What should we consider when buying acoustic guitar strings?
If you are reading this review, most of you have already tried and even chosen a guitar from a showroom.
But have you noticed that some new and rather expensive guitars might not justify their reputation and price?
Why? The problem might be in the strings.
The first factor of discovering the true potential and quality of a guitar is the quality of the strings.
Which really leads to the question which acoustic guitar strings to choose, especially if you are a beginner.
How to choose the best acoustic guitar strings
First of all, let’s define what we mean by “the best”.
The best ones are those that suit your needs and offer the best quality for their price.
The means frequency of use, the quality of tone, the durability and resistance, the thickness of the cords, and of course, the price.
Thanks to the great competition among brands, most often, the best brands fulfill almost all quality checks. The difference is really in the details and the uniqueness of each brand.
You don’t have to do a lot of research to learn which are the top leading brands in acoustic guitar string production. Chances are, you have already heard of them.
That’s why we are focusing on the main ones, the already established brands, such as Elixir, D’addario, Martin, and see what makes them different.
Are the Elixir acoustic strings suitable for beginners?
When I first started playing guitar, I often changed string brands in the pursuit of the perfect one for me.
Then one of my guitar instructors advised me to try Elixir. Although they were definitely a bit more expensive than I was used to, I decided to invest and try them out.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by their durability and the longevity of the freshness of the tone. They held up four to five times longer than the brands I was using before, which made them actually more economical than all the others.
In addition to the standard composition of the strings (steel base wrapped in a bronze wire), Elixir adds a polymer coating to the strings. This makes them resistant to moisture and dirt. It also protects the string from corrosion and maintains the tone quality for a long time.
The Elixir strings come in three variants:
- Phosphor Bronze with Nanoweb coating
- Bronze with Nanoweb coating
- Bronze with Polyweb coating
What do we need to know about D’Addario strings?
D’Addario is one of the best and most constant brands for guitar strings. They offer guitar strings for all purposes – classical strings, acoustic, electric, flatwound.
For your acoustic guitar needs, a great option is the EXP series, specifically D’Addario EXP16. Besides the steel base, these have a casting made out of steel wire. It is extra thin, making the wired resistant to corrosion and dirt.
Another great option is the well-known Phosphor Bronze Ej series. They are characterized by their bright and well-balanced tone.
What makes Martin strings so great?
Martin is the right place for acoustic guitar strings. So you won’t be wrong to go with a set of Martin strings. They are one of the most famous and best manufacturers of acoustic guitars, and it’s normal to have a huge selection of quality strings to go along with them.
Thanks to their experience, Martin strings can boast with some legendary series.
Let’s start with the Martin’s Retro Acoustic Strings. These are corrosion resistant strings and contain a combination of nickel and copper in their composition. This is a formula with a vintage sound that dominated the golden era of Martin in the 1930s.
Another set of strings that we cannot miss are the Martin’s best selling strings, Phosphor Bronze m540. This is a string model that covers all acoustic guitar music styles, and they are available in all gauges. Their main characteristic is their exceptional and well-balanced tone
And another thing I cannot miss is the biggest name in the business that uses Martin guitar strings, and that’s Eric Clapton. Clapton is not only a fan of the Martin strings, but he also has his own signature model, Clapton’s choice 928.
Choosing the strings with the right coating plays a big role.
Most often, this happens spontaneously, but it is important to have some basic knowledge so you won’t make the wrong choice and actually get for strings that suit you.
Thinner strings have lower tension and are more elastic so the movement along the strings is smoother and it’s easier to bend.
On the other hand, thinner strings have lower tuning stability. However, this flaw is almost nonexistent with the higher quality brands.
These strings are most suitable if you want to play solo on your acoustic guitar.
As gages change and you go to the thicker strings, you will find that the movement along the neck gets more difficult, but the sound is strong and the tuning stability increases.
These strings are more suitable if you want to play chords and when you want to make your guitar sound wider.
Here’s a list of all the options for guitar wires:
- Extra light 010 – 047
- Custom light 011 – 052
- Light 012 – 054
- Medium 013 – 056
- Heavy 014 – 059
How to change the strings on your guitar?
Once you have made the choice and have purchased your perfect set of strings, you need to know how to set them and replace them.
In the box, the strings are arranged from the thinnest to the thickest. Next to each string is its name. Sequentially seen from the thinnest to the thickest they go like this – E B G D A E.
Now that you know each string, you need to know where each one belongs. When holding the guitar, the thinnest string goes at the bottom, and the thickest, of course, at the top.
We place the mesh of the string at the bridge and the top of the string at the headstock. Then you should wrap them on the capstan by using the tuning pegs. The wrapping is done from the right to the left.
It is very important to not overdo this process and wrap them too tight to avoid breaking the string.
Once you have set the strings you need to tune them to reach the required height of sound.
Once you are all done with this, the strings need to be left to rest. This gives them time to stabilize so they don’t eventually break. Then you should leave them for at least a half an hour, but if you don’t have any reason to play, it is good to leave them even a bit longer.