Selecting Guitar Strings for the Aspiring Guitarist
By Tennyson Williams, Author of The Essential Guide To Guitar Virtuosity
Buying a guitar is hard enough for someone who is just getting started with the instrument, but what can be even more difficult, is the decision of what to get in terms of guitar accessories? What will you need to maintain, play, and overall enjoy your new guitar? In this article I will take you step by step on the five most basic essentials for the aspiring guitarist.
Its true that when you purchase a new guitar from an instrument dealer, that the guitar will already come with fresh strings on it, but at some point you will have to change those strings. So, the big question is what kind of strings should I get?
First of all it does depend on the guitar itself. Obviously, if you buy a classical, or acoustic guitar you won’t want to put electric strings on it, and vice versa. However, there are so many brands of strings and sizes that it can become quite daunting to pick.
You should understand that as long as you get the right type of pack of strings for the right type of guitar, you’ll be ok – and that in the future you will no doubt make up your own mind about what specific brand and size you like. The truth is that most brands are pretty good, but for now, let me give you some simple options to get started with.
Packs of guitar strings all have fancy sub names that make them sound extra cooler. Sometimes there is a lot of truth in the sub name, but this isn’t as important as the brand or guage. You simply can’t go wrong with acquiring a pack of strings from one of the following makers.
If you stick with one of those brands in the beginning, then you can’t go wrong. Over time you’ll be able to decide what brand best fits your needs.
Guage is also important, as guage is the actual sizing of the strings. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say that we are getting a pack of Martin 12 guage strings. The most common of acoustic 12 guage runs from 12 to 54, where 12 is your thinnest string (The high E string) and 54 is your thickest string (The Low E string). This is would be represented on the pack of strings as .012 – .054. A break down of this looks like this.
.012 – High E string
.016 – B string
.025 – G string
.032 – D string
.042 – A string
.054 – Low E string
This guaging is commonly referred to as a light pack. The medium gauging typically runs from .013 – .056.
My suggestion is to stick with the light guage if you are just starting to play. Acoustic guitar strings can be brutal to a beginner’s fingers, as they are very taught and a little sharp to the finger callusous.
My personal suggestion for any beginning guitarist who wants to play on a form of an acoustic guitar, is to get a classical guitar. The reason is because they are strung with nylon strings, which not only sound beautiful, but are also a lot gentler to the fingers. Again, you can use any of the previous manufactures mentioned above as a starting point for brand. I personally like the Dean Markley Gold and Black pack.
These strings consist of a typical nylon guage running from .028 to .042. That seems like a drastic increase in guage size, but remember – these strings are nylon and don’t require the standard manufacturing process.
Stringing a classical guitar is very different from any other guitar. It requires that you literally tie the strings at the bridge, as opposed to just using the normal ball end that is found in all other types of guitar strings. In the example of the ball end strings, the balled end simple catches in the string hole, preventing the string from moving.
Tying nylon strings is very tricky at first and would require that I give some sort of visual representation to explain how to do this. I simply can not do that in this article, but I mentioned getting the Gold and Black pack put out by Dean Markley, which consists of nylon ball end strings.
It is widely accepted that tying nylons gives the strings more longevity, but the ball ends will holed up pretty well too. Once you get to a point where you learn how to tie nylon strings in the traditional fashion, you can simply take a pair of clippers and cut the ball end off of each string.
Even if I choose to do this, I would still stick with these strings as a personal preference.
Electrics come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and string set up. Regardless, they are a little bit more flexible in string guage and design.
Ernie Balls are the most common of electric guitar strings and they have a ton of available packs. A good place to start with might be with the Super Slinky pack which is contained in an emphemous pink package. This guage runs from .009 to .042 and is a pretty standard guage.
Another standard guage size is the one just up from that which runs .010 to .046. Ernie Ball, like many other brands of strings, makes a whole series of different guages. As an electric guitarist, you’ll probably be striving to learn some intricate guitar solos here and there, in which case I would advise you to stay away from the heavier guages of strings.
My personal preference for electric strings are the Everly B-52 Rockers. After you’ve tried these strings you’ll never go back, and the process for making these strings is a little bit of a secret within the Everly company.
Deciding whats best for you
The best way to finally settle on a guage and brand of strings is to try as many of them as possible. You’ll quickly be able to decide what you like and what you don’t like. By doing this you’ll also be able to define what type of strings best facilitate your practicing as well as your overall playing.
Strings range in pricing, but there is no need to go crazy. Make sure that you check out the price of a pack of strings before you actually make your purchase. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried a pack of strings that were new to me, only to have my jaw hit the ground when I found out how much they were upon purchase.
In my opinion, unless you are really passionate about a certain set of strings, there is no reason to pay more than ten dollars for a pack of strings. There are a lot of excellent options of guitar strings that range between six and eight dollars.
Also, different stores tend to vary on pricing. You also can generally get so many packs of strings for a discount price on line.
The message here is to stick with a basic knowledge of strings. Start out with an idea of guage size that you would like to experiment with. Refine this by trying out different brands, and then experiment, experiment, experiment. Here’s to a long life of enjoyable guitar playing!
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