Please help us choose the right strings

Most acoustic guitars come with 12’s (.012 - .053 or similar). I bought a good, higher end, name brand, slightly used guitar (properly set up and in perfect condition) and was told by the store I purchased it from that it could use a new set of strings … and they suggested 11’s for a beginner. I also know they make 10’s which are supposed to be easier on your fingers as you’re starting out. I put on a set of “quality” 11’s (about 20 dollars a set, phosphor bronze, nanoweb coated) which have just torn up my fingers. My question is, should a beginner start with 10’s and move up as we get better? Or should we use 12’s (which are standard by most manufacturers) and learn to play with them? I know one might say it’s a matter of personal preference and you should experiment with different sets, but there’s got to be some sort of rule of thumb for a beginner. Please share your thoughts as I’m not sure my fingers can take much more (lol). Thank you.

Hey welcome!

11s or 10s as a beginner your fingers are in for some hurt.

So make sure you pay attention to Justin when he says dont press until you are going to play and press the string as close to the fret as possible and with as little force as you need.

It takes time to build up fintertips to extended playing.

10s may hurt a tiny bit less but its nowhere near as good as listening to that advice above.

10s will bend easier but they are incredibly light for your average acoustic , your some way off string bending and light strings will probably bend out of tune by accident

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Whatever you use at this stage will feel like they tear up your fingers. I would not worry about it and just know that the phase where we all said “OMG! My fingers can’t take it any more!” Preceded the stage where we hardly notice any finger tip pain. It will happen, just work your way through it however you can. Your fingers can take it, the question is: do you want to play guitar enough to suffer finger tip pain for several weeks, or do you throw away your dream because of some short term discomfort (ok, serious pain).

Thanks Rob. I have no trouble bending 11’s, especially on the first 3 strings. Actually, the older strings that were on the guitar were very “playable” for me compared to the new set. It may be that it is just harder since my fingers hurt going into a session. Keeping the sessions short also helps. It’s just frustrating. I am a retired semi-pro keyboard player but a novice at guitar and decided to start at the “beginning” after watching Justin for about a month on YouTube. I absolutely love how he teaches. Thanks again for the response.

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Some guitars love 11s more than 12s…
Just saying

I have started using D’Addario Silk & Steel 11’s on my acoustics and love them. I have played for some time so comfort wasn’t the reason, but they are lower tension and sound great.

Thanks for the tip. I’ve had elixir phosphor bronze 11’s on for about 2 weeks. I’ll try the D’Addarios but I’ll bet I’m the problem. :grin:

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The guitar might not be set up properly

I use Elixir phosphor bronze 10s on my Taylor. I had intended to switch from 12s to 11s right after I got the guitar, but my shop was out of 11s and had 10s, so I went with those, had the guitar set up with 10s on it, and have stayed with them since.

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How do you like them? I have the Elixir 11s on my 214e-SB DLX. And you had to have your set up for 10s?

Yeah, I had it set up for 10s. Definitely easier to play for 75-year-old hands!

I totally understand. 73 here. Been playing music since I was 6.

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Mike try putting moisturisor cream on your hands over night especially finger tips and allow it to soak in, i’ve been doing this and bought a new accoustic with 12’s and my fingers have been ok.


I agree with your guitar shop. 11s is a good idea.

You just need to build up your calluses. Until you do, playing guitar will hurt. Just play 15 minutes a day everyday, or until it starts hurting. Don’t overdo it.

Justin covers this in his early lessons.

I don’t think there is, so I’ll invent one :slightly_smiling_face:- 12s are too heavy for a beginner. I put 10s on mine years ago to help with barre chords and I’ve never felt the need to go higher.


I think this is key. A badly set up guitar with 10s will be a nightmare to play and a really well set up guitar with 12s should be fine for a beginner.

All else being equal, 11s will be a bit easier to play, but make sure your guitar is properly set up - most come with action a little too high at the nut. Put a capo on the first fret - if things are significantly easier to play then the nut might need some attention.


OP said:

Call me a cynic, but the shop is going to say that :slight_smile: They also said it needed new strings, which implies they haven’t set it up. If things get a lot easier with a capo at the first fret then it might need work.


I understood it was used and the previous owner had it setup. I think putting a new set of strings on a used guitar is a no-brainer. I wouldn’t want to play a guitar with strings someone else had been playing.

I think it’s worth trying a lighter set of strings before considering any work.

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I think all starting out with lighter strings, then moving on to thicker ones achieves is to prolong the painful stage of building up your fingertip callouses, speaking from my experience of starting to learn on electric with 10s then moving on to acoustic with 12s. Assuming your guitar is properly set up (others have suggested how to check this) then start with the strings you intend to stick with, and in the beginning play little and often, if you can only play for 5 minutes until it hurts, then do 5 minutes. But do 5 minutes several times a day. The more time you play in total, the sooner your callouses will develop, as long as your fingertips aren’t actually bleeding.