Which strings are right for you?

Guitar string gauges and their properties.

The acoustic guitar is a system of parts that work together. Strings vibrate when strummed or picked, and the vibration flows to the saddle, bridge, soundboard and body. It then goes out of the soundhole and it becomes the music that you hear. Some people spend thousands to get the best body, but the strings are just as important. They could make a great guitar sound better, or at least improve a poor one to some extent.

Acoustic Guitar String Types

There are two types of strings, namely steel and nylon. And they are not interchangeable — folk guitars should use steel, while classical guitars should use nylon. Otherwise, you will risk damaging your instrument. For example, using steel on a classical could cause the neck to bow and shift. This is because classical guitars are not designed to handle the greater tension of steel.

Under the main types, strings can be further categorized according to their construction material. Below is a table of steel string materials and their descriptions:

On the other hand, nylon strings aren’t really all nylon. Other materials are also used for classical guitars, but nylon became the common term for them. Also, note that treble strings are constructed differently from the bass.

Acoustic Guitar String Gauges

Gauge refers to the thickness of the strings, which is expressed in thousandths of an inch. Most manufacturers indicate the gauge of a string set using terms like extra light or heavy, below are some characteristics.

How To Choose The Right String

Choosing the right string is a matter of personal preference. If you already chose and are ready to restring, there are a few good “how-to guides” that you can find on YouTube. If you haven’t, below are factors to consider to help you decide finally.

  • Sound is a factor to consider when deciding about what string to get. After all, it’s the very reason that you got a guitar in the first place. To maximize your guitar’s sound, light strings are recommended for small bodied ones, while heavy is for dreadnoughts and jumbos. Advanced players looking for a specific tone also take the string material in consideration. As shown in the tables above, materials have varying “sonic personalities.”
  • Playability is another factor considered by most people when choosing a string. For beginners and children, light strings are a popular choice because they are easier on fingers. Meanwhile, advanced players may tailor fit their strings to their playing style. For example, light strings are comfortable for fingerpickers, while medium ones last longer for rhythm strummers. Finally, also consider if you’re allergic to some string materials.
  • The guitar’s condition or age is also an important factor to consider. If what you have is an old or vintage instrument, then it would be wise to opt for light strings. Aged guitars are generally weak, so heavy strings could possibly make the neck bow, or the bridge lift.
  • Value for money is an important factor for any product, not just guitar strings, and nothing is more disappointing than having to buy a new set more often than you need to. Strings either break or wear out. If you don’t enjoy changing strings often, then heavy ones made of corrosion resistant materials are the best.

Adapted from original article by guitarlessonsmag.com.

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