As you may already know, the term “best” when it comes to guitar strings is slightly subjective, what is best for one model or guitarist is not what is best for another, and that is important to remember. There are, however, certain steps you can follow to make sure you get the perfect acoustic guitar strings for your own needs. To do this we need to take into account the following things:
There are two mainstream acoustic guitar body styles, the dreadnaught style you usually see played in rock bands or the rounded style of a classical/spanish guitar – known as a grand auditorium body. If you are playing a dreadnaught you may be looking for a medium string, they are designed to handle the tension caused by heavier strings, this tension may break the neck of a grand auditorium style guitar, which are intended to be played with lighter gauge strings.
Your Style and Sound
Of course, the strings on your guitar greatly affect the sound that you end up with, but how? In a nutshell, medium or heavier gauge strings will pick up more bass frequencies and cause a richer, thicker sound that fills a room a bit better than a lighter string, medium strings are usually chosen for strumming style players, which isn’t to say they aren’t decent for picking too, but generally a finger-picking style will call for a lighter string, which will give you a brighter sound filling out more of the high-end frequencies. There is of course room for experimentation here, and I would suggest that you try both while you try and work out your own “style”. Looking for the best of both worlds? There are of course light-medium strings which try to cater for both styles, but compromise is always made in this instance.
What works for a country song may not work for a rock song, and the strings definitely play a part in this. A mariachi band is probably going to use a lighter string for that ‘spanish guitar’ sound, whereas a rock guitarist may want a thicker, medium string for his acoustic ballads.
Best Acoustic Guitar String Brands
D’Addario – These are one of the best selling types of strings out there, the D’addarios are renowned for not only their quality but for the longevity of use, which means you can play them for a long time without compromising sound, they’re sturdy, thick toned and well made, perfect for those looking for a medium string, though as you can see by their Amazon listing, you can pick different types of string including light, bluegrass (for a bluegrass tone), heavy (for a really heavy and thick sound, probably not desirable in most situations) and of course light. The model in the clickable photo to your left are a great all-rounder and definitely have my recommendation.
For a lighter and brighter model, the Martin 80/20 strings provide a durable and balanced sound, great for all round play. If I were in an ideal world I would recommend an amazing Elixir string, and if you are thinking of performance strings then the coated Elixir strings will do you proud with an exceptional tone you might not get from the Martins, however the tone dies quickly and the extra money you have paid might not feel worth it in the long run.
It is definitely worth mentioning that there are strings out there made specifically for bluegrass, classical and other genres, and if you want one specific sound you can find it in a brand of string.
It is not for me, or anybody else, to tell you exactly which strings you should be using, but hopefully the aforementioned will come in helpful when you are making your decision. Music is all about experimenting and you may go through a few different strings on your journey to accomplished guitarist. Grab some of the above and see what suits your needs.