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I see "super low tension strings" on sale here. Which kind of players (or which kind of music) normally uses them?

Do I assume correctly that such strings may be good for beginners as should bite fingers less and probably are easier to depress?

There is a question on how good/bad is to play on low tension strings here but this discussion mostly evolves about releasing (detuning) regular strings, I would prefer standard tuning. I am not sure but I think that the dedicated "low tension" strings should probably sound the same pitch with just lower tension.

  • Note that these are classical guitar strings - not electric as another answer seems to have assumed. The two are completely different. Did you want to know about classical guitar specifically? – Andy Sep 28 '15 at 10:11
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    The question is about classical guitar, not electric, not steel string. – h22 Sep 28 '15 at 11:10
  • When I used to play classical (amateur on a beginner level instrument) I tried various tensions from one string maker. I found one particular tension that sounded best for my guitar - the pitch intonation on higher frets was a little more accurate, due to the particular string thicknesses. That was my reason anyway; intonation varies on the instrument, bridge placement, string height and tension etc. I guess others might try different tensions for a harder or softer "feel" or a different sound quality? – Andy Sep 28 '15 at 11:21
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    While there is sure to be some difference in light tension strings -vs- high tension strings, I have tried both and found that the difference in practice is small in comparison to the gauge differences in the steel string or electric guitar world. To confuse matters, there are other differences that are found in different brands. For example Savarez strings are both bright, loud and squeaky (a trade off, because they sound great and squeaky). It is possible that the difference in tension is also more noticeable in some brands rather than others. – amalgamate Sep 28 '15 at 16:57
  • I use the Savarez low tension and like them. They suit my guitar, give me a rather more jazzy sound and are easy on the hands. I wouldn't use them in concert hall but love them for recording. – PeterJ Oct 30 '18 at 12:41
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Lower tension strings are both great for beginners, who want to build up their finger strength slowly (as lower tension will indeed make it easier to produce clean sounds) and also for advanced guitarists who are willing to do anything to increase their shredding speed - if pressing down is easier, you can do more of it in a set amount of time!

However, the guitar becomes quieter and loses some of its "guitarry" tone.

As far as I know, string tension is usually a preference of a guitarist and not a characteristic of a style. Of course, some styles benefit more from having greater tension, (e.g. the highly aggressive sound of flamenco and gypsy jazz players sounds better with high tension strings) but the more aggressive sound can also be produced by picking the string nearer the bridge.

  • I think I'll have to give some of these a go, I was hoping someone would answer the question actually! Do you know where I could get any of these in the UK? – Jamie Brace Sep 28 '15 at 8:58
  • Quite often strings might not have a label specifying whether they are high or low tension, but may just display their gauge. The lower the gauge, the lower the tension. If you are playing electring guitar and you are used to using gauge 10 strings, if you go down to 9, you will already feel quite a difference, but you can still get lower gauges, e.g. ernieball.com/products/electric-guitar-strings/1731/… – Michal Paszkiewicz Sep 28 '15 at 9:51
  • If you are in doubt, since you are in the UK, you can just go to Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley) and I'm sure you can find ANY set of strings there. If that fails, there is also hobgoblin (hobgoblin.com/shops) – Michal Paszkiewicz Sep 28 '15 at 9:53
  • p.s. I am neither sponsored nor endorsed by any of these shops. – Michal Paszkiewicz Sep 28 '15 at 9:54
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    p.p.s. They are welcome to sponsor or endorse me. – Michal Paszkiewicz Sep 28 '15 at 9:55
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I'm going to disagree with Michal Paszkiewicz somewhat. Low tension strings will bend if a light breeze hits them. It will also be very easy to play barres and bend several notes that actually should not be bent at all.

You really need a large amount of control over your vibrato and bending technique to not make them sound like they should not. Remember when you bend notes you are actually playing different notes to a certain degree which is not always good interpretation of the music.

Now it is not all bad. A good player can add depth to his playing by introducing the very subtle vibratos that these strings can provide but that is something to introduce later in ones playing life.

I would say that regular tension strings are still the best. You are very unlikely to build up bad bending habits with them and they are strings that have some bite to them. They do not just give in at the slightest touch.

It is very much a trade off the higher the tension the harder you have to work to bend but also the less likely you are to bend when you don't want to ( and should not) versus the lower tensions where the phrasing is easier but the chance of bending when you should not or don't want to is higher.

Get your beginners to play just regular tension medium strings and when they are reasonably proficient one day get them to experiment a little.

EDIT:

I'm just going to add that string gauge and string tensions are not the same. Classical guitar strings are all the same gauge or in other words the thickness of the strings but the tensions of the strings differ. That is how tightly wound the strings have to be tuned to get them in tune.

The OP uses the word tension which implies classical guitar strings. It is not clear if he may mean gauges and electric guitar strings.

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    I've lost count of the number of pupils for whom I've changed strings for lighter gauge sets. In fact, I'm sure some would have given up learning guitar, with the originals. It's not a big deal to play with light strings (I've used .008s for years) and it actually makes you a bit more careful in your fingering - no bad thing. Vib. is far more controllable with lighter strings - just take care! With most electric strings, a given gauge gives a given tension, especially with plain strings. However, the OP is discussing classical strings. – Tim Sep 28 '15 at 10:45
  • To understand how much all this is a problem, how far is it possible to bend deliberately (without special techniques, just by pressing hard)? – h22 Sep 28 '15 at 12:12
  • Not all classical strings have the same tensions. e.g. compare sweetwater.com/store/detail/EJ46 with sweetwater.com/store/detail/EJ44 . Obviously string gauge and string tensions are not the same, I mentioned electric guitars in a comment just to provide an example of the term "gauge" being used instead of "tension". – Michal Paszkiewicz Sep 28 '15 at 15:29
  • But yes, you are right that it is easier to bend strings with lower tension strings and therefore can lead to more accidental bends with novices. However, I have found through experience that one of the main limiting factors for novices, especially young ones, is that they do not have the calluses or finger strength to practice for long periods of time. Lower tension strings help with this. – Michal Paszkiewicz Sep 28 '15 at 15:31
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I find the low tension strings are preferable for playing early music – as per lute, or such music as renaissance choral works on guitar.

The low tension strings can also suit alto guitars that are pitched higher than a standard guitar is pitched.

Also, if you add strings to a standard guitar, to make it an 8 string guitar, for instance, then it is necessary to use lower tension strings overall so as not to have to much force on the neck.

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