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