What Acoustic Guitar Strings Should I Buy? (Explained)

If you’re new to acoustic guitar, you’re probably feeling a bit confused when it comes to picking out a new batch of strings. Maybe the question troubling you is: What acoustic guitar strings should I buy?

The heart of an acoustic guitar is its strings; you won’t play unless you have them.
They also significantly improve the quality of your sound. Acoustic guitar strings help establish the tone of your instrument, whether bright or mellow, loud or gentle.

Finding the ideal acoustic guitar strings for you may take trial and error. After determining which brand and gauge suit your style of play, you’ll experience the correct amount of tension beneath your fingertips, making it more fun and comfortable to play.

This piece gives you insight into the ideal acoustic guitar strings you should get for your instrument.

What Acoustic Guitar Strings Should I Buy? (What To Consider)

Acoustic guitar strings play a significant role in the instrument’s performance. As a guitarist, brace yourself to use tons and tons of string sets over the years because they corrode, get old, or wear out.

Replacing those strings with another batch would help maintain your guitar’s uniqueness and tone, as well as make it feel nicer beneath your fingers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, like music, choosing the best acoustic strings is entirely subjective, implying what works for you might not work for another guitarist. You will discover that one collection of strings is significantly brighter than its counterparts.

I recommend you test out as many strings as possible till you strike the perfect ones.

Furthermore, buy acoustic guitar strings based on how you intend to play them. Scores of fingerpickers prefer acoustic guitars with smaller bodies and lighter strings, while bluegrass performers would go for Dreadnoughts with thick strings.

Dobro and slide guitarists fancy heavy strings, whereas acoustic blues musicians who love bending their music apparatus will appreciate light or extra-light gauges. In addition, flamenco and classical musicians incorporate cover materials and varied string tension to play distinct tones.

Acoustic guitars don’t have amplifiers to tweak sound quality but rely on the guitar’s natural sound. Therefore, the strings you pick from a local store would determine the overall quality of sound your guitar will produce.

Understanding Acoustic Guitar String Gauges

Acoustic strings come in a variety of grades and thicknesses. Measurements on these gauges are in thousandths of an inch. The lightest strings are usually.010, while the heaviest are usually.059.

The gauge of the strings has a significant impact on tone and playability. Most acoustic guitars feature standard light or medium gauge strings (commonly referred to as 12s and 13s).

When you comb through guitar stores, you’ll come across an assortment of acoustic string gauges, and you can trace some to reputable manufacturers. Expect to find some disparities across the brands since some make hybrid string gauges.

Below is a list of some of the most popular 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 .059

Properties Of Light Gauge Strings

  • They have less volume
  • They are easier to play
  • They are susceptible to fret buzzing
  • They bend notes easily
  • They break easily
  • They exert less strain on the neck

Properties Of Heavy Gauge Strings

  • They are more strenuous to play
  • They need extra finger pressure for bending of notes and fretting
  • They generate more volume and sustain
  • They exert more strain on the guitar’s neck

I recommend Custom Light or Extra Light strings if you play standard tunes. They give you an easy time to play besides offering you punchy tones accompanied by low string tension.

As you continue to ramp up your skills, you can experiment with thicker strings.

What Are The Best Acoustic Strings To Buy?

Consider Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze strings (View on Amazon) if you want all-rounded excellence in strumming and fingerpicking. They project well and sound clean and balanced, hence their unquestionable rank among the best acoustic strings available in the market.

Furthermore, Elixir manufactures top-notch coated strings that sound better and retain sound 3-5 times longer than their uncoated counterparts.

Martin (the acoustic master) employs Elixir-coated strings to create an acoustic guitar collection to accommodate virtually any player. Taylor also uses these strings on all of its steel-strung acoustics.

What Are Acoustic Guitar Strings Made Of?

Acoustic guitar strings consist of a metal core (mainly stainless steel) with thinner metal wires wrapped around the four thickest strings. However, the materials used may differ.

Playing an acoustic guitar could cause gunk from your fingers to lodge between the string windings, hence corroding the metal. Several brands address this by coating their strings.

Coated acoustic guitar strings sound better and will serve you longer than uncoated ones, albeit they will cost you a fortune.

Related: Can you use electric guitar strings on acoustic guitar?

How To Maintain Acoustic Guitar Strings

Here are some steps you can take to maintain your acoustic guitar strings:

Wash your hands before playing

Oils and dirt from your hands can build up on the strings and affect their sound quality. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before playing to avoid jamming the strings.

Wipe strings after playing

After each guitar session, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe down the strings. This will help remove any dirt or sweat that may have accumulated on them.

Use string cleaner

You can also use specialized string cleaners to remove dirt and grime from the strings. Apply a small amount to a clean cloth and run it along the length of the strings.

Avoid touching strings with bare fingers

Try to avoid touching the strings with your bare fingers as much as possible. The natural oils on your skin can cause the strings to deteriorate more quickly.

Store your guitar properly

When you’re not playing your guitar, store it in a guitar bag and place it in a cool, dry environment. This will help prevent moisture from accumulating on the strings, which can cause rust and corrosion.

Change your strings regularly

Even with proper maintenance, guitar strings will eventually wear out and lose their tone. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to change your guitar strings every three to six months, depending on how often you play.

How Often Should You Restring Your Acoustic Guitar?

The frequency with which you restring your instrument varies with your playing intervals: if you play it frequently, you should restring it every 6-8 weeks.

However, you’ll wait longer to restring an acoustic guitar with coated strings.


1. What Gauge Acoustic Guitar Strings Should A Beginner Use?

Beginners should use a smaller gauge set. A 10-47 or 11-52 gauge would suffice. Should they be weighty, look for manufacturers who make sets that start with a 9.

2. Are Extra Light Acoustic Strings Good?

Extra light strings are easier to play despite having lower volume and a different tone from the medium gauge and standard light strings. They are looser, and some guitarists may find their finger plucking less controlled.

3. What Gauge Strings Are Best For Acoustic?

Most players would fancy Light (12-54) or Super Light (11-52) gauges. On the other hand, the Medium (13-56) gauge works well for those that require maximum projection.

Extra Light (10-50) gauge will serve those looking for versatility.

4. Does It Matter What Strings You Put On A Guitar?

Most guitar manufacturers determine the suitability of a string gauge using the guitar’s body size. The amount of stress exerted on the top of the guitar by the strings informs this approach.

The bigger a person’s physique is, the greater the strain they can bear.

5. Does String Gauge Matter?

The more stress the string holds, the thicker the string gauge. Guitarists that love a tight string feel may appreciate heavier gauge strings.

Aggressive string strummers would love heavy gauge strings because they’ll stay in tune when they strike the strings harder.

6. Are All Acoustic Guitar Strings The Same?

Phosphor bronze and 80/20 bronze are the two most common acoustic guitar strings. Phosphor bronze strings come in alloys enriched with phosphor.

Standard acoustic guitars feature higher-pitched plain steel strings, similar to those found on electric guitars.

Final Thoughts

I believe this post has provided more than enough answers to your what acoustic strings should I buy question. The choice you make will mainly revolve around string material, string gauge, desired sound, and playing style.

My recommendation is to choose and buy a few strings and start experimenting, bearing in mind that what one player finds easy may be difficult for another.

Acoustic guitar strings are affordable, meaning you can try out different sets without ripping your wallet. The more you explore, the faster you’ll find a set that matches your desired tone and vibe.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I figure out which strings are best for my acoustic guitar?

Usually, the body style of your acoustic guitar can hint at which strings might be best. A useful guideline is that smaller-bodied guitars tend to benefit from lighter gauge strings while larger-bodied instruments, such as dreadnoughts or jumbos, are often fitted with heavier gauges. This is because medium-gauge strings can better exploit the ample sound chambers in these larger models, producing a crisp, full-bodied sound. From my personal experience, I found that using this rule as a starting point gave my own performances a noticeable improvement in tone quality. That said, each guitar is unique, and what works well for one may not necessarily be the best choice for another.

How do I decide on the right strings for my guitar?

The tonal quality that you want to achieve with your guitar should be the decisive factor when it comes to selecting your strings. Heavier string gauges are great for a richer, fuller tone. The thickness of these strings allows for greater vibration, resulting in a more resonant, bass-heavy output. On the other hand, if you’re a beginner and ease of playability is your primary concern, lighter (thinner) gauges might be better suited to start with. When I first started playing, I used lighter gauge strings as they accommodated my untrained fingertips and made the initial learning stages more comfortable.

Does the choice of strings on an acoustic guitar make a significant difference?

Yes, most certainly. The gauge of the strings plays a vital role in adapting the sound of your acoustic guitar. Heavier gauge strings produce a darker and more responsive sound and offer richer sustain due to the excess material to vibrate. However, they could result in mild discomfort or finger pain if you’ve been used to playing on lighter gauge strings. Personally, when I made the switch to heavier gauge strings, the extra exertion required took some getting used to, but the resultant tonal richness made the initial discomfort worth it. Optimal string selection, in my book, is a crucial element of bespoke guitar sound production.

Which are the most comfortable and user-friendly strings for acoustic guitars?

A distinct advantage of lighter gauge strings is that they’re Stress-free to play and thus can prevent discomfort during extended periods of playing. Hence, they’re often suggested for beginners. These are also excellent for players with a soft touch as they require less hand strength and stamina. When I began playing, I used to practice for extended periods, and lighter gauge strings allowed me to do so without much discomfort. However, it’s always crucial to remember that comfort shouldn’t compromise the sound quality. Ensure that the strings you choose can deliver the tonal quality you want and feel good for your fingers.


I'm Johnny, the guy behind Guitar Manifesto. I've been playing guitar since my teens and now that I'm in my 40s, I'm all about sharing what I've learned to help you become a better guitarist.

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