Ok you have your acoustic guitar and you want to put a fresh set of strings on it. Perhaps it’s a brand new guitar and you don’t like the strings it came with, or maybe you just want to try a different set of guitar strings.
But, you know, no matter what happens, when you put on a fresh set of strings you get the dreaded “Finger Squeak”…
It’s phenomenon that i personally find DISGUSTING
… especially when playing live (when the the squeak is amplified ten-fold over the microphones).
Some guitarists don’t even notice it, and some even LIKE it! (really?!)…
But to me, it is a sound that invades the song you are trying to play. It sticks out like a sore thumb, clouds over the song, makes you sound just BAD and inexperienced, even though you might not be a beginner.
Further down in this article, I will show you a video where you can see and experience this excruciatingly painful sound for yourself.
But have no fear! With the right set of acoustic guitar strings and some technical adjustments you can pretty much totally eliminate the finger squeak and allow your guitar to show off it’s beautiful and bright tones, (and your amazing guitar skills…)
There are some things to learn about acoustic guitar strings before choosing the brand you like. But if you just want to jump straight to my reviews of the best acoustic guitar strings brands then keep scrolling,
|Elixir NanoWeb 80/20|
|Anti-rust coatings for long life and great tone.||Read Review|
|Elixir NanoWeb Phosphor Bronze||Anti-rust coatings for long life and great tone.||Read Review|
|D’Addario EJ16-3D||Best all rounder for the price tags||Read Review|
|D’Addario EJ17-3D||Great for bending and hard to break||Read Review|
|Martin MSP4100||Deep rich tones with great sustain.||Read Review|
|Ernie Ball Earthwood||Great sound, but resistant to bending and could break if you force it.||Read Review|
- 1 BEFORE YOU BEGIN: The 4 Criteria For Choosing The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings To Minimise The Finger Streak
- 2 Understanding how the best guitar strings for acoustic players are constructed
- 3 How to clean acoustic guitar strings?
- 4 REVIEWS: The 5 Brands names that produce the best strings for acoustic guitar
- 5 ELIXIR NANOWEB – best acoustic guitar strings for beginners
- 6 D’Addario EJ16-3D
- 7 (light gauge) EJ17-3D (Medium) Phosphor Bronze
- 8 Martin MSP4100 – Phosphor Bronze
- 9 Ernie Ball Earthwood
- 10 CONCLUSION
BEFORE YOU BEGIN: The 4 Criteria For Choosing The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings To Minimise The Finger Streak
Well selecting a set of acoustic guitar strings can be tricky. There are 4 selection criteria you need to consider BEFORE you begin shopping around. They are:
1. What instrument are you playing?
This is fairly obvious, but still deserves a little mention. Just make sure you are buying the right strings for your guitar. Acoustic, Electric and Classical guitars don’t all take the same type of strings. Don’t use steel strings with your classical guitar or nylon strings with your new Martin. Apart from looking a bit naff, you will probably damage you’re guitar.
I know I don’t need to say it but just for the hell of it: make sure for Acoustic Guitar you are at least buying steel strings designed for acoustic guitar playing.
Also, the size and age of your instrument will dictate the type of strings you might want to buy. In general (and this is by no means a hard and fast rule) the bigger the guitar (e.g. jumbo style etc) the heavier the gauge you may want to go with.
Conversely, the smaller the guitar, the better it will sound in general if you favour lighter gauge strings..
If the guitar is quite old, you might also want to reconsider putting heavy gauge strings on it as that can cause undue tension on the neck. Just throwing it out there…
I will talk about that more in a minute. But the point is, you should know a little bit about the instrument you are buying the strings for.
2. What kind of sound (tone) do you want to go for?
Alright, here is where you need to start thinking about your own taste in guitar sounds and styles.
What kind of sound do you want to produce? Tone-wise, do you prefer a deep low sound? In this case you will want to lean towards the heavier gauge strings, or for a bright more trebly sound you will want to lean towards the lighter gauge strings.
3. What is your playing style?
What kind of guitarist are you? Are you going to give the strings a good thrashing, or are you going for the Martin Taylor fingerstyle approach? Heavier strings will be more forgiving for you if you’re a strummer.
Maybe you’re an all-rounder and want to do a bit of everything – if so, then medium set will cover all bases for you.
4. How much are you prepared to pay?
Now, I actually debated whether to talk about the price of strings, but i have known people to favour paying a little bit less for Chinese knock offs of real brands, and it kind of upset me!
Strings are worth the investment in my opinion, they can really have an impact between making your acoustic guitar sound ok and sounding magnificent.
And don’t forget that if it sounds good, you will enjoy playing it more…
So please don’t go for Chinese fakes, like this guy did:
And if you want a decent reason why, just look at the very first comment:
Understanding how the best guitar strings for acoustic players are constructed
The more you understand about what goes into the construction of a guitar string the better you will appreciate the choice that is available to you.
You don’t need to be a scientist about it but here is a quick primer of the essential things you need to know:
Surprisingly, they are not all made of the same material. For whatever reason there a few different metal alloys that are used, and each produces a slightly different flavour sound.
80/20 Bronze Strings (80% copper, 20% zinc):
Very popular, good all rounder strings that have a crisp ringing sound to them. Only downside is the metal oxidises pretty quickly so you will have to replace them more frequently, which can get annoying.
You guessed it! :). Bronze with the addition of phosphor. Essentially it brightens up the sound of the plain bronze strings, and also slows down their oxidization process making them last longer. Also a popular string.
Really Crisp, really jangly and really metallic sounding. Pretty awesome.
Silk and Steel:
The nice thing about these strings is the extra ranges they provide for the gauge selection. You can get more lighter gauge in silk and steel compared to the other material strings. Generally producing a softer, dimmer sound that can sometimes make them more challenging to play.
2. Coating the strings
Why is this important? The better the coating – the longer life your strings will have, and the longer the sound and tone will be preserved.
Coated acoustic guitar strings cost a little bit more than non-coated strings, but the extra investment is well worth it to preserve the richness of tone. There is only one brand that i would recommend if you are after coated strings, and that is ELIXIR. As you will see in the Eixir review they are the only brand that actually coat the entire string, and not just the windings.
Their strings literally last forever.
3. The Gauge
I know if have mentioned gauges before, but what exactly are the gauges and why do they matter?
Gauge simply is a measure of the thickness of the string.
Now, if you are a beginner, light gauges will be more forgiving on your fingers. (Huge deal!) The rest boils down to the sound you want to produce and the style of guitar you like to play as mentioned above.
How to clean acoustic guitar strings?
A clean cotton cloth (old t-shirt or WELL washed diaper) with no spray or other chemicals – wipe the strings thoroughly every time you play and keep the cloth clean. Worked for me for years – I can get twice the life out of strings, both round and flat wounds.
REVIEWS: The 5 Brands names that produce the best strings for acoustic guitar
ELIXIR NANOWEB – best acoustic guitar strings for beginners
Elixir Strings 16539 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings with NANOWEB Coating, extra light – are absolute top of my list and also one of my personal favourite brands are Elixir NanoWeb strings.
The NANOWEB coating technology makes these strings last FOREVER, longer in fact that n any other string on the market, while retaining their bright and crisp sound. The coating goes between the windings, keep the strings clean, which is why they are among the best for reducing finger squeak!
There’s a reason they have been referred to as official the world’s number 1 guitar strings set. Truly awesome strings.
(light gauge) EJ17-3D (Medium) Phosphor Bronze
These are gorgeous strings made of steel and wound with phosphor bronze. Definitely the most popular acoustic guitar string set to come from D’addario, and the preferred set by most guitarists to replace the standard strings silk and steel that normally ship with a new guitar.
They ship with corrosion proof bags to ensure perfect freshness when you open them. Also great for bending and hard to break. Possibly the best all rounder strings that money can buy.
This brand of string tends to be the next evolutionary step after the D’Addario EJ-16’s. People who fell in love with D’addario and facy a change discover Martin and fall in love with these strings straight away.
The Martin’s just produce a sound that is more deep, more rich and that carrys more sustain than just about every other string.
I would recommend the MSP4100 – but if you want to go lighter the MP140 is perfect.
Famous and popular, you can’t go wrong with this classic string brand. They are probably the world’s most popular acoustic guitar string brand, and that is for a reason: consistently high standards and proven over time to be a winner. As they say themselves, they are “Concert Quality” strings.
Only difficulty is they are resistant to bending and can break if you force it too much, but consider they are cheaper than most other brands above, it is unlikely you will find better value for the money.
There is so much that goes into deciding what the best string are for your needs. A little knowledge of string mechanics will help you decide. The good thing is that they are not going to break the bank so you can test a few different brands out until you find what you like.
Another Advanced little trick if you like to try is that some of these brands, like ELIXIR can sell strings in singles, which means…
You can customise your own string set string by string to create your perfect set.
WHAT ABOUT THE FINGER SQUEAK??
Acoustic Guitar String Comparison, Elixir Nanoweb vs. D’Addario vs. Gibson Masterbuilt Premium, all Light Gauge (.012-.053) Phosphor Bronze, tested on Epiphone AJ 220S.
Well as you can see here:
This guy is trying to be quite helpful showing a review of different strings, but thanks to the TERRIBLE finger squeak – all the strings sound horrible.
Strings alone won’t eliminate finger squeak. You also need technical adjustment in your playing.
And, apparently a table and inflatable beachball..?!!
How to put acoustic guitar strings on? See it on this video: