An acoustic guitar would be useless without strings, and the strings you choose make more of a difference than some people realize. Some strings will give you a bright, zingy tone, while others sound warm and rich. Some are great for loud music, whereas others give subtle nuance in quiet passages.
This guide contains all the information you need to find the best acoustic guitar strings, plus a handful of recommendations. Our top choice is Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings. These high-end acoustic guitar strings are highly durable with a bright sound and smooth feel.
Considerations when choosing acoustic guitar strings
Depending on the type of acoustic guitar you have, the top three strings (the G, B, and high E strings) may either be made from steel or nylon. Classical guitars use nylon strings whereas standard acoustics use steel strings, so it's important to choose the correct type of string for your guitar.
The bottom three strings (the low E, A, and D strings) have a core of either steel or nylon but are wound with another metal. The most common winding materials are 80/20 bronze and phosphor bronze. 80/20 bronze strings are made from 80% bronze and 20% zinc. They tend to give a bright, clear tone. While affordable, they can wear out quickly. Phosphor bronze strings have phosphor added to increase longevity. It also gives strings a warm tone.
The term "gauge" refers to the thickness of the strings. Light gauge strings are thinner and tend to sound sweet and trebly. They require less effort than heavier gauges to fret but can break easily. Heavy gauge strings are thicker and stronger than light gauges. They sound loud and full but can be trickier to fret as you need to press down harder.
Acoustic guitar strings can be coated or uncoated. Coated strings last longer, as the coating protects the strings, but some players prefer the feel and tone of uncoated strings.
The core of the bottom three strings is usually hexagonal, which is also known as a hex core. This shape gives you more robust and long-lasting strings compared to round cores, and you also get a more consistent tone.
The top three plain steel strings on a standard acoustic may have anti-rust plating to help prevent corrosion.
Acoustic guitar string prices
A set of acoustic guitar strings can cost as little as $5 or as much as $30. While you can find some excellent strings at the lower end of the price spectrum, the pricier options tend to last longer and feel smoother.
Q. How often should I change my acoustic guitar strings?
A. This is really a function of your playing frequency and personal preference. Some people change their strings monthly if they play daily and/or want a bright, peppy sound. However, other musicians may go for years without changing their acoustic guitar strings if they like the dull, muted sound produced by their heavily used strings.
Q. How can I make my guitar strings last longer?
A. There are some things you can do to prolong the lifespan of your acoustic guitar strings. Wash your hands before playing your guitar to remove dirt and oils from your fingers and wipe down the strings after each use to keep them clean and dry. Keeping your guitar in a case when not in use can also help with the longevity of the strings.
Acoustic guitar strings we recommend
Best of the best: Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Our take: If you're looking for a bright tone, the nanoweb coating on these strings will help give you the sound you want.
What we like: Available in a range of gauges. Extra-thin coating improves longevity but with an uncoated feel. Bottom strings are made from 80/20 bronze and top three strings have anti-rust plating.
What we dislike: Too bright-sounding for some players.
Best bang for your buck: Ernie Ball Earthwood Light 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Set
Our take: They might not have the durability of the most expensive strings, but these are affordable and come from a respected brand.
What we like: Warm yet crisp tone. Five gauge options available. Made in the USA. Used by some of the world's top musicians.
What we dislike: Can be too "grippy," making chord transitions less smooth.
Our take: The phosphor bronze material gives a warmer, richer tone than 80/20 bronze alternatives.
What we like: A huge range of gauges, featuring several nonstandard options. Corrosion-resistant. Highly durable and long lasting, despite the low price.
What we dislike: Feels rough to players accustomed to coated strings.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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