General Question

KrystaElyse's avatar

What is the best gauge of acoustic guitar strings for a beginner?

Asked by KrystaElyse (3596 points ) March 1st, 2009

Also, what does a “setup” entail? How much do they normally run for?

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7 Answers

elchoopanebre's avatar

Do you have a nylon or steel-stringed guitar?

Do you generally play hard with a thick pick or soft with your fingers?

The type/gauge of strings depends on your actual type of guitar, playing style, and personal preferences.

-If you play hard with a thick pick then you should definitely go for heavy strings.
-If you mostly finger-pick and play softly then I would go with lights but be aware if you play hard with a pick lights are easy to pop.

I like mediums because they seem to be able to do both ends of the spectrum well (light finger picking and heavy strumming).

KrystaElyse's avatar

I have a steel-stringed guitar and I generally finger-pick. I’ll try the lights. Thanks for the suggestions!

Dog's avatar

I second the lights. I would also buy an extra set- personally I go through a lot of strings.

Randy's avatar

I use lights on all my guitars. To me, with lights, I feel I have more “control” over the strings. They just seem more manipulable. I admit they are easier to snap though. I really recomend that you try a couple different sized gauge strings untill you find what you will prefer.

whackyrusty's avatar

A ‘setup’ may be worthwhile if your guitar has bad ‘action’ or if the intonation is out.

The ‘action’ is the distance between the strings and the fretboard, thus the higher the action, the more force needed to apply a chord shape. This can result in a ‘cheese wire’ effect on your fingers. You might get this a little anyway with a guitar with good ‘action’ as you are a beginner and might not be used to it.

The intonation is correct when a note can be played across any fret and still be in tune. If the intonation is out then notes will slowly become out of tune the higher up the fretboard you play them.

If the guitar is old or well used, a setup could also involve the replacement of various components such as worn-in frets, tuning pegs, or even the bridge (what the strings sit on at the body end) but as you’re a beginner my guess is you have a new instrument?

So if you feel like your ‘action’ needs fine-tuning, then it could make your playing more comfortable and certain chord shapes easier to ‘fret’, such as barre chords (‘fretting’ two or more strings with one finger).

The intonation is also very important, in my opinion, and makes the guitar sound so much better.

However, I don’t think it would be a cheap service, so only go for it if you’re serious about playing and your guitar is of high quality, otherwise the ‘setup’ could be worth more than the guitar itself!

KrystaElyse's avatar

@whackyrusty – It’s actually a guitar that was passed down to me from my older brother. It’s not old at all, but someone suggested that I might need to get it set up, something to do with the height of the strings from the fret wires? They said the way it is now will make it hard for me to play? I think I might go and see a guitar tech and ask for another opinion. I am pretty serious in learning, so I guess i’ll see what can be done. Thanks for your input! :)

Dr_C's avatar

a guitar tech would be a great choice unless you’re very DIY… but gauge choice really comes down to comfort not experience…. i preffer heavy strings (but i have very large hands).... even as a beginner i wouls go through 2 sets of lights in a week…. try them out and see what fits you.

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