The best acoustic guitar strings for beginners are strings that will assist in making it easier to play the guitar and that will minimize finger soreness.
This doesn’t mean that you have to go with nylon strings. There are certain types of steel strings that you can pick that will be well suited to the entry level guitarist.
This post will cover three main things to look out for in your strings.
- String Gauge
- String Material (not all steel strings are made of the same stuff)
- Construction method
But first let’s see if you should go nylon or not.
Don’t go Nylon if you Don’t Want To
Some people recommend getting a classical guitar as a beginner as the nylon strings are easier to play – but if you don’t intend on playing the styles of music that the classical guitar is best suited to then this means you’ll have to buy another guitar soon.
You can’t put steel strings on a nylon string guitar because a nylon string guitar (classical guitar) is not designed to handle the extra tension that is exerted by steel strings. You will damage the neck and bridge of your classical guitar if you do.
You also can’t put nylon strings on a steel string acoustic. This is because nylon strings won’t exert enough pressure to drive the soundboard of an acoustic guitar.
So if you want to play the styles of music that are best suited to steel string guitars (pop, rock, blues, bluegrass etc) then you should get a steel string guitar.
There are a number of ways you can make your steel string acoustic easier to play (see below).
If you are looking to get into classical, flamenco, folk (folk sometimes uses steel, sometimes nylon) and the likes then you should go with the nylon strings. If that’s the case, check out the post below on how to choose nylon guitar strings.
If you are looking to play steel string acoustic read on.
How to Choose Steel Strings for Beginners
As I have mentioned there a few choices you can make to make steel strings easier to play when you first start out.
It’s very important that your strings (and your guitar) are easy to play as a beginner. The easier it is to play, the more you play. The more you play, the better you get. Plus if the strings you are playing on are too difficult it will slow down your progression no matter how much you play.
And the worst thing that could happen is that you end up not enjoying playing the guitar and give up all together.
So, to help speed up your progression and make playing more enjoyable follow these easy tips.
This article focuses on the best strings for a beginner – click here to learn about the best guitar for a beginner
The gauge of string you get is probably the most important consideration for the beginner.
This is because the lighter the gauge, the easier it is to press the string to the fret-board. This is because lighter gauge strings are under less tension than the heavier gauges.
You can see the different gauges in the table below.
|Extra-Light||Custom Light||Light||Light-Medium||Medium||Medium-Light *||Heavy-Medium **||Heavy|
Don’t go any heavier than ‘light’.
If you are playing on a dreadnought shaped guitar (click here to learn more about guitar shapes) also don’t go any lighter than ‘light’ so you don’t affect the sound too much.
If you are on a grand auditorium or concert guitar (see link above) then go with ‘extra-light’ as they will be the easiest to play on.
Dreadnought shape = Light Gauge Strings
Grand Auditorium or Concert shape = Extra-Light Gauge Strings
Steel strings tend to have steel at the core but the bass strings have an extra material wound around them. This winding material comes in a few different materials.
The most common are Bronze, Phosphor Bronze and Silk & Steel. The most common out of those three are Bronze and Phosphor bronze.
However as a beginner you should start out with silk and steel. Why? Simple, they are easier on your fingers.
All new guitarists will get finger soreness until they build up enough calluses. This can reduce the amount of time you play and put you off playing. Whilst any string you get is going to cause some sort of soreness (yes even nylon strings) silk and steel strings will minimize that soreness compared to the bronze varieties.
Silk & Steel strings have steel as their core but are wrapped in either nylon, silk or copper that is silver plated and has silk running through it. This makes for a smooth playing experience and is easier on your fingers.
Some Silk and Steel options
Below are some of the most popular silk and steel strings:
Martin Marquis Silk & Steel Acoustic Strings
There are of course many other options but these are some options to get you started.
There are a few of different methods manufacturers use for winding guitar strings – roundwound (rounds), flatwound (flats) and semi-flatwound (semi-flats, a.k.a. flat-tops or halfwounds).
I won’t go into detail about how these work – if you want to know more check out the link below
The Best Beginner Construction Method
Rounds are the most common type but aren’t necessarily the best for beginners.
Flats have a flatter surface which makes them easier on the fingers so better suited to beginners.
Flats also reduce the string noise that is created when your fingers slide across the strings. This can make it easier for the beginner to create a cleaner sound.
Flats are harder to bend but this shouldn’t be something that a beginner is doing yet so this isn’t a problem.
The biggest problem with flats is that they can sound a bit dead on most acoustic guitars. That’s where semi-flats come in. They have the same or at least similar benefits as flats but sound brighter.
It’s also important to note that you probably won’t find any flats or semi-flats that are also silk and steel (see materials above) – not sure if anyone even makes them.
This isn’t a problem though. Choose either silk & steel or semi-flats. You don’t need both.
One more thing about semi-flats is that they tend to be more expensive than rounds. However, they are also more durable so that cost should even out, at least somewhat, in the long run.
Some Semi-Flat Options
Hopefully you now know more about choosing the best strings for a beginner – whether that be you or someone you are researching for.
To sum up:
- Either Silk & steel material or semi-flat strings; and
- In a lighter gauge string (‘light’ for a dreadnought and ‘extra-light’ for a Grand Auditorium or Concert guitar).
If you want to learn how to put new strings on your guitar check out the link below.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.