What Gauge Guitar Strings Should I get?

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Here's a short guide if you're unsure what gauge or type of strings you need for your guitar. In short thinner gauges have less tone and volume but are easier to play with, thicker strings deliver greater tone and volume but are harder on the fingers.

The Beginner
If you're new to guitar and are unsure what gauge to get then .009-.042 would be a good place to start for electric, .011-.052 for acoustic. These gauges are a little on the thinner side but will help you to play with less effort while your finger strength builds up. As you advance in skill and your finger strength improves it's a good idea to up the gauge for a little more tone and volume, especially if you tune down. The most popular gauge for electric is .010-.046 and .012-.053 for acoustic so they are a good idea once you have advanced a little and are comfortable with the guitar.

Dropped Tunings
The lower you tune your guitar the thicker the gauge you should be using. As you tune a guitar lower string tension decreases, so the string "action" (height of the strings above the fretboard) decreases also. The lower the action becomes the more fret buzz you will get so thicker gauge strings will help to counteract this. So probably .010-.052 for electric and .013-.056 for acoustic if you tune down.

Acoustic - Phosphor Bronze or 80/20 Bronze?
We get asked this quite a lot. In a nutshell Phosphor bronze strings have a warmer and more balanced tone, 80/20 bronze have a brighter and slightly thinner tone. Most payers prefer Phosphor Bronze but it's a good idea to try both with your guitar as both strings do sound different from each other. Either string may deliver a better overall tone in combination with your guitar's own sound.

Coated or Uncoated?
Recent advances in string technology have allowed some manufacturers such as Elixir to add a very thin polymer coating to the outside of the string to protect it from corrosion and dirt. Sweat and dirt from your fingers can cause strings to age quickly, although this varies from person to person. If you use regular strings and find that they lose their tone quickly then I would recommend you try Elixir strings as they will last up to 5 times longer than normal strings due to their coating. I personally had a problem with strings on my acoustic aging quickly (sometimes they'd be dead in a matter of days!) and have found Elixirs to be a godsend. However they are much more expensive so if you don't need them then just stick with your favourite brand.

Changing strings is something you should do regularly as a string's sound will change over time due to corrosion, loss of elasticity and other factors. Changing strings around once a month is probably about right for the average player, so experiment with different gauges to see what suits you best. But remember that with each gauge change you will have to make several adjustments to your instrument to compensate for the change in string tension so if you don't know what you're doing get someone to help you or send me an email - I'd be glad to help in whatever way I can!

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