Best Acoustic Guitar Strings For Playing Blues

First off, it depends on, what style of acoustic guitar to want to play. Blue grass players go for a medium gauge guitar string, which goes from 0.054 inch to 0.013 inch. 

These strings are great for clipping with a plectrum held loosely between thumb and finger, and don't vibrate a lot when struck. 

This can be important if you have a great guitar with a low action. A string that vibrates too much can touch one of the frets, causing a horrible buzzing sound. Also, they are a bit hard on the fretting fingers.

The guitar in the video below is a Martin 000X1 with Cleartone Light Gauge phosphor bronze strings.

Most guitar players have a kind of a running battle with their guitar strings, apart from the normal issues relating to keeping them in tune and changing them

The questions are rife for the student guitarist. It's not sufficient that we have to learn finger picking guitar, but on top of that, our fingers hurt and we are not sure if we are using the right guitar strings or not!  

What are the best acoustic guitar strings for blues style fingerpicking are there any such things as 'blues strings'?  If you are lucky enough (and rich enough) to have a personal teacher, then it's a piece of cake. Just ask his advice and rely on his practical experience. 

However, if you purchase blues guitar lessons from the net, or on a DVD, you are mostly left to your own devices, relying on word of mouth from friends, or good old trial and error. 

The best strings for acoustic blues guitar are really the ones that suit your style, which might change over time, but first of all it depends an awful lot on your touch and the effect you want to give with your music

acoustic guitar strings for acoustic blues guitar

Above , Martin 000X1AE - One Of The Best Acoustic Guitar For Blues Fingerpicking (IMO)

I'm not much of a purist as far as guitar quality goes, but I do like to have really good strings. Having tested many over the last 40 years or so, I always seem to come back to light gauge Martin strings, which are great for picking acoustic blues guitar.

In the video below I'm playing two guitars. On the street I'm using an Aria Johnny Joyce signature model, one of the best acoustic guitar for blues, and for the demonstrations of technique I'm using an old favorite, which was a very cheap Fender cutaway.


Acoustic Blues Guitar Strings - Medium Guitar Or Light Gauge For Finger Style?

best acoustic strings for blues
Of course, we need to build up those callouses, but medium gauge guitar strings need a little more finger pressure to hold them firmly on the frets. For blues style finger picking, most players prefer light gauge, which range from 0.054 to 0.011 inch.

There doesn't seem much difference between the two sets of strings, but believe me - you will feel it! 

The difference becomes obvious when you try to bend one of the strings across to raise the note a semi-tone and produce that lovely wailing blues sound.

It feels really hard - you just can't push it far enough, easily enough. By contrast, most people find extra light strings a bit too thin (0.052 to 0.010). 

They just move around a little too much, and easily touch the frets if hit too hard. Saying that, many superb world-class guitarists use lights, as it all depends on your finger control.

String quality is not an issue with modern strings and manufacturing methods.
Basic 80/20 bronze wound strings can be bought quite cheaply, but it's worth while spending a little more and buying phosphor bronze, which are a bit more mellow and longer lasting. 

Martin make an SP set, which is more durable and great for that special studio session, or important performance. 

However, if you are a street player, don't bother with the higher quality - play the guitar hard and change them often. The best guitar strings are the ones that suit your playing style and don't need changing too often!

Author: Jim Bruce
Date: 2012/06
Category: Music

10 Things Steel-String Players Should Know About Classical Nylon Guitars

JUNE 13, 2016

Switching from steel-string to nylon-string guitar is perhaps something you haven’t considered—at least up until this point. I get it. Unknown territory can be scary, but embarking on the discovery of a new guitar might just be what you need to spark some creativity. 

So allow me to introduce you to a fabulous new—yet ancient— instrument as I break down the ten things you should know about  nylon-stringed guitars, if you’re a steel-string player.

  • 1. One has metal strings, the other has nylon
Steel-string guitars are equipped with metal strings, producing a brighter and crisper sound. Classical guitars have nylon strings that produce a softer sound.
Metal strings can be tougher on your fingertips when pressing against the fretboard, especially if you’re in your early guitar-playing stages and haven’t developed calluses. Nylon strings are easier on your fingertips, making fingerpicking and pressing against the fretboard less hard on the fingers.

  • 2. Flick the pick
Why limit yourself to one pick when you have five attached to your body? In traditional classical guitar, you don’t use picks—you use the five fingers on your picking hand instead. 

An advantage of playing with your fingers versus using a pick is the orchestra-like effect you can achieve. Gretchen Menn, composer, solo artist, and guitarist for Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella, is fond of this effect and the versatility classical guitar has to offer. 

“One of my favorite elements of classical-guitar training is slowing down to the micro level and really exploring the breadth of tonal spectrum that your right hand offers. 

Finding your personal tonal varieties and understanding and working with this spectrum in a musical context brings up another concept—the creation of convincing polyphony not just through correct execution of the notes, but also through carving out tones for different voices to exist. 

When done well, many pieces for solo classical guitar can really sound like a duet to someone not familiar with these possibilities,” Menn says.

  • 3. Embrace a new body
The body of the classical guitar offers elegant simplicity. When you get your hands on one (at least the traditional kind), don’t expect to see things you’d normally find on a steel-string guitar, such as electronics, a cutaway, fretboard markers, or even strap buttons. 

But some of the most significant structural differences aren’t so noticeable to the plain eye. For Andrew Enns, head luthier at classical-guitar company Cordoba Guitars, the bracing and top thickness play an important role in the difference between the two guitars. 

“Nylon-string tops are thinner, with smaller, more flexible braces, while steel-string guitars have thicker tops with larger, more rigid braces. The principle behind both is the same, to make the guitar strong enough to hold the strings at pitch, yet flexible enough to vibrate when the strings are plucked,” Enns says.

  • 4. a classical guitar has a wider neck than its steel-string sibling
Because of the extra width on the classical-guitar neck, it is easier to avoid stroking neighboring strings, especially when executing intricate chord shapes or fingerpicking patterns. 

And while you can certainly fingerpick on a steel-string guitar, it’s simply much easier to do so on a classical, given the extra space between your strings.

  • 5. Lower tension means less pressure and smoother sounds
The string-load tension on a steel-string guitar is about 100 pounds higher than on a classical -guitar. As a result, a noticeable difference is the ease with which you can press on the classical guitar fretboard. 

Another direct outcome of the difference in tension is the type of sound the strings on each guitar produce. “A nylon string is more flexible and under less tension at pitch, giving it a slower attack and more mellow sound, while a steel string is under much greater tension providing a faster attack and brighter sound,” adds Córdoba head luthier Enns.

  • 6. Prepare to take a seat
In the traditional world of classical guitar, you sit with the instrument in between your legs. The waist of the guitar body rests comfortably and falls naturally on your thighs. 

Since conventional classical guitars don’t have a strap button, you’ll almost always see people playing sitting down and using a footstool for support, versus standing up as most steel-string players do.

  • 7. Consider letting your nails grow
While having long nails on your picking hand is not mandatory, long nails will provide you with a crisp and louder sound, whereas playing only with your fingertips will give you a dull, less lively sound (plus having long nails is kind of a cool, dead giveaway letting people know you play guitar).

  • 8. You’ll need a footstool and a few other gadgets
Some essential items in the classical guitarist’s toolshed include a footstool to mount your foot on for proper posture and hand positioning; a comfortable chair with no arms (a tall bar stool is not recommended as it would interfere with proper posture); and a nail file to immediately treat chipped fingernails.

These are items that are not normally in the steel-string player’s arsenal, but that certainly make a difference for classical-guitar players.

  • 9. You’ll want to learn how to restring
You’ll notice an immediate difference in the way a classical guitar is restrung compared to the steel-string guitar. 
The nylon strings on a classical guitar have a plain end, which means you have to tie them to the bridge with a knot. A steel-string guitar has ball-end strings that are fixed with bridge pins.

  • 10. Classical guitar is not limited to classical music 
This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about classical guitar. It is easy to assume that because the word “classical” is in the guitar’s name, one is obliged to play only pieces belonging to that genre. 

But this is not at all the case; in fact, you can play virtually any style of music on classical guitar, including pop fingerstyle arrangements, country, tangos, bossa nova, jazz, and yes, classical, too. 

Take artists like Rodrigo y Gabriela who rip through such Metallica songs as “Orion” on their nylon strings, or singer-songwriter José González, who produces lilting indie-folk tunes on his nylon-string guitar.

So there you have it. As the saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” I hope these tips empower you to try something new!

best strings for fingerstyle - It's always a personal choice!

Best Acoustic Guitar For Blues FingerpickingWhen playing finger-style with bare fingers, I generally use two sets of strings a month and buy phosphor bronze strings in the SP range. For the best strings for fingerpicking bottleneck I use Medium gauge, same manufacturer and always SP.

Correct acoustic guitar action not just manages the convenience and playability of the guitar, however it also helps the guitar stay in tune and preserve articulation. 

Acoustic guitar action is generally more adjustable than electrical guitar action in that acoustic guitar strings require more space to vibrate. 

Typically, the greater the action on a guitar, the more unpleasant and hard the guitar is to play and the lower the action, the simpler and more comfy the guitar is to play.

The Best Acoustic Guitar String Is The One That Fits Your Style Of Fingerpicking

THE BEST ACOUSTIC GUITAR STRINGThe above article sums it up nicely. You and your playing style are the keys here. Of course, cost is an important thing - the very best strings will set you back 50 bucks or so, so if you you're in the habit of changing strings every gig or once a week even, get ready to spend some money.

For most of us who change our strings once a month, or even once every two weeks, a good general quality string like the Cleartone range is well within or pocket. 

In my own case, for some years I played with steel fingerpicks - great for cutting through noise when playing on the street, for example, but they really chew up the strings, which need changing every few days.

Annoyingly, it's always the wound G string that goes dull first, so best to keep a supply of those to change it out before fitting a complete new set.

Author: Jim Bruce 
Date: 2014-09-02
Category: Music

Some Useful Links:

FAQ About Acoustic Blues Guitar Strings

Hover over the text to see answers to these common questions (some may have links):

Can I play fingerstyle on a steel string guitar?

What are the best guitar strings for fingerpicking? 

What is the best guitar for blues? 

What is the best sounding acoustic guitar for the money? 

Are dreadnought guitars good for fingerpicking? 

What are the best guitar strings for bending? 

Are light guitar strings easier to play? 

What is fingerstyle acoustic? 

What are the best sounding acoustic guitar strings? 

Are phosphor bronze strings better? 

What guitar string gauge should I use? 

How do I choose guitar strings? 

What is the best guitar for fingerpicking? 

Do new guitar strings sound better? 

What is the best gauge for acoustic guitar strings?

Copyright (c) Youtune Records
Jim Bruce Videos

Privacy Policy