I recently bought a steel string and was wondering what would be the type of strings you should buy for finger picking. The strings that where on the guitar when I bought it was rather harsh on my fingers. I really want to finger pick and not chicken pick

  • Have you already built up callouses? As far as I know, steel strings are steel strings and will definitely cause discomfort until you have callouses. Mar 13, 2016 at 15:27
  • Ok not yet. so your fingers are in for some punishment either way
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Whilst lighter strings are generally thought to be better for chicken pickin', they also work for ordinary finger picking - especially on electric. If your guitar has something like .013s, you will benefit from putting .010s, or even .009s to start with. Maybe you'll get so happy with them, they'll stay on! I'm not a strong believer in having callouses - I used to do a lot of finger picking - both on acoustic and electric, and never had callouses. If you're plucking too hard, they'll probably appear. God's way of saying be more gentle...

You could also try tuning what you have (or what you replace with) down a little. The lower tension will help, as long as they don't buzz.

Another solution is finger and thumb picks. Try them, it's a Marmite thing.


As Tim mentioned in his answer, you could try finger and thumb picks. I personally prefer the tactile sensation and control afforded by finger picking with bare fingertips.

If you are like me and prefer to eschew the use of finger and thumb picks, I would recommend trying a set of silk and steel strings. These strings have a wrap of silk like polyester between the steel core and the metal windings that act as a padding of sorts. They also tune up with less tension. You can mix these with some lighter unwound strings from a set of extra light acoustic strings if you prefer less tension on the high e and b strings.

Here is a quote from a review of Martin M130 Silk and Steel strings.

The feel is soft and easy on the fingers, strings bend with more ease, extending the time you can physically spend with your guitar (especially important for beginners who usually complain a lot of finger fatigue, or older musicians with arthritis, or nerve damage like I have).

Here is a link to a description of silk and steel acoustic strings. Martin Silk and Steel Strings on line

These strings do have a more mellow tone but many guitarist prefer the tone of silk and steel. You can find them by Martin, D'Addario, Ernie Ball, John Pearse, GHS and other manufacturers and the tone may vary somewhat between brands. If you prefer the brighter sound of 80/20 bronze then you can switch back to those when your callouses have developed more.

If you do use regular bronze acoustic strings, the lighter the gauge, the less tension required to tune to pitch. So lighter gauge strings will be a tad friendlier on the finger tips. But of course you will get a tad less volume as well - unless your acoustic is amplified with some type of built in pickup.

Good luck and have fun fingerpicking.

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