Strings recommendations for folky guitar (I usually play electric)

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thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 6697
Hi all, I don't frequent this area very often as I'm not as regular playing Acoustic as I am with electric.

But thought I'd ask about Acoustic strings. I play generally basic finger style folky type music on Acoustic, think like Laura Marling, Paul Simon, that kind of thing, but usually in standard tuning.

I know there's a lot of choice and a lot of info out there, but I wanted to ask - What strings might be good for this kind of playing? I play a Taylor Big Baby, which I know will never sound that good but it's an ok size and I'd not get much it of I tried to sell it on.

My favourite so far have Silk and Steel strings but they seem to last only a few weeks before they sound like they are past it, and I don't play that much on them. Then I go and buy a normal set and I find they are too heavy for me and they sound too "bright" for want of a better word.

My current strings are EB Earthwood phosphor bronze 12-54 but they are too hard for me. Last year I tried some which were 9-45 (daddario) but they couldn't hold the tune and were a pain when I used a capo as they would bend out of tune too easily. The silk and steel ones were apparently 11-47 but of course they were softer being coated in silk on the big strings.

I'm used to playing an electric, where I largely use 11s but that feels somewhere harder on acoustic. Would I just be better trying to get a semi acoustic or archtop style instead as that should feel more like electric? And might make a more unique sound for the finger picking that I do.

I like the less clingy-clangy sounds on Acoustic, I guess "warm" but basically without that scratchy metallic sound. I don't want a nylon string though.

Any ideas would be welcome, to help me pass the time on this lovely Sunday afternoon

Thank you


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Comments

  • droflufdrofluf Frets: 1320
    The standard response to “what strings for an acoustic” seems to be Newtone. I’m certainly a fan of them. 
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 5511
    You have 3 questions in your thread. But similarly if 12-54 are too stiff get an 11 set of phosphor bronze Daddarios or Newtones
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  • BluesLoverBluesLover Frets: 189
    In a burst of enthusiasm a few years ago I bought a Taylor GS mini, and the tried loads of different strings. I've settled on Martin Retro Monel extra light 10-47 as they are relatively easy to play, last well and don't sound bright or clangy on my guitar. Recommended.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 56895
    My current strings are EB Earthwood phosphor bronze 12-54 but they are too hard for me. Last year I tried some which were 9-45 (daddario) but they couldn't hold the tune and were a pain when I used a capo as they would bend out of tune too easily. The silk and steel ones were apparently 11-47 but of course they were softer being coated in silk on the big strings.

    I'm used to playing an electric, where I largely use 11s but that feels somewhere harder on acoustic.
    I would try 10-47s.

    Acoustic 11s are slightly higher tension than electric 11s - the string gauges are all higher apart from the top E, in fact the D and A are usually the same as in a set of 12s - especially as the action on an acoustic always has to be slightly higher. (At least than the lowest achievable action on an electric, you may not set it quite like that.)

    Newtones are very nice strings and generally feel slightly lighter tension than others of the same gauge on the wound strings, but not as much as the difference between 11s and 10s.

    9s are too light for an acoustic in my opinion. (Yes, I know some famous players with very light touches use them.)

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 6697
    edited June 27
    Thanks chaps

    You have 3 questions in your thread. But similarly if 12-54 are too stiff get an 11 set of phosphor bronze Daddarios or Newtones
    Yes sorry it turned into a bit of a ramble as I'm procrastinating from doing the housework.

    Yes largely my questions intended to be:
    1) what sounds closest to silk and steel but lasts longer than five minutes? And doesn't hurt my finger tips
    2) should I consider dropping acoustic and looking to get an archtop or semi acoustic instead as I'm more used to electric strings.

    In a burst of enthusiasm a few years ago I bought a Taylor GS mini, and the tried loads of different strings. I've settled on Martin Retro Monel extra light 10-47 as they are relatively easy to play, last well and don't sound bright or clangy on my guitar. Recommended.
    I've just Google searched Monel strings as I've not heard of that until today, that does sound interesting. Not sure about the "bring out the character of your instrument" considering the Big Baby is rather bland but it's got to be worth a try.

    Cheers all
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 17259
    I love Monels on my Martin dread. YMMV but well worth trying imo as they're not quite like anything else. 

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 56895
    I think you may either love or hate Monels, and it's also very guitar-dependent.

    I tried some on my Gibson Dove (maple dreadnought) and they were absolutely awful. Tried them on my mahogany-topped Vintage (00 size) and they're much better on that, although I don't think I'll repeat the experiment.

    If they "bring out the character of the instrument" it may be because they don't have much of their own! I find them a bit bland-sounding and lacking the harmonic complexity of phosphor bronze or the sparkle of 80/20 bronze.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 6697
    ICBM said:
    I think you may either love or hate Monels, and it's also very guitar-dependent.

    I tried some on my Gibson Dove (maple dreadnought) and they were absolutely awful. Tried them on my mahogany-topped Vintage (00 size) and they're much better on that, although I don't think I'll repeat the experiment.

    If they "bring out the character of the instrument" it may be because they don't have much of their own! I find them a bit bland-sounding and lacking the harmonic complexity of phosphor bronze or the sparkle of 80/20 bronze.
    That makes sense. To be honest I'm not an acoustic guitar expert so I imagine the harmonics and sparkle you mention on those other types are probably lost on me. The strings on there at the moment are Earthwood phosphor bronze and they have way too much volume and brightness for me. They are 12-54 though so I'm not sure why I didn't buy the light set 11-52 but there we go.

    I'll order a set of the Martin Monel ones and a set of silk and steel as a spare just in case I think.

    I have a couple of outside music events that I'm playing at (hopefully some more) over the next month or two so be nice to have something that is easier to play and just write off the Earthwoods
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 513
    Try to avoid going to 10s if you can help it. Electric guitars make a noise when the string wobbles. Acoustic guitars make a noise when the top wobbles - the string has to be stiff enough and heavy enough to twist the saddle which in turn warps the top wood. If 11s are too hard on that guitar, get it set up better - even for an electric player, an acoustic shouldn't be all that hard to play. 

    Archtops are not ordinary acoustic guitars within the Meaning of the Act.  They sound very different. Archtops were designed to make  "plink plink plink" jazz lead noises with lots of volume (by acoustic standards) and little sustain. Don't get me wrong, it's a good sound in its own way, but it's not what 98% of players want.

    With strings, brands are fairly unimportant. It is the type and the gauge that matters far more. Once you have settled on a particular type (e.g., round-wound hex-core phosphor bronze)  and gauge (e.g., 11-47), then fine-tune by picking between different brands.

    The nearest thing to a silk and steel sound in a longer-lasting string is brass (usually marketed as "80/20"). Brass strings are very, very bright for the first week (you will hate them!) and bright for the next two or three weeks (you still won't like them), but when they go dull, they go mellow. Old brass strings are sweet and soft under the fingers and have a lovely mellow roundness to them. I'm not sure how long they maintain this state (I take them off and put freshies on 'coz I'm a treble junkie) but it is certainly a long time. Six months maybe. I guess that the limiting factor will be corrosion of the two plain steel E and B strings. (Old bronze strings are different. They last longer in the bright stage but don't age gracefully.)

    One of the nickel alloys (e.g. Monel) is worth a try. They too last a very long time. As ICBM says, you may or may not like the sound. 

    My best guess for your best string?

    11-47 (light enough for easy playing, heavy enough to move the top)
    Round-core (slightly easier on the fingers than hex core)
    80/20 brass (very mellow and gentle once aged enough)


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  • PhilKingPhilKing Frets: 998
    You don't say which silk & steel you are using.  I have a really old Ovation acoustic (I got it in 1975, from the UK Rep), and it sounds best with silk & steel, so I always use them. The best ones I have found are the John Pearse Silk and Phosphor Bronze sets (https://www.stringsandbeyond.com/jope61siphbr.html).  The Martin sets are also pretty good.  I haven't had a problem with them going off really quickly, but perhaps that is because my hands don't sweat at all.
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  • droflufdrofluf Frets: 1320
    PhilKing said:
    You don't say which silk & steel you are using.  I have a really old Ovation acoustic (I got it in 1975, from the UK Rep), and it sounds best with silk & steel, so I always use them. The best ones I have found are the John Pearse Silk and Phosphor Bronze sets (https://www.stringsandbeyond.com/jope61siphbr.html).  The Martin sets are also pretty good.  I haven't had a problem with them going off really quickly, but perhaps that is because my hands don't sweat at all.
    You are Prince Andrew AICMFP :lol:
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 6697
    PhilKing said:
    You don't say which silk & steel you are using.  I have a really old Ovation acoustic (I got it in 1975, from the UK Rep), and it sounds best with silk & steel, so I always use them. The best ones I have found are the John Pearse Silk and Phosphor Bronze sets (https://www.stringsandbeyond.com/jope61siphbr.html).  The Martin sets are also pretty good.  I haven't had a problem with them going off really quickly, but perhaps that is because my hands don't sweat at all.
    I was surprised to find I'd actually had two different brands at different times, Martin and Daddario. I'll bear those in mind. I think the daddarios went quicker than the Martins, and were slightly cheaper I think (I order online as nowhere near me seems the silk and steel, in fact if you ask for them you get a look like you've just asked for a unicorn on a hot dog).

    Thank you Tannin for the detailed advice. I think a set up could help but the only Acoustic based shop I know were quite rude to me when I asked them about it previously so I suppose I need to have a better look around.

    The archtop thing is possibly a bit inaccurate I guess - I thought that's what they were called. I have seen a few current singer songwriter types using what looks to be more like a semi or hollow guitar but not an acoustic, that uses a "normal" pickup which I assume helps make a more consistent tone (or at least a bit more like clean electric anyway) than piezos or sound hole pickups. Even something like the James Bay epiphone thing.

    My ears aren't really attuned to Acoustic guitar but my fingers seem quite natural at playing finger style and it suits my voice quite well (as opposed to the music I enjoy listening to and playing on electric which I can't then user my voice with). I just wondered whether something like that might give me the best of both - ability to play finger style but with friendlier strings and a clean electric tone I'm more used to. I don't need much sustain, I play quite muted and softly anyway.

    This kind of thing

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