slow oxidation and extend string life. They consist of about 92% copper, 8% tin, and 0.2% phosphorus (the phosphorous and tin are what keeps the alloy from tarnishing so quickly). Even though these are uncoated The zinc within the alloy helps slow the aging process a little bit, but ultimately the short life cycle of these strings forced string manufacturers to try and find a new alloy that would retain its tone longer. These strings bring a consistent, long lasting tone thanks to a precision wound corrosion resistant phosphor bronze wire that is carefully drawn around a hexagonally shaped, high-carbon steel core.
6. Experiment to find the best strings for your guitar
The good news is that guitar strings are not too expensive, so shopping around for alternatives is feasible.
You can definitely pick up a few options and get restringing and experimenting them on your own until finding the right pair that suit your guitar.
Nobody can know which feelings you expect to have better than yourself. For example, what feels light to one player may pose a struggle to others.
The more you experiment, the sooner you find a set that gives you the tone and feel you want.
7. Replacing String Types For Better Resonance
Once you keep replacing your guitar with the same strings the resonance actually decreases.
This is why you need to mix it up a bit, change the types of strings on your guitar from time to time.
8. Which Gauge is BEST for Beginners?
If you are a new beginner, a lighter string gauge with a polymer coating will make playing slightly easier.
9. How to Brighten up Old/Dead Strings?
Replacing strings constantly can get expensive, and it only takes a month or so before they die and lose all volume. Once they are dead, a quick tip is to try boiling them.
Simply place them in a pan of boiling water. Five minutes for electric and acoustic strings. Ten minutes for bass strings. It will not completely restore them to their original condition, but they will get back some of their original qualities and brightness.
10. String Gauge
String gauge is the thickness or diameter of the string, and it is an important considered when choosing a new type of Guitar strings.
A thinner gauged string will, unsurprising, produce a thinner and brighter tone. Lighter gauge strings are easier to get a handle on, to fret and bend, and they sound a lot brighter. The trade-off is that you lose some of that bottom end. For some players that is worth it. But not all.
Conversely, a thicker string will produce a thicker and fuller, with a more rounded low end, and on balance they tend to be louder tone. They’re more durable, too. However, for players who are still building strength in their fretting hands, thick gauges can make for a chastening playing experience, especially if you are a finger-picker or like to play fast runs and bend your strings. If you are a folky strummer, heavier might be a better option.
Here’s a generic guide to acoustic guitar string gauges:
- 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 .05
Another matter needs to be taken into consideration is the size of your Guitar. If you have a smaller bodied acoustic guitar, lighter gauge strings might complement the sound better, and vice-versa, the thicker strings will a better fit sound-wise for larger bodied jumbo and concert models. Or if you are still not sure about the experiences you want to have, medium strings would the choice for a more balanced sound.
11. String Material
Common string materials for acoustic guitar include:
- Aluminum Bronze – Aluminum Bronze acoustic strings have higher clarity, projection, low end, and corrosion resistance than typical phosphor bronze strings because they are made from a mix of copper and aluminium wrapped around maraging steel hex cores.
- 80/20 – The 80/20 guitar strings, often known as brass strings, are made up of 80 percent copper and 20 percent zinc. They are wound using one of four classic wounding processes, with the wound strings process varying depending on the model.
- Phospher Bronze – These strings produce a much different tone than 80/20 strings with a little darker and warmer sound and now make up the majority of acoustic guitar strings on the market today. If you prefer a darker, mellower, or more natural tone, this type of string would be the good choice for you. It gives a bit more tonal softness compared to other string types and the pick attack is generally less pronounced than in their brighter counterparts. They consist of about 92% copper, 8% tin, and 0.2% phosphorus stop it from aging as fast.
- Brass – This produces a rather harsh and metallic sound. . Bass guitar strings commonly use stainless steel as a wrapping material, which will help achieving a balanced tone and a bright attack, with more corrosion resistive than nickel or nickel-plated string.
- Nickel – Nickel strings have warmer tone, make an excellent vintage choice, as does monel – a nickel-based alloy that many guitarists swear by for getting the best out of their tonewood. Electric and bass guitars strings are generally made from either steel or a steel-nickel combination. The three higher strings are made from pure steel. Typically, the lower three strings, and all four strings on a bass have a pure steel core and wrapped in a steel-nickel plated or all nickel. However, silver-nickel plating or all-steel outer wrapping are also used. they produce a warm tone whilst maintaining a bright attack
- Silk and steel – Silk and steel strings are also sometimes used. They have less sound projection and are a quieter sounding string with a mellow sound and are relatively easy to play. These strings are sometimes favored by vintage guitars owners. This is because the string creates less tension and is, therefore, less likely to damage more sensitive instruments.
What about nylon strings?
For a classical guitar style, you’ll need nylon strings. In a set of classical strings, the top three strings are made from clear or rectified nylon, with the bottom three typically using bronze or silver played copper wire wrapped around a multi-filament core.
12. String Coating
The first character of string you may care much about is whether they are coated or not.
From my point of view, I highly recommend the coated ones because its invention has made a huge advance in the strings life duration and playability. Basically, they are a normal string coated in a plastic polymer which acts as a barrier to sweat, dirt, skin, and any other kind of gunk or crap you can think of. This also helps to protect the string from all those corrosive elements and extends its life and playability while also soften and smoothed the fingers’ movement on it. Furthermore, coated strings tend to squeak less than uncoated ones, though this could be a negative to some.
However, everything has its own drawbacks. If being compared with the uncoated string, coated strings are significantly more expensive and sometimes can lose some of the higher-end response making them less bright in tone.
13. String Construction
The last thing you may concern about when choosing new strings for your Guitar is their construction.
String Windings include:
- Round wound – Round wound strings are the most common. They are essentially a round wire, with a textured surface, wrapped around the inner wire core. On the plus side, they are able to create a bright tone with low levels of tension, high sustain, and clear harmonics. On the negative side, they tend to wear more easily, create more string noise and fret wear.
- Flat wound – Flat wound strings are a flatter surfaced wire. They have a warmer, darker tone often preferred by jazz guitar players for use on their best hollow semi-hollow guitars. However, the darkness of their tones can make them harder to cut through the mix. This makes them less popular with rock, metal, and blues players.
- Half round – Half wound strings are somewhere in between the other two and are by far the least popular choice of winding. This is because they remain too dark for most modern genres of music but, conversely, are too bright in comparison to the flat wound strings.
Originally, strings had a round steel core, but today strings are almost exclusively made from a hexagonal steel core. This has the advantage of giving the outer wire a less slippery surface to bind on to and produced sound tends to be brighter and more consistent. However, if a warmer tone with more sustain is preferred, round core options are available, but note that the differences are minimal.
In this article we discussed four types of guitar strings.
- Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
- Elixir Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
- Martin 80/20 Original Acoustic Guitar Strings
- D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
String material is almost certainly the second consideration among guitarists when selecting strings. Acoustic guitar strings are commonly made of bronze, phosphor bronze, brass, nickel, nylon, silk and steel. Each material has its own pros and cons, let’s go through each type in detail.