Acoustic String Choices for Beginners?

I’m not an absolute beginner, but I always wondered what were the best choices for beginners.
Lots of choices too-
What Gauge
String material
I’m sure there lots of other things to consider as well
Beginners need all the help they can get, perhaps the most important thing the least amount of roadblocks. Only way to get good is to keep at it.
So the easiest string to play is to me at least, the most important.

Are you playing acoustic or electric?

I am no expert but have been slowly experimenting.

Lighter strings are easier, in general. There are low tension strings which are easier and can be a little thicker if you prefer that. It all depends.

Strings aren’t too expensive, so experiment.

If you are just starting, maybe 9s on an electric and 10s on acoustic. Coatings help string last and reduce string noise (sliding), so I wouldn’t worry much about that at this stage. Same with tone, it is a bit early to worry about the tone, although if you have a strong preference include a consideration for how bright or warm they may be.

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I agree with @Jamolay in terms of gauge.

I’d suggest coated. I think the extra longevity will be worthwhile as a beginner when you probably won’t be playing so many hours per day that you need to change strings frequently from a played-on perspective. Then the extra protection from the elements will be of benefit.

But if your strings last a long time, you don’t get to try anything else out! :wink:

I have wasted some perfectly good sets of strings by changing just for the heck of it.

Currently I like “Straight up Strings” low tension 12s on the acoustic, with a set of GHS thin core (round) PB 12s (also low tension) to try next.

I have been using pure nickel 11s (various brands) on the electric but prefer them tuned flat to reduce tension. Eventually I will move back to 10s.

If you want some that are easier on your fingers try Silk and steel, you can usually go for 12’s on an acoustic (light or extra light depending on brand) they’re really nice to play.

The easiest string to play is the lightest string, as light as you can find. Practically, this means 10s on acoustic and 9s on electric. The light strings will simply make fretting easier and cause less finger pain. (BTW, don’t rely on the designation “Light” or “Medium” or whatever of the manufacturer, go by the gauge of the thinnest string. That will be 0.010 inches for the strings I’m talking about.)

Once you have some experience, you could choose to go heavier, 11s or 12s (on acoustic), if you like the sound better.

Replace your old strings with the same strings that came with your guitar.

My Taylor came with Elixir phosphor bronze 12s. Being new to acoustic guitar (I had been playing an electric with Ernie Ball Super Slinky 9s for a couple of years) I wanted to get lighter. I intended to try 11s, but the shop was out of them. They had 10s, so I went with them.

They suggested that I have the truss rod tweaked with a change from 12s to 10s, which I did. (No they weren’t just trying to sell me something. The guitar came with lifetime setups from them.) I’m perfectly happy with the 10s, and personally see no reason to go back to heavier strings.

D’addario Nickel Bronze 12-52 “Balanced Tension” are my favorite, so far, for easier bar cords.
But a correct setup is very important for easy playing, I think.


Yes! Came here to recommend the Martin Silk and Steels as well.

My girlfriend had extra light D’Adderios on her entry level Denver acoustic (D’Addario extra lights - .010s - which were an improvement on the .012s that came from the factory). But she was having trouble getting some notes to ring clearly, especially with the A chord , and getting frustrated.

The manager at my local Long & McQuade (the Canadian music chain store) suggested the S&S, and they made a big difference. Not only are they thicker (.012?) and easier on the fingers, but they are also stretchier, which makes it easier to fret difficult chords.

I could hear the difference immediately when my GF played them, and she could feel it. She’s now much more motivated to play again.

The only downside I could hear is that they were a little less bright sounding. But I think that’s a small price to pay for the improved playability.

I believe d’Adderio makes a similar string, but have no experience with those. EDIT: I see both Martin and D’Addario use the Silk and Steel name. Not sure what the differences are, if any.

Had an interesting conversation with the manager. He said he had read that 90% of all guitar students give it up within a year. We both thought that badly set up guitars with thick strings were a big contributor to this dismal statistic.

Since I bought the Acoustic Taylor 410 used I have no idea what it came with. I’m using these right now
D’Addario XTAPB1253 XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light, 12-53. So these are 12’s ? I just went by light which is what it said. Obviously not very light then.
I also got some D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, again more “light” strings, but still 12’s…
Looks like I need to go to a smaller gauge maybe.
I also herd the term round wound, but not sure what it means. has it got something to do with playability ?

Respectfully disagree.

If the stock strings are causing trouble for beginners, go with thinner ones.

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It’s fine to disagree. You do you. The engineer in me says to go with what the manufacturer put on the guitar to showcase it in its best tonal light, so that people will buy it and not return it. The strings might be part of the puzzle that attracted someone to purchase the guitar in the first place.

I buy guitars that come setup with D’Addario strings, often times changing gauge will cause buzzing and such. That’s just how I roll.

@CT That’s a good point… I defer to your greater experience.

See my post for a single experience with thinner strings that made things better.

As usual, YMMV

I actually have the same mindset as Clint… i use the same strings my guitar came with. And i have this thing that if i want to change gauge i might get string buzz and what not…
Im with Clint on this… not sure if its right though…

My acoustic came with .012-.053 strings, so I’ve been using that gauge since day 1. Of course, I had nothing to compare them to, but in a few weeks I got used to them and now (after 2.5 years) I can’t imagine myself using lighter strings on that guitar. What helped with barre chords was a pro setup by a luthier who filed down the nut slots and adjusted the truss rod.

As for sticking to “factory” strings, I’ve been under the impression it is more relevant for the gauge rather than the brand. According to the Yamaha website, my 12 string came with D’Addario strings. However, I put on a set of Martins of the same gauge the last time, and it sounds just as good (and is a bit cheaper as well). I would imagine if you decide to try thicker strings, the nut slots may have to be enlarged. I don’t know if such drastic measures are needed if you go lighter.

People change strings and gauges all the time.

Sure, a good luthier or manufacturer will recommend the strings they feel the guitar was designed to sound the way it was designed to sound with, but that is always only a guideline, a good place to start.

Changing string gauge (or using lower tension strings) will possibly require a truss rod adjustment, depending on how far from the original you go. There are also limits on some guitars, where the change is too great, but that usually would only be in extreme cases.

Changing the strings will have any number of effects on your sound and feel (playability) depending on tension, materials and geometry of the new strings.

Nothing is wrong with this and feel free to explore what feels right to you.

After all, if it sounds good, it is good.

Maybe as a beginner, sacrificing some tonal nuance for easier fretting is worth it. I don’t play well enough to tell these fine differences in tone quality.

I Do know I like the feel and sound of thicker strings, but am not ready for them, so I found low tension and settled on 12s (similar tension to 11s).

Most acoustics seem to come with 12s or 13s and most electrics with 10s in my experience. But many great players use different gauges, especially with electrics, 8s or even 13s like SRV!

Yes, changing to a lighter gauge might cause fret buzz unless the truss rod is tweaked. That’s what I had done when I went from 12s to 10s.

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Yes they do. I have done it myself, but I don’t tweak around with the truss rod or anything else on a perfectly setup guitar to accommodate a temporary string trial. Sometimes the lighter gauge strings work fine which was the case with the Silk & Steel strings for me. As always, you do you.

Yeah, I’ve not seen anything to suggest they put that much thought into it.

After all, quite often, the strings that are on the guitar may be several months old and have been subject to who-knows what environments in the process of getting from the factory, to the distributor, to the dealer, to the end-user. One of the first pieces of advice you will hear about a new guitar is “change the strings, the ones on it are likely to be carp”.

They have to put something on it. The Engineer in me leads me to suspect they put on (and set up for) what most people (especially most beginners) will find comfortable and playable rather than any deep analysis of which strings are, tonally, the best for the guitar. Especially as "tone "is not an absolute, and is often a matter of opinion and of usage.

It is notable that experienced players will often change the type of strings they use, which suggests they don’t like the factory-specced ones.

With acoustic guitars, especially, there’s lots of options even if you don’t change the string gauge.

If the strings aren’t right for you, I see no reason why there would be any compromise or negative effects from using different strings (assuming you make sure the setup is done to match). I can only see benefits.