Acoustic Guitar Community

Welcome to the Acoustic Guitar Community.

I thought this would be an interesting topic seeing as how there's so many types of string gauges out there... almost as many as there are players it seems!

I use light gauge (12 - 53) on the acoustic guitars as I tend to play a lot of improvise a lot of lead guitar lines when I fingerpick. Between doing that and bending the strings up to a whole step the light gauge is easier on my fingers.

However, on the instruments set up for slide guitar I use a medium set and swap out the E (13) for a (14)... as I find it does improve the overall tone. I tend to tune those guitars down to D, D6, Dm, G, and Gm. In doing so I also swap out the 3rd string (26) for a (24) as going back and forth between those tunings tended to exhaust the higher gauge.

I have a couple of parlor guitars from the 30’s. I’ll use custom lights on those - 11 - 52.

Finally, my 12 string guitars are strung with mediums (12-52) and tuned down 2 whole steps to get that Blind Willie McTell - Leadbelly sound.

There's really no hard and fast rule as to what to use. It's worth your while to experiment and see what works best for you.

As a by line... I like D’Addarios. I’ve been using them since the early 70’s when they used to be called Darco New Yorker.

Toby Walker

Views: 9541

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hey Toby,
There's' at least one discussion going on this:
I'm sure there is more in the archives.


Hi, Toby

I also like D'Addarios, but also like Martin SPs.  I use 12s on my smaller guitars (OM28V, Guild Gad 30E, Fairclough Parlour), and 13s on my dreads (D18VS, D16GT, '70s Yamaki)  I tend to use the smaller guitars for fingerpicking (in my own self-taught way!), and the dreads for rhythm/strumming,  I feel that the mediums give me a better feel for "digging in".  Probably 'cos I'm a little bit heavy handed!

Happy picking!

I am a beginner guitarist who is use to lighter guage strings on other instruments (banjo and mandolin) so I tend to use .11's on the guitar with a .48 base.  I think they are Martin Extra lights and like the sound and feel on my dread very much.  Of course my Strat is a different story and lighter guages yet.

After playing with many string brands (always phosphor bronze). I had used Martin for a long time (Marquises, and more recently SPs), before I changed to Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze . So far, I haven't found better than Elixir strings : they last long, they are way resistant, sound good a very long time, and the coat is very fine and comfortable. Now everytime I take my guitar I feel like the strings are brand new! As a comparison, Martin SPs are supposed to be coated, but even if they last longer than regular ones, I noticed that the coat tends to go away with time. Which is not the case with Elixirs. Of course, this is just my opinion regarding my personnal tastes. Other brands should be good as well, obviously. The weak point about Elixirs is the price. But to my mind they are worth it.


My favorite gauge range is Light .012-.053. Currently I've put Custom Light .011-.052 for a try, but they don't sound as powerful as I'd like. So I'll be back to .012-.053 next time I change them. So I would say that this gauge should be the right for me.

I like best the D'Addario 12's (phosphor bronze wound) on my acoustic (a 1960 Gibson J-45). I've tried the John Pearse strings a few times, the 11's and 12's and liked them a lot, maybe even a bit more preferred for fingerstyle because the basses are a bit lighter - I think the set was .011-.050. I've also liked the Dean Markley 12's as well. I like the sound of the coated strings, but for now I find them a bit too slippery, all they're quiet for lateral slides across...hmmm, maybe that's what I'm not getting! Anyhow, I prefer the grippy phosphors, for now at least.

On my classical the D'Addario EJ46 hard tension are my favorite. I've tried other brands and tensions and always come back to them. For electric, its the nickel wound D'Addario 11's, on an 2000 Yamaha AEX 502 semi-hollow body with F-holes.


Hi Toby and all,

I'm somering of a jack of all trades acoustically (don't believe in electics - passing fad !)

I play dreadnoughts, archtops, Weissenborn, and (squareneck) dobro, and on all of those I use EJ17s but put a 16/12 on the dreads, 17/17 on my Weissenborn, 18/18 on the dobro. 

I have a National Style "O" which stays in open D and I use Newtone nickel heavies on that - 59/17.

On smaller body flat-tops - L-0, couple of "00" and an "000" standard scale I use Ej16s.


I wander off to Newtones, Eixirs, and other makes occasionally but for me D'addario gernally are the best price and most consistent.


I have to say that I am suspicious of all the differnt "brands" and seriously wonder if there are as many makes as there are brands. I wouldn't be surpised to learn that many brands are, in fact all made in the same factory -anybody know anything about this ?


Ol' Andy





D'Addario's and Godins are the same...

That is most intersting Florida, and so that leads us to suspect that D'addario might make strings for other makes as well !?


Ol' Andy  

I play a small 00 body...Travis style stuff. I've been playing 12's (light gauge) for as long as I can remember. I also used D' Addirio's for many many years. I switched over to Ernie Ball strings a few years ago..the core wire is a less stiff allowing a nice "gooey" feeling string under my fingers, and I found the tone to ring a bit clearer. So for now I'm an Ernie Ball fan. I read of folks using John Pearse strings, and there's a certain allure..but I've never played them, but would love to hear from folks who have. I have no love for Elixers, they seem to have a dead muffled tone to me and they're very stiff...OK there's my 2 cents.

Hi Bob, 

Whilst I'm sure that you are happy with the Ernie Balls (no reason why not) if you are seeking a string of standard light guage (12-53, but with lower tension, then might I suggest Newtone Strings from the UK.  They are hand wound on round cores and from experience are very pleasing tonally and as long lasting as other big name strings. 


I know that they are available in the USA - but check out :



Ol' Andy 

HI Andy, thank you for your suggestion. Newtone strings are a brand I'm not familiar with, and yes I like a lower tension string.... I'll check them out!

Speaking of strings ... Anybody know why Martin packages their strings the way they do?  Three envelopes with two strings in each, but out of sequence ... I know there must be a reason, but I don't get it.  Elixer has them helpfully packaged in individually sequenced envelopes.  D'Addario has them all in one envelope, but with the strings nicely color-coded.  Martin simply appears to be intent on causing you to mix the strings up once they're out of the package, LOL. 


Check Out the Latest in Acoustic Guitar

Free e-newsletter!

Sign up for Acoustic Guitar Weekly—the weekly e-mail newsletter that delivers coverage of players and gear, lessons and technique tips, and advice about performing and recording. Get it now!




Be alerted to the latest articles on, including lessons, CD, guitar, and gear reviews, how-to tips, and player profiles.

© 2016   Created by Acoustic Guitar.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service