Please help this newbie guitar student. What string thickness and coatings are recommended for a new player?
Welcome to the forum Ron
Are you playing acoustic or electric? On an acoustic 10s are good to start with on electric 9s are good
Hi EDDiE-09, I failed to mention that my guitar is acoustic and currently have D’Addario .010-.047
80/20 Bronze #EJ10 Thanks for your reply
10s are pretty light for an acoustic
That’s what I use. Elixir phosphor bronze 10s.
I’ve tried them and found they caused string buzz. Typically I use 12s, but also 11s on certain guitars.
I am a light-as-possible true believer, especially for beginners. 10’s all the way.
Crumbs 10s… my Taylor Academy 10 (which is essentially a beginner guitar) has 12s on it. Am I right in thinking that the size of the guitar / neck / number of frets is relevant here? Or am I making that up?
You probably heard/read it somewhere rather than made it up. Plenty of poor advice out there from people who don’t really know what they’re on about.
I’m no expert myself, but I’ve never heard of neck or fret range being relevant to string choice. The main factors affected are tone and playability, so as with many things guitar it’s down to personal preference. I suppose some guitars may sound “better” with a particular gauge… light strings on a dreadnought might sound a bit weak, for example… but that’s about it as far as I’m aware.
I agree with lower tension for the beginner. Especially on long scale guitars.
Traditionally, this is achieved by using thinner string gauges. That is why there are recommendations for 10s.
Personally, I like the feel of a thicker string, but also prefer lower tension. Fortunately there are lots of options for lower tension strings. I am currently using Newtone Heritage 12s, which are similar in tension to standard strings between 10 and 11, roughly. They may be a little too low (kind of buzzing a titch) as I also have a short scale (24.75”) guitar.
I also like the Straight Up Strings 12s, which are roughly standard 11s tension. These will probably end up my go to string. There are other options as well.
In regard to coatings, I like uncoated, but I think you have to try them out and see what works for you. Strings are kind of personal.
I find the thinner string strings really uncomfortable on my fingers. The high e feels like a razor.
On an electric guitar, I suggest starting with .009-.038 nickel wound strings, like this:
On a steel-string acoustic, I suggest starting with .010-.047 Phosphor Bronze strings, like this:
Be advised, if you have an acoustic with strings thicker than this and change to 0.010-0.047 strings, you will likely need a neck adjustment. In that case, take your guitar to a tech, give him the set of 0.010-0.047 strings, and have him/her do a full setup on the guitar. That’s what I did, and it was definitely worth the money!!
FYI, I tried using .008-.038 strings on my electric, but using strings that thin actually caused more problems with accidentally bending strings than they helped with sore fingers.
IMHO, don’t waste your money on coated strings as a newbie. Once you have enough experience to have determined what strings you like the best, then you can worry about coatings.
My first acoustic (dreadnought size) came with .012-.053 gauge strings so that’s what I’ve got used to. I think a proper setup is more important than lighter-gauge strings in the greater scheme of things.
I would like to thank everyone that took the time to reply to my questions on this topic. Thanks again, Wantabe
Well, it’s not a case of either-or, is it? No matter what strings you choose, you should have your guitar set up properly. Then you should choose 10’s for the best playing experience
Hey @Jamolay, can you comment on the sound of the low tension strings that you use? I have never used them, but reading about them, I gather they don’t quite sound like steel strings, but rather something between steel and nylon. Is that your experience?
My experience is that they are just like good phosphor/bronze strings. They sound great to me. In fact, I prefer them over other string types like Monels. I can’t really find a significant difference, at least a meaningful difference, between them and typical, say, D’Addario strings of same material.
I think there are differences in how different manufacturers strings sound, and everyone has there preferences.
Silk and steel strings are regarded as sounding warmer and feeling lower tension. I never bonded with the sets I tried. Round core strings also have a reputation for being warmer and feeling lower tension (even though they probably aren’t always). The Newtone Heritage low tension I have on now are round core. Care needed stringing round core strings!
There is a John Pearse set, “Folk Fingerstyle” that is super low tension and really made for classical guitars to sound more like steel. Not enough tension to play well on a steel string guitar.
The main difference may be that at lower tension, the drive on the bridge to vibrate the soundboard of the guitar is diminished. Depending on the guitar, this may or may not matter, usually probably doesn’t. It could result in diminished and blunted sound, I suppose.
If I had a cheap, overbuilt guitar with a stiffer top, I would be more concerned. Or if I played live and un-amplified, maybe…
Here is some tension data on strings I have used or am interested in:
D’Addario phos/bronze:166 lbs (reference)
La Bella silk and steel medium (12s): they don’t know…
Curt Mangan round core: 148 lbs (roughly)
Newtone Heritage 12s: 131 lbs
Newtone Masterclass 12s: 157 lbs
Newtone Masterclass dbl are a little higher.
Straight Up Strings medium (12): 146 lbs
Thomastik Infield Plectrum
My suggestions follow. Keep in mind that this is a subjective kind of thing. For example, I prefer uncoated strings, but others might love coated strings. Anyway:
- Electric: I’d go for uncoated 10s (e.g., 10-46)
- Acoustic: I’d go for uncoated 11s (e.g., 11-52). Martin Custom Lights are a good example. Alternatively, I’d go for a set of 12s (e.g., 12-53).
I encourage experimenting to find what you like. It will probably change as you get familiar with playing, so experiment again after a while.
I initially bought low-cost (no coatings) of different sizes to see what I liked. This took a while since I am not one to waste strings, so I played each set until they sounded dull.
I found a brand and alloy I liked and have played them for about a year now. I am starting to experiment again with other brands, coatings, and alloys. I’m looking into the more expensive strings now that I have a good familiarity with what I have used this last year or so.
If you want to try a thicker string than you already have, make sure your choice will fit in the nut slots. Too thick may sit on top and will not play well, or worse, put a little chip into the corner of the slot or create a deeper crack that may split it.