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I've recently decided to start playing guitar as a self-learner and I want to change the strings of an acoustic guitar I have.

I've started to get into it and I discovered that there are various types of strings (light, medium, custom and so on).

I have heard that the "softer" ones (I think they are named silk) are better for beginners because they are more gentle on the fingertips which are not accustomed yet, but on the con side, they are really weak and need to be changed like two weeks later, they're less durable.

My question is what are the differences between the various types and which one is the best for a beginner?

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4 Answers 4

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First thing I suggest is to change -- or set -- the way you play. Choose a note, any note, fret it and pluck the string. Fret it as hard as you can, then back off until you hear the thunk and not the note.

You will notice a few things. First, it hurts your fingers. Second, the note will rise in pitch the harder you fret. You will think you want to fret a not a lot harder than you actually need to. When you do that, the strings will bite into your fingers, which doesn't feel good, and you will play out of tune, which doesn't sound good. You can develop a light touch on any set of strings.

There are reasons why an experienced guitarist would want to go with heavy strings, and there are drawbacks. There are also reasons why an experienced guitarist would want to go with lighter strings. By all means, as you begin to learn what you like and what makes your instrument play like you want it to, try everything. But medium is set as medium for a reason, which is that they're good for most uses.

My suggestion is to start with a medium set from a reputable brand, set up with a reasonable action and relief, and work more on your own technique before you start changing the instrument.

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If you're going to use a plectrum,you're probably better off sticking with steel strings,as the silks will wear out quickly. They won't sound as lively as steels, but will be kinder to your fingers. You would be just as well using a gauge or two lighter steels, say going from 012s (I'm guessing) to 010s or 009s. Another option would be to tune down to maybe D, to have less tension in your strings until your fingers harden up (tips and muscles). Most times when you, in the future, play someone else's guitar, it'll be steel strung, so getting used to it is a good move.

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The light, medium, heavy etc are string tensions as far as I know. Heavy tensions are preferable for low tunnings as it won't make the string feel too loose, FYI.

I don't know anything about silk strings, but for a beginner I recommend nylon strings if you're going for an acoustic guitar. They sound nice and they don't feel harsh on the fingertips, plus I guess you don't have to change the higher strings (eBG) as often as silk ones.

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My humble opinion again, based on many years on the road across Australia with my wife Irene, Busking. Went from 12 - 45's to 13 - 56's so as to get heaps of volume out on the street. The old guitar finally gave up the ghost after 15 years of very hard work (never in a case - on the back with a strap most of the time). Got much better at playing guitar though. Next guitar fared much worse, much quicker - bridge decided to divorce the body and left. Wood glue seemed rather wimpy...and don't get me started on the clamps !!!! My old mate down the road at my local guitar shop stated simply - Drill a couple of holes through both ends of the bridge and bolt it back on !!!! Bugger me if it doesn't work like a charm. Oh, by the way, I put 12 - 54's back on...BEAUDIFULL !!!! Realised that I could actually do pull offs and bends now.Easier on the old onkerporingers (sorry,fingers) too. Light - Medium - Heavy are actually the gauges (thickness) of the strings. We used to play 12 stringers and tuned down a full tone to 'D' and then whacked a capo on to bring it back up to 'E' standard, but with MUCH less string tension. As to changing the strings How long is a piece of string? If you flog 'em you change 'em often. Every new gig? NEW STRINGS !!!!! We've used the best, and the rest. A $5.00 set lasted us as long or longer than a $75.00 set. Broke 3 'G' and a 'D' in a 2 hour session up in north Queensland once..so much for the Elixer of youth I guess.

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