There’s no feeling quite like unboxing and playing a brand new guitar – especially as a beginner. One thing that many beginners fail to do, however, is change out their strings in a timely manner. Strings don’t just need to be changed when they break, though. Dirty strings quickly become corroded strings, and as a result, can make your guitar look, and sound terrible.
While there’s no shortage of advice telling beginners to change their strings, there’s definitely not a lot of guidance about the best guitar strings for beginners, and believe us, there’s a difference! The best acoustic guitar strings for beginners offer a balance of tone, comfort, consistency, and durability. Learning the guitar can be an intense undertaking, but the right strings can make the entire experience more enjoyable and manageable.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be showing you a variety of the best acoustic guitar strings for beginners on the market today. During the review, we focused on comfort, tone, and response. To make sure that everything was covered on a level playing field, we used the same Takamine Legacy EF341SC Acoustic-electric guitar for each test. Keep on reading to learn more.
- Our Top Picks
- Individual Reviews
- How to Choose The Right Strings for You
- Final Thoughts
Our Top Picks
Our Top Pick was the Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings which gave us an organic and focused tone during our tests. These strings are extremely durable, but don’t suffer from the tacky feeling that some coated strings do.
Musicians looking for a good set of acoustic guitar strings at a truly affordable price should check out our Best Budget option, The Ernie Ball Earthwood 80/20 Light Gauge strings. These offer beginner guitarists a very comfortable playing experience while also providing durability and good tone.
If you’re not worried about price, and quality is your main consideration, take a look at our Editor’s Choice, the D’Addario XSAPB1253 Phosphor Bronze Coated strings. They come with a NY Steel hexagonal core design featuring a wrapped wire of phosphor bronze. The result is a balanced warmth and enhanced harmonic content, with great comfort that allows you to play for extended periods of time.
Fantastic tone and durability.
Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings provide a vibrant tone while lasting longer than your average string. This set of strings is renowned for giving the guitarist a higher level of consistency and at the same time cutting down on excessive finger friction.
We strang our acoustic guitar with the Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings and got an organic and focused tone from the first chord we hit. These strings served up an unusual brightness for coated strings and really made the guitar sing.
With a Nanoweb coating, these strings have a natural feel that was great to our touch and gave us a fantastic feel all over the fretboard. Phosphor bronze strings deliver exceptional brightness, but are usually prone to quick deadening – this wasn’t the case here thanks to the ultra thin coating. This set is gauged .011, .015p, .022w, .032, .042, .052, round wound.
We loved how well these strings projected while we played with different types of picks. The softer pick was great for bringing out the detailed frequency response that these strings provide, which was in full display when we played open chords.
We also loved the sound of the Elixir Acoustic Nanowebs when played with a hard pick, as they had a great combination of punch and sustain. They also sounded fantastic when played fingerstyle, and the smooth coating made them extremely comfortable, too.
Verdict: The Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings are a fantastic choice for beginner acoustic players that want to learn a variety of playing styles, including soft and hard picks as well as fingerstyle. They respond nicely to the player’s nuances and will last longer than your regular strings, while lending darker-toned guitars a nice overall brightness that is never shrill.
Good tone and nice response on an affordable set.
Ernie Ball has been on the string game for quite a long time and is one of the most respected names in the industry. It is no surprise that they offer a quality option for acoustic guitars, and a price that is quite appealing, but without sacrificing tone and feel.
The Ernie Ball 2004 Earthwood 80/20 Light Gauge offers beginner guitarists a very comfortable set of strings that are also affordable. We tried these strings on our acoustic and we loved how much easier they were to play, particularly when doing bends and some easy licks and scales.
They were made from an 80% copper, 20% zinc alloy, bound around a hex-shaped tin-plated steel core wire. These design features gave us a crisp sound, while remaining extremely comfortable, especially for an uncoated string. We liked the gauge on these strings, .011, .015p, .022w, .030, .042, .052, which gave us a nice balance of tone and playability.
We played for a while with these strings and were able to convincingly take on several styles. For instance, we found these Ernie Ball strings to be great for folk-style playing, both with a pick as well fingerpicking. Besides being truly affordable, these strings also responded well to our playing dynamics.
However, because these strings were so light on the finger, we felt that some players that delve into fast lines and even some riffing may benefit from the added comfort that they provide. We found this to be true, especially when playing for longer periods of time. We played with these strings nonstop for well over an hour and did not feel any fatigue whatsoever.
In other words, we got a crisp and responsive sound with a nice touch from this round wound set, but without experiencing any discomfort after playing for a while. Whether you want to play with a pick or fingerstyle (or both!). These Ernie Ball strings will provide a comfortable playing experience while delivering a good tone and feel.
Verdict: The Ernie Ball 2004 Earthwood 80/20 Light Gauge offers a crisp tone and fantastic comfort for players that prefer less resistance. This makes it a great choice for beginners as well as guitarists that may experience discomfort when playing thicker strings for long stretches of time.
One of the finest coated acoustic strings on the market.
D'Addario is arguably the best-known string maker in the world. They have a storied past solidly based on providing quality products for all types of guitarists, and these strings are no exception. They are made for players looking for the best quality available, regardless of price.
The D’Addario XSAPB1253 Phosphor Bronze Coated strings were made with a steel hexagonal core and a phosphor bronze wrap wire. We put them on our acoustic guitar and found that they delivered a nice warm quality, and improved harmonic range with our chords, lines, and riffs.
We loved the ultra-thin film coating that the XS Phosphor Bronze acoustic strings had. They held up well against sweat and dirt, and ended up sounding as fresh by the end of the test as they had on day one.
They were very responsive to playing dynamics – everything from forcefully pick-strummed rhythms to delicate fingerstyle patterns sounded fantastic on these strings. We got a full bass, with a detailed mid and sparking highs, regardless of what or how played.
Although these strings go from .012, .016p, .024w, .032, .042, .053, we found them to be more comfortable than your typical .012 set, making them an ideal choice for beginners.
D’Addario also included their technology known as Fusion Twist for increased tuning stability and greater consistency from string set to string set. We did find that these strings did a remarkable job of staying in tune, no matter how hard or how long we played them. They required very little stretching after installation, too.
Overall, we got a smooth and sleek feel on our fingers, which was just fantastic for any style. We played everything from Beatles songs to Nirvana riffs and loved how they performed. These strings not only remained in tune but also delivered great response and tone, no matter what we attempted.
Verdict: The D’Addario XSAPB1253 Phosphor Bronze Coated strings deliver fantastic tone and feel for just about any imaginable style or technique. With a vibrant sound and very responsive touch, these strings also last much longer than your typical acoustic guitar string, making it an obvious choice for discerning players looking for the best quality.
Lighter strings for greater comfort.
The EJ16 Phosphor Bronze has been around for almost 50 years and is still a popular choice among guitarists of nearly all styles and levels. First introduced in 1974, these strings provide a good tone and are easy to play, making it an obvious choice for beginners.
We strung up with the D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze and started our tests by playing basic open chords. From the get-go, we loved how comfortable these strings were, as well as the bright tone they had.
The D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze strings were made with phosphor bronze wrap wires, which is a design choice that enhances the warmth and overall tone of most guitars. Additionally, phosphor bronze strings are known for their durability, making this set a great choice for those that don’t like changing strings often.
We particularly liked how the bass strings felt. They had a snappiness and response that we think songwriters will likely love. These strings also sounded good for a variety of styles. We played several Beatles songs, some easy fingerpicking patterns, and even some basic pentatonic scales, and felt that these strings performed well.
Because these strings excel in comfort, they are a great choice for students and those that are just starting out. The guitar can be a frustrating instrument when you’re taking your first steps and developing your calluses, especially when you get to the dreaded barre chords. These strings can make that journey a bit easier by providing greater comfort.
Although we really liked them for accompaniments and parts that feature chords, we did wish that these strings were slightly louder for single lines, particularly past the fifth fret. However, they are still a good set for beginner guitarists that seek comfortable strings.
Verdict: The D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze are a fantastic choice for guitarists that are just starting out on acoustic guitar, as they provide good comfort. These strings are also a good option for songwriters and musicians that play folk and blues.
Durability and tone.
Martin is one of the most respected names in the world of acoustic guitars, so it's no wonder that they also make quality strings for the instrument. The MA540T provides not only good tone and feel but also comes with Martin's proprietary formula named SP Lifespan, to significantly increase durability.
The Martin MA540T Authentic Acoustic Lifespan strings gave us a powerful punch as soon as we hit the first chord. These strings project really well and have a balanced frequency response from the high E to the low E.
We loved how this set sounded across a range of different genres and when playing different techniques. In our tests, we jumped from playing simple open-chord songs all the way to performing some basic minor pentatonic scales on the upper frets. These strings gave us consistency of tone and feel throughout, with nice projection, and great feel.
The Martin MA540T Authentic Acoustic Lifespan strings also performed very well when we played fingerstyle. They were responsive to touch and felt great on our fingers. One of the best features of this set of strings is Martin’s SP Lifespan treatment, which repels dirt and oil in order to increase their lifespan, and keeps them brighter for longer.
Although we really liked how these strings sounded, they weren’t the most comfortable, especially when compared directly to some of the others in this roundup. Bends were a bit more challenging, and they did require a good technique to perform at their best.
Verdict: The Martin MA540T Authentic Acoustic Lifespan strings provide a great tone with a projecting punch. They are a great choice for practically any style, and perform well whether you are playing simple tunes or doing more intricate single lines up the fretboard. This is a good choice for beginners, but also for guitarists that have a bit more experience and require consistency of tone for different techniques without sacrificing comfort.
Natural feel with no coating.
DR Strings is another major name in string manufacturing, and with the VTA-12 Veritas set, they provide a more natural sensation for the fingers. This is because these strings do not feature any coating, making them a great choice for those that prefer a more organic feel on their fingers, but without affecting tone and durability.
After loading up with a set of DR Strings VTA-12 Veritas Phosphor Bronze strings, we found ourselves impressed with the raw feel that they provided. These strings are a breath of fresh air in a market that is packed with coated options, and we loved the organic feel they gave us.
In terms of tone, these strings gave us a powerful projection that made our guitar livelier than usual. These strings were gauged .012, .016p, .024, .032, .042, and .054, which gave us an ideal balance of tone and playability. We were able to play everything from simple chords all the way to easy licks and got a nice response with a relatively comfortable feel.
These Round Wound strings had a phosphor bronze wrap, and featured Round ACT steel as their core material. As with almost all phosphor bronze strings, they had a gorgeous look, and incredible brightness for the first few days.
One of the traits we liked the most on these strings is that they offer durability via DR Strings’ Accurate Core Technology (ACT) which centers on the core of the strings and does away with any coating. Being uncoated, it’s worth noting that these strings had the shortest lifespan of everything on test. They looked and sounded amazing when they were new, but quite quickly oxidized and dulled.
Verdict: The DR Strings VTA-12 Veritas Phosphor Bronze strings offer good tone and playability with a forward sound that can benefit nearly any acoustic guitar. We liked the fact that these strings do not feature any coating and provide a more organic playing experience.
Legendary quality on a lively set of strings.
These Gibson strings provide a more traditional tone with a nice response, and are a great choice for beginners and newer guitarists who love to play folk and any other styles that heavily feature open-chords.
The Gibson Accessories SAG-PB12 Phosphor Bronze strings featured a steel core that came wrapped in phosphor bronze. This design gave us nice clarity as well as a mellow bottom end that was perfect for musicians that gravitate towards more traditional uses of the acoustic guitar. In other words, they’re a great choice for songwriters and those that just love playing chords on songs.
In our tests, we played everything from folk tunes to old blues standards, and even added some ‘90s indie songs. We loved the mellow tone and great overall warmth that these strings gave us.
We felt that the SAG-PB12 Phosphor Bronze strings performed better with light and medium picks and even fingerstyle. However, hard picks were not a great fit for the delicate sound that these strings produced. They excelled when playing chords but felt perhaps a bit dull for single lines and soloing.
Gauged .012, .016, .024, .032, .042, .053, these Gibson Accessories strings felt great under the fingers, delivering a comfortable playing experience that nicely matched the warm quality and mellowness in sound. This is a fantastic set of strings for players that mostly play rhythm, which is why they make a great choice for beginners looking for a great blend of tone and comfort.
Verdict: The Gibson Accessories SAG-PB12 Phosphor Bronze offer a nice balance of warm tone and playability, and are a good choice for songwriters and beginners. Besides offering a traditional mellow tone that sits nicely on song accompaniments, these strings are also very comfortable, especially for a set gauged at .012.
How to Choose The Right Strings for You
Choosing the best acoustic guitar strings for beginners can make your life a whole lot easier when you are just starting out. Below are some crucial factors to consider when selecting strings.
Gauge refers to the thickness of the strings. Lighter gauge strings are generally easier to play and put less strain on your fingers, making them suitable for beginners. In general terms, strings labeled as “light” or “extra-light.” are the most comfortable. As you progress and build finger strength, you can experiment with heavier gauges, which also improve the tone.
In general, lighter gauge strings are more suitable for fingerpicking and strumming, while heavier gauges are better for aggressive strumming or playing with a pick. Remember, though, lighter strings won’t deliver the same projection and volume as heavier strings can offer.
Acoustic guitar strings are typically made from various materials, including bronze, phosphor bronze, and nylon. Bronze and phosphor bronze are commonly used for steel-string guitars, offering a bright and balanced tone. Most strings on the market are made from these materials.
Nylon strings are also popular for beginners, but typically aren’t compatible with steel string guitars as they don’t always have ball ends.
Most modern string sets come with a protective coating to prolong their lifespan and maintain their tone. Coated strings are less prone to corrosion and may be a good option if you don’t plan on changing your strings frequently. However, there are also some options that do not involve coating.
Regardless of how durable your strings are, keep in mind that you will need to replace them periodically. This is because strings present a loss of tone and difficulty in tuning when old. Regularly changing your strings is essential for maintaining good sound and playability.
Coated strings do offer improved lifespan and a smoother feel, but the coating can result in a duller tone, even when fresh out of the packet – this is particularly true of more traditional coated strings. Many of the more modern string coatings are so thin that they have an almost negligible effect on tone.
Beginners are usually advised to spend as little as possible, and if this suits you, then luckily, there are plenty of affordable options available that still offer decent quality. As you progress and develop your preferences, however, you can explore higher-end strings which typically improve feel, tone, and lifespan even further.
Besides tone, durability, and overall quality, comfort is a major consideration for guitarists shopping for the best acoustic guitars for beginners. In this article, we’ve given you seven of the best options available today.
To Recap our favorites, our Top Pick was the Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings which gave us a natural and focused tone during our tests. With fantastic overall brightness, this is a fantastic set that also delivers great durability.
Musicians looking for strings at an affordable price should look into our Best Budget option, the Ernie Ball 2004 Earthwood 80/20 Light Gauge strings. These offer beginner guitarists a very comfortable playing experience while also providing durability and a good tone at an unbeatable price.
Finally, if you’re not worried about price, and your focus is on quality, check out our Editor’s Choice, the D’Addario XSAPB1253 Phosphor Bronze Coated strings. They come with a NY Steel hexagonal core design featuring a wrapped wire of phosphor bronze for delivering consistent warmth and superior harmonic range.