By: Chris Thomas
There are so many different brands of guitar strings out there, and within the brands there are many different gauges and types. This can be overwhelming for beginners, so I want to briefly discuss different types of strings and associated sizes and why you want to carefully consider the types of strings you would want to use.
First of all let’s briefly discuss nylon strings. These strings are used on classical guitars and are conducive for fingerpicking. If you own a classical guitar or are considering purchasing one, these are the strings you will use.
Now if you’re playing a standard electric or acoustic 6-string guitar, you’re going to want steel strings. Some of the more popular brands are D’Addario, Dean Markley, Ernie Ball, Elixer, GHS, and Fender. Try the same size of each brand and you will begin to notice differences. I remember trying D'Addario, Dean Markley, and Ernie Ball .009s and I was partial to D'Addarios because it seemed like my pick would get caught on the strings to o easily. So definately experiment with different strings to find out which you prefer.
As for the different sizes, they come in sizes ranging anywhere from sets of .008’s to .013’s. Now, you may wonder what this means. Well the .008-.013 range describes the thickness in inches of the high E string. So when someone says 8’s, 9’s 10’s, they’re typically referring to a set of guitar strings with the high E string of that thickness. The remaining strings are also thicker or thinner depending on the thickness of the high E string, although you can buy individual strings to suit your personal tastes.
What thickness should you choose? I prefer D’Arddario 9s for my electric and Elixer 10s for my acoustic. For me, anything thicker then 10s give my fingers a tough time. But also know that the thicker strings will have a much better tone. As a beginner, I wouldn’t recommend set thicker then 9s for starters until you build up some left hand strength. I don’t recommend 8s at all as they tend to break too easily.
If you’re going to be playing dropped tunings, then you should consider thick strings in the .012-.013 range (Ernie Ball Not Even Slinky Strings are great). This will allow you to tune down and still have tight strings that don’t flap around. The thinner strings will usually be too slack when you’re tuned down.