Choosing a good set of strings for your acoustic guitar is tremendously important. As opposite to an electric guitar, acoustic guitar is much more delicate. You can’t just turn a knob on your amp and change how you sound. Everything is much more organic and the tiniest detail makes a difference.
Below you’ll find what we think are the three best set of strings for acoustic guitars, all things considered. These are not premium top of the line strings, but the the acoustic guitar strings that are both highest rated by players, and offer the most value for money.
This article is a part of the series we did on helping you choose strings for your guitar. For recommendation on strings for your electric guitar, check: Best Guitar Strings for Electric Guitar – GroundGuitar
The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings Overall
– These strings are coated with a very tin layer of what Elixir calls Nanoweb. They feel more smooth and easier on the fingers than all of the standard uncoated strings. This makes them probably the best acoustic guitar strings for beginners.
– They last for a very long time. The coating prevents corrosion and dirt getting into the tiny gaps between the coils. The price is however a little bit higher than the rest of the competition.
– Pick up a set with standard gauges if you’re beginner or less experienced (measuring .012-.053). If they still feel hard on your fingers, go for a lighter set next time. After settling for one, buy the strings in pack of three and you’ll save money.
Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Acoustic Guitar Strings
The Ernie Ball Earthwood strings are among the best sounding acoustic guitar strings out there. They are made from a 92% copper, 7.7% tin, 0.3% alloy, in contrast to the 80/20 copper and zinc alloy used on most of the popular strings. This alloy (known as phosphor bronze) has higher resistance to corrosion and higher strength and stiffness than a standard set of strings.
Regarding the sound, they are often described as warm, with a very good balance between the bass and the treble side. If you want to go for a brighter sound, Earthwood 80/20 are recommended instead. If you don’t know what any of this means, just stick to the Phosphors, and you’ll figure it out later.
D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
D’Addario EJ16s are pretty much the most standard acoustic guitar strings out there. A package with three sets of these costs about as same as one set of the Elixirs. They are budget oriented guitar strings, with probably the best value for money ratio out of the all three sets listed here.
In terms of the sound, they are more on the bright side. The brightness however reduces over time, and the sound softens. This also means that they don’t last nearly as long as the Elixirs, but at this price range you really cannot expect them to.
Acoustic Guitar Strings Gauge Guide
On an acoustic guitar, the standard set of gauges (string thickness) is a bit heavier than on an electric. This makes them a little bit harder to play, especially when it comes to bending the notes.
The thicker strings are however louder. If you think about it, the heavier string forces the soundboard (the top of your guitar) to resonate more than a thinner string. Heavier string obviously has more mass than a thinner string, which means that the kinetic energy will be bigger.
The standard gauges on an acoustic guitar are .012 .016 .024 .032 .042 .053, from bottom to top E, measured in millimeters. You’ll see these often branded as “Light”, and as such are mostly recommended to people with a lighter touch, or untrained fingers.
If you’re a beginner, stick with the standard gauges. Couple of months of practice on these will give an idea whether you should go thicker, thinner, or whether you’re fine with the standard set.
Acoustic Guitar Strings Brands
Most popular brands are Ernie Ball, D’Addario, GHS, Martin, and Elixir. You should be able to find these wherever you happen to live.
One name that you will most likely recognize among these is Martin. Martin is of course most famous for their acoustic guitars, which are considered to be among the best in the world. At the time of writing this list, we didn’t include one of their strings as recommendations, but this is likely to change in the future. In general, they are not that different, and it all comes down to the personal preference/brand loyalty.
How to Change Strings on an Acoustic Guitar
Changing the strings on an acoustic guitar isn’t generally that hard, but it can be confusing for the first timers. Here’s what you should have in mind when it comes to acoustic guitar strings replacement:
- Be careful when removing the old strings. Release the tension from all strings, and remove them one by one. Pull out each peg very carefully, as you want to avoid strings making scratches on the finish after they pop up from the holes.
- After all the strings are removed, pick up a cloth and wipe down the neck thoroughly. Focus on the edges next to each fret, as this is usually where the dirt accumulates.
- If the neck has no lacquer on it (most likely the case), this usually means that you should condition the wood from time to time. Dunlop Ultimate Lemon Oil is recommended, as it has a pleasant odor and it keeps the wood from going dry.
- The process of putting the new strings is relatively straightforward. We recommend watching Martin’s guide on Restringing Your Acoustic Guitar on their YouTube channel. This should make everything much easier to understand.
Keeping the Strings Clean and Fresh Sounding
The same few rules apply to both acoustic and electric guitar strings, which will help them sounding fresh as long as possible.
- First and foremost, always wash your hands before playing your guitar. It is also important to completely dry your hands, because moisture causes corrosion.
- From time to time wipe down each string with a dry cloth. If you wanna go a step further, damp the cloth with some rubbing alcohol. If you’re doing this, be sure to protect the neck itself and the fretboard first. Alcohol must not come in contact with any surface on the guitar.
- Use commercial products such as Dunlop 65 String Conditioner if your budget allows. The bottle is only a couple of dollars, but will last for a long time.