Best acoustic guitar strings for beginners

martin acoustic guitar.jpg

When new guitarists start to learn to play, they take their strings for granted - after all, they came with the guitar! But when the strings start to sound dull, tarnish or break, every beginner has to learn how to choose a replacement set of strings. This is not always as easy as it sounds, because the variety of makes and types can be overwhelming...

Do I want Bronze or Phospher-Bronze? Coated or Uncoated? What about Titanium? And which gauge is best for me? We attempt to answer the basics for the beginner and help you choose your first new set of guitar strings.

Firstly, let's be clear that we are talking about steel-strung acoustic guitars here. Never ever put steel strings on a classical guitar - these guitars need special nylon strings. So, for steel-strung acoustic guitars...

1) Material
The most universal choice is Phosphor-Bronze strings. The windings on these gold-colored strings are made from a special aloy of phoshor-bronze that gives a good compromise between sound and tarnish-resistance. You can use plain Bronze strings as an alternative, but these go dull guickly and need need replacing often. Phosphor bronze strings are the best choice for the beginner. (Don't use Nickel strings as these are designed for electric guitars.)

2) Coating
Putting a coating on guitar strings is a fairly recent innovation, with terms like "nanoweb". The coating is made of very thin plastic that seals the string and stops the acid from your fingers tarnishing the string. Coated strings can be easier to play and are said to keep theit "factory fresh" bright sound for at least twice as long. You don't need coated strings... but if you're willing to pay around twice the cost of regular uncoated strings you may find them better and they are just as acceptable on any acoustic guitar - no special setup or adjustments are needed.

3) Gauge
The gauge (not guage!) of a set of guitar strings is simply the thickness of the thinest string (the high E) in thousandths of an inch.
Thicker (or heavier gauge) strings sound fuller and ring more, but are more difficult to play. Thinner strings can sound weak and break more easily. For beginners we would normally recommend light or extra light gauge - 12 or 11 gauge.

4) Manufacturer
There are many many manufacturers of guitar strings (see the Manufacturers "tab" link at the top of this page) and all have their fans and detractors. Prices can vary considerably, but most are suitable for beginners - as long as you choose one from the list on our manufacturers page you should have no problem... and when you are a more experienced guitarist you can experinment with different brands until you find your own favorite. You will also find that all manufacturers have sponsered artists - this can be a clue as to which strings might suite your own style of guitar playing.
e.g. Rotosound JK11 - Jumbo Kings are Rotosound's best selling acoustic string. Phosphor Bronze wound Acoustic Guitar strings with superb warm tone, clarity and sustain. Favoured by such artists as John Renbourn, Bob Geldof and Gordon Giltrap.
JK11 have string gauges of: .011 .015 .022w .030 .042 .052

5) Changing your strings
Change all of your strings at once, even of you're only changing them because you've broken one. You'll be amazed at how much brighter your guitar sounds with new strings and by changing them all you can be sure that you have a compatible set.

That's it! If you want to know more about guitar string gauges or manufacturers, see the "tab" links at the top of each page of GSG.

But remember, the most important thing for beginners is gauge - use 11 or 12 gauge as described above (preferably pghosphor brionze), and don't be tempted to go for Extra Light or Heavy strings until you have mastered the basics of guitar playing.

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