Help me pick out a set of acoustic strings, please!

David Barnett

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I think you should try some monel strings, like martin retros. A little mellower, dryer, and great for hybrid and thumbpicking. I have them on two guitars now.

I've never found acoustic strings I like better than Martin Marquis Bronze.

https://www.stringsbymail.com/acous...entic-acoustic-marquis-560/marquis-80-20-562/

I agree with these. Monel or 80-20 bronze would seem to meet your stated needs, and Martin strings are good quality. I try other things and keep going back to the Marquis.

But it you like your acoustic to be "zingy", you won't like them.
 

drewg

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You've two pages of suggestion of what people think are the best strings for them. If you have read this far I'm going to suggest something else.

Go down to your local guitar store and buy two sets of strings from the same manufacture. I don't care who it is but make them both light gauge uncoated acoustic guitar strings - that will be 0.012 to 0.053 or 54. Get one set in phosphore bronze (PB) and on in "80/20" alloy. Those are the most common basic alloys for the windings on acoustic guitar strings. Put one set you your guitar and play them for a week. Very importantly, record them with a good quality recorder. Now put the others on and do the same thing. Think about each set as you are playing them and go back and listen to the recordings. Obviously when you do this you will use the same pick, pins, mic, recorder settings, yadda yadda.

Decide which ones you like the best and buy a set of COATED string in that same composition. Elixer Nanowebs are the most common, there are others. Play and record and listen and do it some more. Decide if you think there are compromises with the coats, decide if they are acceptable. Know that many people feel coated strings last 3 or more times longer, is that acceptable with price and sound and all that stuff.

Now try a set of mediums (0.013 to 0.056) in the same brand, composition and coating (or not). Do you feel a differencce? Are they louder, harder to fret, harder to bend? Do you like the lights or the mediums better?

For most of us the test can end there. You tested the two most common material compositions, with and without coating and two different sizes (tensions). If you want to continue testing and comparing you have a very good standard - try all the other compositions and gauges and heavier coatings (Polywebs) and windings. I stopped knowing which strings sound best on my guitars, which ones feel best under my fingers, which ones give me the life I want for the price I want to pay. With four sets of strings you can make the same decisions.

I’d like to hear what conclusion you came to after all this testing, Freeman. I don’t think I’d ever get that far, but I really would like to know, what are your go-to acoustic strings?
 

Martian

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Try these....I have them on my D18 they are magical.....

John Pearse Strings (stringsandbeyond.com)
I agree. Most stings are pretty good but to me JP strings are better. There’s something “authoritative”, for lack of a better word, about them. Especially on larger body guitars where they have to push more air. Just my opinion but they’re definitely my favorite for acoustic guitars. JP Bluegrass set are the best.
 

drewg

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I just got my first flat top in about five years. I've got an archtop acoustic that I put flat-wounds on, but I know nothing about acoustic strings.

I play either D'addario Chrome 10s or Chrome flat-wound 10s on all of my electrics, depending on the guitar.

The new guitar is a Gibson J-45 studio. They tend to be a little bright, just because of the slightly reduced size, compared to the J-45 standard.

It's my intention to play blues and Americana on it, primarily. I hybrid pick, using a heavy jazz pick and my three free fingers (yup, the pinky sees some action every now and then). I'll also do a lot of strumming.

So give me some suggestions, please. What should I be looking at and looking for. To summarize with a self-consciously ridiculous question: what acoustic guitar strings are going to make me sound like Ryan Adams and the Black Crowes?

DR StringsSunbeams are fantastic strings. Never tried them with a thumb-pick, but they’re the best finger-style strings I’ve played, and many finger-style players like them.

I used to prefer the bright sounds of 80/20s, compared to the standard D’addario PB lights which always took too long to break in. The Sunbeams are PB too, but they just sound so smooth, not quite as bright as the 80/20s but just better than other PBs I’ve tried. (I like 12s/lights):

– Round-core instead of hex-core like most strings, so they bend easier, have less tension and amazing sustain...

– Sunbeams last a long time, without any plastic coating (which I reject). (Though I admit I use my strings a long time anyway, these seem to last a lot longer than most.)
– They sound great right away – no break-in period.
– Reasonable price, ~ $7 - $9 depending where you buy them.
– Read the instructions though. Since they’re round-core you might have to crimp them before cutting– I don’t cut my strings.

No affiliation, I’m just a loyal customer for the quality and the great customer service they have– a New Jersey company.

https://www.drstrings.com/acoustic-sunbeam

dr-strings-acoustic-guitar-sunbeam-medium-012-054-rca-12-2.gif
 

cousinpaul

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I mostly play finger style and have used D'addario phosphor bronze Custom Lights for years. Recently, I've been doing a lot of recording and have moved to Elixer phosphor bronze Nano Webs; Custom Lights for standard tuning and HD Lights on a different guitar for drop tunings. The HD lights are voiced to help control the lows for a more balanced response. You might like them. Gauges are 53, 42, 32, 25, 17, 13 if you want to put together your own set.
 

Freeman Keller

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I’d like to hear what conclusion you came to after all this testing, Freeman. I don’t think I’d ever get that far, but I really would like to know, what are your go-to acoustic strings?

Sure, it was slightly more complicated than what I suggested but basically I did follow my advice. I used two different guitars - my more or less vintage D18 and my home made triple ought. The are very typical of good quality acoustics with different voices. I started with whatever Martin's basic uncoated string were at the time in both compositions. I recorded everything on a little Zoom recorder - same pick and all - I even tied a piece of string on the recorder so I could position it the same distance.

To my ears, and that is important, let me say it again. To my old ears with high frequency fall off, the PB strings sound warmer and more complex on both guitars. I felt that they had more overtones and for want of a better term, more mellow. My feeling was that the 80/20's were brighter, and maybe hand more of the fundimental.

Elixer Polywebs were popular at that time and I tried a set of PB's, and frankly, didn't like them. They just sounded too much like old dead strings, even when brand new. Nanowebs have a much thinner coating (its the same material as Goretex fabric), the Nano PB's have the same warmth but for me last 3 or 4 or more times longer. Remember that they also cost 3 or 4 times as much.

I did try mediums on the old dread but I'm a finger picker and I like the slightly lower tension of lights. I think that if I was a hard driving flat picker I might want the additional tension, and on the guitars that I tune down I definitely want mediums.

I tried a bunch of other strings always comparing to the Elixer Nano PB's. A guy with ties to DR sent me a whole box of strings and I like them a lot, but they are not available to buy in my local stores so I've sort of ignored them.

I have one additional problem that most people don't have to deal with. I have a dozen acoustic guitars ranging from parlor to dreadnaught, resonator to Weissenborn, six and twelve strings. I can't spend a lot of time trying to optimize strings for each guitar - I need to have something that sounds good on everything. I use a lot of weird tunings and I do try to optimize tension for the particular tuning, but I don't want one brand for this guitar and another for something else. I also work on a lot of guitars for others and need to keep some in stock.

Bottom line, I like the sound of PB's and I'm willing to compromise a thin coating for long life (with a dozen guitars I don't want to be changing all the time). If I stock standard lights and mediums and a few singles I can make up sets for all the different weird guitars and tunings - if I break a string I can find a replacement. Elixers are expensive but serve my purpose. I also keep a few sets of D'Addario light gauge PB's (EJ16) for those people who need strings but don't want the high price of Elixers. And of course if someone brings me their favorite string I certainly will install them.

Your mileage will vary
 

Vocalion

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I only played Elixirs for years until I bought a Guild that came with D'Addario EXP16-3D Coated Phosphor Bronze strings. I later found out that Froggy Bottom guitars also come (or came) with those, too. They're similar to the NYXL except that the plain strings are not also coated. I changed all of my acoustics to those and never looked back.
 

drewg

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I can't spend a lot of time trying to optimize strings for each guitar - I need to have something that sounds good on everything. I use a lot of weird tunings and I do try to optimize tension for the particular tuning, but I don't want one brand for this guitar and another for something else.

Thanks, Freeman. I totally agree with you about finding a type of strings that sounds good on anything, and that will last a long time. It’s good to know about those nanowebs. Edit– DR Sunbeams have checked those boxes for me.

I’m slow and probably lazy about changing strings. But I do genuinely like well-used, broken-in strings rather than “fresh” ones. A couple times I’ve replaced strings on a vintage guitar that I acquired and immediately regretted it, including on a 1934 Kalamazoo. Custom lights were recommended to lessen the tension on that old neck, but 11s just didn’t have that same dry thump as the ones they came with. New 12s sounded better, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I shouldn’t have changed the originals in the first place.

I think I probably change strings on my acoustics about every 6 months. There does come a time when they lose that sharpness, but as you say, your mileage may vary. What sounds good and even when strings are ‘dead’ can be subjective.
 
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Freeman Keller

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^^^ I agree totally and one of the parts of my little test that I didn't talk about was the difference in tone between brand new strings, nicely aged strings and some that are totally dead. I think there is less of that initial sharpness to the Nanos and they seem to trail off rather than just going dead all at once. But I think we each need to make those judgements - I was just trying to give a fairly simple and inexpensive way to do it.
 

KC

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I have one acoustic that gets 90% of the playing time, a recent 000-18, and it came with Martin lights on it and I've been using them since. They're almost always available for around $5 a set which means I can afford to change strings pretty often, which I do. Every time I think I want a better guitar, I change the strings and I have the guitar of my dreams again. I can swap out a set pretty quickly these days. My current thought is that I like both 80/20 and phosphor for fretted guitar but the 80/20 sounds a lot better playing slide.

I use Pearse strings on the Nationals, though, and have been very happy with them. Maybe I'll try a set next time I order strings.
 

boxocrap

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I just got my first flat top in about five years. I've got an archtop acoustic that I put flat-wounds on, but I know nothing about acoustic strings.

I play either D'addario Chrome 10s or Chrome flat-wound 10s on all of my electrics, depending on the guitar.

The new guitar is a Gibson J-45 studio. They tend to be a little bright, just because of the slightly reduced size, compared to the J-45 standard.

It's my intention to play blues and Americana on it, primarily. I hybrid pick, using a heavy jazz pick and my three free fingers (yup, the pinky sees some action every now and then). I'll also do a lot of strumming.

So give me some suggestions, please. What should I be looking at and looking for. To summarize with a self-consciously ridiculous question: what acoustic guitar strings are going to make me sound like Ryan Adams and the Black Crowes?
i'm guessing the strings ..are probably gonna make you sound like you..but it's just a guess.
 

douellette

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I'm surprised not to see more folks recommending Pyramids.

They are a bit pricier, but my experience with them is that they quickly get to that perfectly broken-in place, and then they stay there for a very long time. I can go a few months with regular gigging without noticing any change. (I know that some will say that it's hard to notice that change, and I agree with that, but when I change the strings, the new ones aren't wildly different -- I guess that's what I mean by not noticing significant change.) Overall, my point is that, although they're a little more expensive, they last much longer, and I think it offsets that price difference.

I have also been satisfied with all of the offerings from Pyramid that I've tried - acoustic and electric.
 

NoTeleBob

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I like Martin Authentic Acoustic for a duller guitar as they are a bit brighter. If the guitar is bright already, I'd go with the D'addario EJ 16. Both are in the $6 - $7 range.

Also note that if you want to buy something thinner than 12's locally, Martin seems to be the choice. I find 10's and 11's stocked in stores. D'Addario's seem to always start at 12's.

Thinner strings will give you less output on an acoustic so that's a consideration.
 

Muddyshoes

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I just got my first flat top in about five years. I've got an archtop acoustic that I put flat-wounds on, but I know nothing about acoustic strings.

I play either D'addario Chrome 10s or Chrome flat-wound 10s on all of my electrics, depending on the guitar.

The new guitar is a Gibson J-45 studio. They tend to be a little bright, just because of the slightly reduced size, compared to the J-45 standard.

It's my intention to play blues and Americana on it, primarily. I hybrid pick, using a heavy jazz pick and my three free fingers (yup, the pinky sees some action every now and then). I'll also do a lot of strumming.

So give me some suggestions, please. What should I be looking at and looking for. To summarize with a self-consciously ridiculous question: what acoustic guitar strings are going to make me sound like Ryan Adams and the Black Crowes?
Best I can offer to you is to try different one's by different companies. Only you will know what suites your taste. This process doesn't need to be a over night thing, enjoy the experience and explore your options.

I don't think a set strings are going to make you sound like anyone other than yourself sorry to say.
 

dreamingtele

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I like the Martin Retro Monel Nickel 13-56 Ive recently put on my J-45 copy by Sigma.
Untitled by D Y, on Flickr

Its confusing my mind at first because they look like electric guitar strings but obviously they arent. Lol.

I used Martin SP 13-56’s before. And I didnt notice any change in the bass response. I think the highs are bit sweeter with the Monels, but it could be just in my head.. also my recordings arent done consistently but at least can give you an idea.

Here’s the SP’s when it was new;



Here’s how the Monels sounds with my guitar when it was new;
 

Thoughtfree

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I use and like whatever major brand I can find on sale. It doesn't seem to matter much. Freshness and gauge are more important than brand, to me.
 




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