The best acoustic guitar strings for your acoustic guitar will depend on your use and personal
preference. Acoustic guitar strings come in a wide variety of brands, materials, gauges, and
applications. If you are playing on a higher end guitar, perhaps even a custom model, the best
acoustic guitar strings may be found from the builder or manufacturer. They will undoubtedly
recommend a string type and gauge for your instrument.
The two main types of strings are nylon and steel string. Common materials used for steel
strings are nickel, bronze, stainless steel and silk. Some manufacturers also like to market
composite materials to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Probably the most important choice you will make in choosing the best acoustic guitar strings is
its gauge. The gauge of a string refers to its diameter. As you may expect, string diameter
increases from the first string to the sixth. The diameter will affect the relative feel of a
guitar's action. The gauges are grouped from light, to moderate, and heavy. The model of a
particular brand may include the diameter of the first and sixth string in its name. For example,
D'Addario's EJ83L Light 10-44 tells us the first string is .10 inches in diameter and the sixth is
.44 inches in diameter.
Many feel the best acoustic guitar strings for classical and flamenco guitars are nylon strings.
They also come in a wide range of materials including composites. Traditionally, strings four to
six have a nylon filament core and are wrapped in a silver or bronze plating. The strings are tied
to the guitar at both the tuning peg and the bridge. You can, however, find models of nylon strings
with a ball on the end for use on other types of acoustic guitars. Manufacturers usually classify
their nylon strings by their tension, rather than diameter. Light, normal and hard tension strings
are common designations.
The best acoustic guitar strings are available in different gauges. Light gauge strings start at
.10 inches in diameter for the first string. Medium strings start at about .12 inches, and heavier
strings usually start at .13 inches. The remaining string diameters will fluctuate a bit depending
on specific models and brands.
For the acoustic player, what you play, how hard you play, and the volume you wish to produce,
coupled with the action on the instrument will influence your choice for the best acoustic guitar
strings. Generally speaking, lighter gauge strings result in a lighter feeling action, but a
reduction in volume. Their sound is also thinner.
Larger guitars like Dreadnoughts, for example, are designed to be heard above other instruments
in band and played with a pick. You may be playing mostly open chords and using a capo to change
keys on this type of instrument. Lighter strings may break, which is extremely annoying at best,
and can ruin a performance in the worst case. Use a heavier gauge that will take some beating on
Smaller parlour instruments will require a lighter string, which will also be easier on the
finger tips for finger style players. If you are making a recording where every musical nuance is
picked up by close miking, as is every instrument noise, you will also benefit from a lighter gauge
string. Adjust your playing style accordingly.
Finding the best acoustic guitar strings suitable for your instrument and playing style may take
some time. Remember to change your strings often. Use this as an opportunity to experiment with
different brands, materials, and gauges as you learn their different feels and tones.