How To Choose The Right Guitar Strings
Ok! So bare with me...
If you're a beginner, there might be a lot of this information that will go over your head but I'll try to sum everything up at the end. I'm going to apologize now for this very wordy post, but this is a nerdy subject so I'm going to go in depth at times.
There's no such thing as the RIGHT strings.
There's no such thing as the PERFECT strings.
After almost 7,000 setups, I've felt/played/heard SO many different brands, sizes, etc. In the end, it's all up to you the player and your preference.
Start with the facts:
- Thicker strings = richer tone. This is the same for acoustic and electric guitars. Thicker strings cause bigger sound waves which gives you more tone. Thicker sound waves are easier for pickups to "pick up" therefore giving you more tone.
- Thinner gauge strings = "brighter" tone and allow you to bend notes easier. So if you're a lead guitar player or like to put a lot of style into your playing, you probably want thin enough strings to bend to certain notes.
- Sensitive Fingers? For beginners and older players, thinner gauge strings feel better on the fingers.
Let's talk price:
- In my opinion, price should only compare between coated and uncoated strings.
- Don't pay for the brand! Just because your guitar is a Martin, doesn't mean Martin makes the best strings for their guitars or the best strings period. Most strings are made from the same handful of manufacturers and to be honest, you can't feel the difference. Don't fall into the marketing!
Coated vs uncoated:
- Durability! Coated strings have a thin layer of protection over them to keep the "gunk" out. This usually helps them last longer. For me, I put uncoated strings on my guitars in my shop because the oxidation (especially in Florida) and gunk from all the players make uncoated strings last a small fraction of the time coated strings last.
- How often do you play? I've had some players tell me coated strings don't work but those players almost always play outdoors a lot and they play professionally. So the more you play, the less likely you need coated strings because you'll end up replacing them before every gig or about once per week anyway. Don't pay for the coating unless you need it.
- Sensitive Fingers? Coated strings feel better on the fingers. So if you're a beginner or an older player, I recommend coated strings because it will help ease you into playing and establishing those callouses.
In the end...
All of the above information is just my OPINION. Yes, it's based on thousands of setups but:
- I don't PLAY the way you play.
- I don't practice as much as you do.
- I'm not in the same financial situation as you.
So here's what you need to do:
TRY THEM ALL!
Ha ha! No not literally, but try a few of each. Try a few different gauge sizes. Try a few different coated sets vs their non-coated sets, etc.
The only way you will truly know what's right for YOU is to try a little of everything and go from there.
Once you find that perfect set, buy in BULK.
It saves you money and it makes sure your guitar setup stays the same if you need to change them on your own.
When you buy strings from a repair shop like mine, you end up paying full price for the strings and you get whatever I have in stock. If you really know yourself as a guitar player and you really know your style and preference, you should NEVER buy strings from the shop. When professional players bring in their guitars for setups, they ALWAYS have their preferred string sets in the case BECAUSE they've spent the time practicing with several different types of strings and they know the exact set they need.
When you change guitar strings from coated to non-coated or from light gauge to medium gauge your guitar neck will adjust because the tension changes. So if you change your strings and you get more buzzing, bring it in for a quick setup and you'll be on your way.
Where to start:
- What's most important to you?
- Longer lasting? Then try coated first.
- Cheaper price? Non-coated
- Easy on the fingers? Light/Thin gauge
- What tone do you want?
- Do you play more chords and rhythm? Thicker/heavier gauge
- Do you play more lead, shredding, and solos? Probably thinner gauge so you can bend the notes.
One Last Thing:
I know it may seem confusing like you don't even know where to start but just jump in and enjoy the journey. You should be replacing your strings anywhere from 2-4 times per year minimum (unless you are playing like a professional musician. If you're playing that much, you need to change the strings weekly/monthly or before each gig) so you will get that many opportunities to try different string sets each time.