String Theory: How to Choose the Right Gauge of Guitar Strings for Your Acoustic

Choosing the right gauge of guitar strings for your acoustic can make a big difference in the sound and playability of your instrument. But with so many options available, it can be confusing to know where to start. Here are some tips to help you choose the right gauge of guitar strings for your acoustic.

  1. Consider your playing style

The gauge of your guitar strings can affect the tone and volume of your instrument, as well as the ease of playability. Thicker strings generally produce a louder, fuller sound, but can be more difficult to play, especially for beginners or those with smaller hands. Thinner strings, on the other hand, produce a brighter sound and are easier to play, but may not have as much volume. Consider your playing style and the type of music you want to play to determine the right gauge for you.

  1. Check your guitar’s manufacturer specifications

It’s important to check your guitar’s manufacturer specifications to see what gauge of strings they recommend for your instrument. This information can usually be found in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. Using the recommended gauge can help ensure that your guitar sounds its best and doesn’t suffer any damage.

  1. Experiment with different gauges

If you’re not sure what gauge of strings to use, try experimenting with different gauges to find the one that works best for you. Start with a medium gauge (usually around .012-.053) and then try lighter or heavier gauges to see how they affect your sound and playability. Keep in mind that changing the gauge of your strings can also affect the guitar’s intonation, so you may need to make adjustments to the bridge or saddle if you make a significant change in gauge.

  1. Consider the material

Acoustic guitar strings are made from a variety of materials, including bronze, phosphor bronze, and silk and steel. Each material has its own unique sound and feel. Bronze strings are bright and punchy, while phosphor bronze strings have a warmer, more mellow sound. Silk and steel strings have a softer, gentler tone. Consider trying different materials to see which one you prefer.

  1. Change your strings regularly

No matter what gauge or material you choose, it’s important to change your guitar strings regularly to ensure that your instrument sounds its best. Strings can become dull and lifeless over time, affecting both the tone and playability of your guitar. As a general rule, you should change your strings every 3-6 months, depending on how often you play.

Choosing the right gauge of guitar strings for your acoustic can take some experimentation, but it’s worth the effort to find the perfect fit for your playing style and instrument. By considering these tips and trying different gauges and materials, you’ll be able to find the strings that sound and feel the best for you!

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar: A Guide for the First-Time Buyer

Chris Gill

You’ve got the bug—you’ve decided to buy an acoustic guitar—and nothing will stop you, not even the haunted, hungry look in your children’s eyes. So you empty your bank account, raid your kids’ college fund and head down to a local house of ill repute: a music store. You’re gonna get that acoustic, practicality and your wife’s entreaties be damned.

You navigate your way through the racks of gear and gaggle of fools trying to play the solo to “Stairway to Heaven” to find the acoustic guitar room in the far reaches of the building.

As you close the glass doors, you take a deep breath and survey the room. Hundreds of acoustics of all sizes, shapes and colors hang, meat-like, from the walls and ceiling. You really want to take one of those lovelies home today, right now, but a sudden thought stays your trembling hands: I don’t have a clue what I’m looking for.

My task here is to give you that clue—to ensure that prior to entering the unfriendly confines of a big, gleaming music store you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’d like in an acoustic guitar.

The Buck Stops Where?
Unless your dying aunt has willed you the vintage six-string that’s been gathering dust and accruing value in her attic all these years, your first question must be: How much do I want to spend? While there are respectable guitars to be had in any price range, the fact is that you do get what you pay for. And if a wily salesman convinces you that he’s got “just what you’re looking for, and it’s only a tad more expensive,” you need to be able to make an informed decision.

If you’re a beginner or just want something to bang around on in your bedroom or at the beach, you’ll still probably want to spend at least $300 for a guitar. Anything less will almost certainly get you something that not only will be very difficult to play but will sound lousy, besides. Say you’ve got a spending ceiling of around $700. Guitars at this price range should have a solid spruce stop. Raise that to $1,200 and you’re talking about a solid- wood instrument. The word “laminate” should not appear in descriptions of guitars that cost close to or above four figures.

Guitars in the range of $1,200 and $2,500 must get you nothing less than a pro-level instrument that you will love and never outgrow. Anything above that, and you’re in highly specialized and hand-crafted territory—a danger zone because if you buy a lemon for this kind of money nothing will ever blunt that sour feeling in your stomach.

If you are particularly budget conscious, here are a couple of friendly suggestions. Don’t put your cash into expensive accessories—say, handtooled leather straps, or even more practical items like a high-end tuner. Instead, put all that money into the best guitar you can get. Remember that nobody in his right mind pays list price these days; discounts of ten to thirty (and often forty) percent are standard. Large music stores are no different from cut-rate clothing establishments and audio shops—they’ll use any holiday or other excuse to have a “Blowout Sales Event of the Century” that in truth won’t offer you much of a real savings.

Choosing Your Weapon
There is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to choosing a guitar. Bigger does not always mean better, and the popularity of a particular guitar does not necessarily mean that it’s for you. Acoustics come in all shapes and sizes, and (this should be your mantra) what someone else finds appealing may not be right for you.

The traditional workhorse of acoustic guitars is the dreadnought, of which the Martin D-28 is the standard bearer. Powerful, versatile and extremely coollooking, this model has graced countless recordings and is the classic rock acoustic guitar. The D-28’s success over the years has spawned countless imitations, good and bad. Pick one out, give it a few good strums and then go on to something with a different look, feel and sound—a small guitar, like a Grand Concert size Taylor, a jumbo Gibson or an Ovation Adamas. Even if you can’t afford any of these instruments, playing them will give you at least an idea of the kind of guitar you’re most comfortable with.

Set Up, Man
Obviously, whatever guitar you ultimately choose must be comfortable to play. If the action is too high—the strings are too far from the fretboard— your fingers will pay a price, and it may be an indication that the neck is bowed. Look for low, even action up and down the fretboard, with the strings slightly higher at the 12th fret. Check for fret buzz by playing chords and single notes at different spots on the neck. Some pro players like their action higher for a clearer, punchier sound, but if you are a beginner or an electric player buying your first acoustic, you will probably find light strings and a low action to be more suited to your needs.

You may have heard players discuss how good or bad the “intonation” is on a particular guitar. This refers to how well a guitar is in tune up and down the neck. The easiest way to check this is to play an open D chord and then play the same D chord at the 14th fret. If the guitar sounds out of tune up there you know it’s got a problem.

Although tuning and other problems like fret buzz can often be alleviated with simple neck adjustments, they sometimes require more involved bridge work. The odds are that this is something you don’t want to get into when buying a brand new guitar. On the other hand, if you’ve really fallen in love with a particular instrument that needs a little work, have the dealer take care of the necessary repairs and then try the guitar again before finalizing your purchase.

Original Source: Guitar World Magazine

On the Bench: A Bad Breakup

Fixing the separated guitar neck

Well, it happens.  No matter how much you baby them, your prized possession always suffers a few bumps and bruises.  This guitar was no exception – the victim of an overly enthusiastic pooch; this Fender acoustic tumbled onto the floor from it’s stand with a thud.

Neck Repair Before

The result?  The neck separated at its weakest point.  In this case it parted along a splice mid-way down the neck.  Usually these types of breaks happen higher up on the neck, closer to the headstock – a common problem with necks made from a single piece of wood.  That’s because the weakest point is the area where the headstock angles back – a cut in the wood that changes the direction of the grain making it quite vulnerable under tension.  But with this guitar’s two piece neck, the bond let go between the two pieces.

Headstock breaks are fairly common and effect guitars at every price point.  Depending on the type of strings on your guitar, there is usually around 180 psi of pressure on your guitar, and sometimes it only takes a little bump in the right spot for a neck to split, crack or break completely.

So what next?

With all repairs, the first priority should be to restore the structural integrity of the instrument so it functions as originally intended.  Luckily, this was a clean break and the two pieces went together cleanly.  With messy breaks, sometimes wood splinters may need to be removed to ensure a good tight fit.  Always dry fit fist to make sure this is the case before gluing and clamping.

I decided to use hot hide glue for this repair and I used a pipette to inject glue deep into the crack that I was able to open slightly by applying moderate string tension.  Being careful to avoid the truss rod, I was able to direct the glue right where I wanted it.  The nice thing about hide glue is that it gives you a but of time to get your clamps and the cleanup is a snap with warm water.

After 24 hours of drying time, the clamps were removed and the guitar was restrung and tuned to pitch.  The repair was stable, so I was able to move on to refinishing.

Neck Fix

I considered using a tinted lacquer to make the splice completely invisible, but decided to touchup the break where needed and clear coat after a discussion with the owner.  After sanding and buffing, the repair is complete and as good as new.


Choosing the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

Brett McQueen

Choosing the right type of strings for your acoustic guitar can almost make or break the sound and playability of your guitar. It’s important that you select the right type of string, but with so many options, it can be hard to know what type of strings to get for your guitar.

Here are some important things to keep in mind that can help you with selecting strings for your guitar. For now, we’ll just look at choosing steel strings for the acoustic guitar. I’ll also give some recommendations of specific types of strings to try out.

What Type Of Acoustic Guitar Do You Have?

The body style of your acoustic guitar should play a role in what type of strings you choose. The most popular body styles are dreadnought and grand auditorium. Think of ‘body style’ as the shape of your guitar.

DreadnoughtGrand Auditorium

The guitar on the left has a dreadnought body style and the guitar on the right has agrand auditorium body style.

Different string sizes, or the gauge of the string, will suit different body styles. Usually, medium gauge strings will most suit dreadnought guitars, while light gauge strings will most suit grand auditorium guitars. Often dreadnought guitars are built and designed to be played with medium gauge strings. The same is often true for grand auditorium guitars: they are build and designed to be played with light gauge strings.

Something important to keep in mind about the gauge of the strings is that higher gauge strings like mediums will put more tension on the guitar neck than lights. Again, dreadnought guitars are built to handle this tension, but on the flip side, grand auditorium guitars are often not built to be played with medium guitar strings!

I’ve put medium guitar strings on my grand auditorium guitar once and it wasn’t good news. Because of the added tension, the neck ended up moving and the action of my guitar got really high!

What is Your Playing Style?

Think about the types of songs you play. Are you more of a fingerpicker or a heavy-handed strummer? Choosing the best acoustic guitar strings can depend on the type of music you play.

Often times, fingerpickers will be more prone to light strings. Light strings are easier to play than medium strings. This is why if you are first beginning guitar you might want to use light strings.

If you are doing more strumming, medium strings are good for it. But again, medium strings can be a little harder on the fingers, so it won’t be uncommon to use light strings even if the majority of the music you play involves strumming.

Some people find that they want the best of both worlds and will get light-medium strings. With light-medium strings, the bottom three strings are light gauge strings, and the top three strings are medium gauge strings. This can be good if you are doing both fingerpicking and strumming. Some people like this, others don’t.

What Sort Of ‘Sound’ Do You Want?

This also kind of involves looking at the types of songs you play. Often medium strings will have a deeper and bolder sound than light strings. Medium strings tend to really bring out more bass. On the flip-side though, light strings can accent more of the highs and be brighter in sound.

This is also why medium strings tend to work really well on dreadnought guitars. The shape of dreadnought guitars is much wider than the grand auditorium body style. Naturally, dreadnought guitars bring out more bass. If you throw some medium strings on it, that deep bass and booming sound will really come out from your dreadnought.

Some Recommendations

Elixir Phosphor Bronze Strings
I’ve used Elixir strings for many years now and they’ve been very faithful to me. The good thing about Elixir strings is that they sound good and hold up for a long time. A lot of strings get dead after a week of playing them, but I could go a couple months of playing my Elixir strings before I had to change them. They are a bit more expensive than other strings (I recommend getting them online), but because they last so long, you don’t end up spending more money in the long run. Elixir makes both light and mediumgauge strings.

John Pearse 80/20 Bronze Strings
Someone recommended these strings to me a year ago. I was thrilled with the sound of them when I tried them. A great thing about them is that they are dirt cheap compared to say Elixir strings. The only downside with them is that they don’t last as long as Elixir strings. But I’ll tell you what, they sound great.

You can get John Pearse strings in both light and medium.

What types of strings do you use on your guitar?

There are so many different options when it comes to choosing strings. Sometimes it’s just a matter of experimenting and trying different strings.

What types of strings have you found to work on your guitar?

Original Source: Guitar Friendly

Rag-Time: Cleaning Your Guitar for Better Tone

Ellen Barnes | 10.12.2012

The best — and least expensive — way to improve your guitar’s appearance, as well as its tone, is to administer a thorough cleaning. But there are a few guidelines that need to be followed when tackling the dirt, grease, perspiration and smoke that may have accumulated on your guitar, either from regular use or neglect; otherwise you risk permanently damaging the quality and resonance of your instrument. Whether it’s an acoustic or an electric that you’re aiming to clean, these tips still apply. If you have a vintage guitar, you’ll need to take special considerations, as explained in a note below.

les paul HB397C

Here’s how to make your guitar shine in 2012:

Remove your strings.

Ideally, you should clean your guitar each time you change the strings. With your strings off, you have much better access to your fretboard. Plus, you don’t want your strings to come into contact with any oils, polishes or damp cloths that you may use during the cleaning process. Play it safe by removing only two or three strings at a time so that you don’t cause the neck tension to go out of whack.

Clean your fretboard.

Even on a frequently played guitar, the fretboard really only needs to be cleaned once or twice a year. That’s because it’s important not to mess too much with the natural moisture the fretboard picks up from oils on your fingers.Begin cleaning your fretboard with a soft, damp cloth (an old T-shirt or sock will work) that you have wrung out as much as you possibly can; you don’t want to see any drops of water on your fretboard. Work the cloth down the fretboard, making sure to use different portions of the cloth so that you’re not just transferring dirt from one fret to another.

If your fretboard has accumulated some significant grime, you may need to follow your rag cleaning with a very light brushing with some extra fine #000 or #0000 steel wool. Please note that tiny steel wool particles can stick to the magnets in your pickups. It’s best to cover up your pickups when cleaning with steel wool.

For spots that are particularly hard to get at, you can try using the edge of a credit card, a damp cotton swab, a pipe cleaner or a small toothbrush.

If you notice that your fretboard has dried out or developed hairline cracks, you may finish this process with Gibson’s Luthier’s Choice Fretboard Conditioner. Alternately, you can rub one or two drops of oil (mineral, almond or linseed oil) into the fretboard to condition it. Make sure to wipe off excess oil with a soft, dry rag.

Polish your finish.

All you generally need to clean your guitar is some elbow grease and a soft, dry cloth. If a dry cloth is not cutting it, you may use a damp cloth that has been well wrung out.

Several times a year, you may want to use a polish after you’ve done your cleaning. Almost all Gibson guitars are treated to several coats of a high-quality nitrocellulose lacquer. This is a finish that ages beautifully but that is porous. For that reason, you need to be discriminating when selecting a polish. We recommend using one of two products specially formulated for Gibson brand guitars – our Pump Polish and our Luthier’s Choice Hi Gloss Polish – both of which have become industry favorites. In a pinch, you may also dilute Murphy’s Oil Soap for use as a guitar polish. Make sure to squirt your polish onto a rag, not onto the surface of your guitar. And remember to clean not only the top and back of your guitar, but also its neck.

Whatever you do, don’t use furniture polish on your guitar. These oils can permanently alter the resonance of your guitar, as the wood experiences a change in density when it soaks up these polishing agents.

Tidy your tuning keys.

Spray a dry cloth with glass cleaner and polish each of your tuning keys to get them gleaming.

Clean your bridge.

A damp cloth should suffice for cleaning your bridge, but you may want to use a pipe cleaner or small toothbrush here for significant grime.

Polish the pickups.

If your pickups look rusty, you’ll want to unscrew their faceplates with an Allen wrench and, being careful not to disturb the wiring, clean the rust with a rust-dissolving agent. If you don’t spy any rust, simply polish your pickups with a soft cloth.

Protect your guitar.

It’s tempting to hang your pride and joy on the wall or to leave it resting on a stand, but it’s not a good idea. After playing or cleaning your guitar, put it back into its case where it belongs.

A note about cleaning vintage guitars:

The finish on older guitars is often significantly thinner, yielding a better tone. However, this means that vintage guitars are more vulnerable to the waxes, oils and silicates in polishing products. Vintage finishes are also more likely to be “checked.” You want to avoid working any polish or water into these cracks. Instead, try placing your face close to your guitar and breathing warm, moist air onto the dirty spots. Then immediately wipe down your guitar. If you’re particularly unsure about how to handle an old finish, ask your repairperson or call Gibson’s Customer Service at 1-800-4GIBSON (1-800-444-2766).

For foolproof vintage guitar cleaning, consider Gibson’s Vintage Reissue Restoration Kit, which includes two polish cloths, a low abrasion Metal Cleaner, Fretboard Conditioner, and Restorative Finish Cream specially formulated to treat and protect older finishes and fretboards.

Original Source: Gibson

The Set Up – Making You a Better Guitar Player

Have you ever picked up a guitar and with the first strum, it just felt ‘right’?  It was comfortable in your hands, ‘easy’ to play and you just couldn’t put it down.  It might have been an expensive guitar you tried in a shop, or maybe just and old garage sale find.  Either way, it suited your style and chances are, it was properly set up.

A properly set-up guitar will not only make the instrument sound better, but it will make you a better player.

Why is this?

A properly set up guitar takes into account your playing style and individual preferences.  More importantly, playability is enhanced by setting the right amount of ‘relief’ in the neck, adjusting the intonation to ensure notes ring true up and down the fretboard and by setting the ‘action’ low.

A guitar’s “action” simply refers to the distance between the top of the frets and the strings.

Guitars with high action – strings that are too far away from the frets – are difficult to play because it takes more pressure to actually fret each chord or note.  Guitars with action that’s too low can result in a rattling or buzzing when played.  Either extreme results in a bad playing experience.

Many guitar players, especially beginners get easily discouraged and blame themselves for poor performance or slow progression, when often, it’s actually the instrument that’s the problem.

The goal is low action; high playability. A properly set up guitar can achieve this.

At Bird & Bee, we offer two types of set ups: Basic, and Advanced.  To find out more, follow the links below to find out what’s best for you, and for your guitar.

The Bird & Bee Basic Set Up

The Bird & Bee Advanced Set Up