Buying Guide for Acoustic Guitar Strings
Why buy acoustic guitar strings?
If you play the guitar regularly, you’ll need to change your strings every once in a while. If you’re starting to pick up the guitar again, restringing your old, rust-coated strings can help to revive its former glory. Or maybe you’re bored and want to try a different sound, perhaps a warmer, richer, or brighter tone. Switching guitar strings is an easy way to experiment with new sounds.
What should you look for in acoustic guitar strings?
- Gauge: There is no one correct gauge. Light or lower gauge strings require a lighter touch. They’re easier on the hands, easier to fret and band, and give greater emphasis to treble notes. For this reason, they’re great for bringing out fingerpicking. Heavier gauge strings produce deeper tones by accentuating the bass register. They’re harder on the fingers than lighter strings but are ideal for music styles that require harder attacks like rock and blues.
- Material: The material of your guitar string affects durability, ease of playing, and the resulting tone. 80/20 bronze and phosphor bronze are among the most popular acoustic string types. 80/20 bronze is an 80 to 20 ratio of bronze to zinc. This particular alloy produces a bright and vibrant sound but is prone to corrosion and rust. Phosphor bronze is more corrosion-resistant than 80/20 and has a natural, mid-range tone. Nylon strings are commonly used with classical guitars. They’re non-steel strings with a soft feel, producing a warm sound.
- Shape: There are two types of strings to consider: round core strings and hex strings. Round core strings offer ultimate contact between the core and the winding and a denser and more flexible string. Hex core strings have benefits too. The more modern option is the hexagonal-shaped core wire. Just check the physics on it; the core wire shape and the outer wiring combined create a stabler string. They’re thought to be easier to tune and produce brighter sounds than round core strings.
What tools do you need to restring your guitar?
It’s a good thing you’re here because you obviously need replacement strings first and foremost to make this happen. You’ll also need wire cutters or pliers and a string winder. Some experienced guitarists recommend a headstand if you want to approach the task with the guitar lying on the ground. Finally, you need to be able to tune the strings. If you have absolute pitch, good for you! Most of us need a tuner machine or app.
Our Picks for the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings
D'Addario Acoustic Phosphor Bronze Strings
These strings produce a well-balanced tone that's perfect for any music style.
Pros: These are D’Addario’s most popular set of guitar strings. The extra-light, high-carbon steel string is precision wound with phosphor bronze wire. Another essential feature of the D’Addario string is its hexagonal core because it stabilizes the phosphor bronze wire wrap. This type of string is more copper than bronze, with a bit of tin and a trace amount of phosphor. They offer a resonant, warm, and bright sound. This package includes six strings.
Cons: They may feel stiffer than the guitar strings you’re used to.
Bottom Line: Acoustic guitarists who know the scene regard these strings among the top-performing phosphor bronze strings. They’re playable, long-lasting, versatile, and inspiring.
Ernie Ball Earthwood Light Phosphor Bronze
A set of strings with a light orange-gold color that produces warm honey tones.
Pros: Playing your first chords on your guitar can be painful to an untrained hand. A thicker gauge set of strings can worsen this pain and make playing even more frustrating. Extra-light strings don’t require as much force to produce a note. If you prefer the softer tension of an extra-light gauge string, this set by Ernie Ball is great for you. These phosphor bronze strings produce warm, rich tones with a higher treble. These durable strings feature a round carbon steel wire and a brass wire ball end to prevent slippage.
Cons: Some users say these strings lose their bright sound sooner than others.
Bottom Line: These light gauge strings are made in California and have a softer tension. You get six strings for inexpensive purchase.
Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
These light-gauge strings produce bright tones with a strong clarity and have a natural feel.
Pros: From beginners to full-fledged guitarists, a set of Elixir strings are high-quality and versatile for any music genre and sound. These 80/20 strings produce a vibrant, bright tone that sounds crisp and focused. Its Nanoweb coating protects your strings from trapping dead skin and dirt, which may ruin the quality of your sound. Don’t worry—the coating won’t ruin the texture of the strings; it’s extremely thin and has a natural feel when playing.
Cons: You may find that the Nanoweb coating comes off quickly, especially if you play regularly.
Bottom Line: These strings don’t just look good on paper. Guitarists of all skill levels have great things to say about their slick feel, which makes their fingers lighter and faster.
Bememo Steel Strings for Acoustic Guitar
A mix of fun colors and a variety of gauges.
Pros: The Bememo steel strings are basic, round alloy steel core strings with rustproof coating. They’re straightforward, but they come in lots of colors. You get two sets of six strings. One set has multicolored strings; the second set is yellow and silver. The color assortment makes playing more fun and spices up your image on stage. The colored strings can assist new guitarists in memorizing the notes by assigning a color to each. You get a variety of gauges to experiment with, too, from 0.007 to 0.047.
Cons: These Bememo strings appeal most to beginner and intermediate players. While they’re of good quality, you may find them disappointing if you’re an experienced musician.
Bottom Line: If you learn best with visual cues like colors to associate with musical notes, check out these strings. They’re great fun and are nice steel strings.
VIBE 80/20 Bronze Coated Acoustic Strings
This cryogenically treated set of strings comes with a restringing kit.
Pros: Here are some rather fancy engineered 80/20 bronze coated acoustic guitar strings. They’re cryogenically tempered. What does that mean? First off, the hex string has a high-carbon steel core. And steel responds to cryogenic treatment, unlike copper or silver. It changes in chemical structure, forming crystal-like structures which retain their shape at room temperature. Cryogenically tempered steel strings are stronger, harder, and more durable. With the 80/20 copper/zinc and bronze coating, these strings produce bright, heavy-ended tones and a vibrant sound.
Cons: While you get a variety of gauges (0.013-0.056), all of the strings are on the heavy side. You may want to check out the lighter strings we recommend if you prefer a lighter gauge.
Bottom: Great for strumming and flat-picking, these heavy acoustic guitar strings will impress your fingers and ears. You get three sets of strings and a complete restringing kit.
Whether you’re a beginner or an avid guitarist, you’ll need to stock up on some strings. These are solid picks to keep you playing your best.