Choosing the Right Gauge of String for Your Guitar

Choosing the Right Gauge of String for Your Guitar

Matching Your Guitar Strings to Your Sound

Most new guitars come with stock guitar strings. Many beginning guitarists think very little of it, one way or another – but there are times when it may be a good idea to look into alternatives.

A key component in your guitar sound is the strings you use. This article focuses on the different gauges of string available, what each type is best for, and how to choose the best gauge for your guitar. The information in this article applies to all types of guitar.

When to Consider Changing Your String Gauge

Many factors come into play when considering the right gauge of string for your guitar. Pick up your guitar or bass and play it for a moment. Notice the pressure you are applying to the strings to get the sound you are looking for. Are you able to do it easily? Do you have to apply more pressure than is comfortable for you to get your desired sound? On the other hand, it may be almost too easy. Maybe you are looking for a heavier sound, but you are applying too much pressure without getting your sound. If this is the case, it may be time to change gauges.

An important note: Often these problems can be solved through proper guitar setup or adjustment. When purchasing a new guitar, it is a good idea to have the shop set up your guitar. This means adjusting the action, or the tension required to get the sound you want through the strings you are currently using. This is the basic starting point, and your guitar shop can help you get your instrument set up according to your needs. If after doing that you still want to change your sound, this information will also be useful to you.

The Gauge Rainbow

Guitar strings run the gamut from “ultra-light” to “extra-heavy.” Even within these labels, there is a wide amount of variation, depending on the brand. To add to the pile, there are a number of “signature” string sets with custom gauges used by well-known guitarists and bassists. For now, let’s keep this simple.

Light gauge strings are thin strings, generally ranging from .25 mm to 1.16 mm in thickness. (These numbers are for electric guitars; acoustics tend to use slightly higher gauge strings.) These are easy to play and make a more jangly sound than their heavier brethren and are better for lighter types of music such as smooth jazz. They are also pretty good for hard rock soloists because of their bendability.

Heavy gauge strings generally range in thickness from .3 mm to 1.4 mm. They require more pressure to achieve the proper sound than the lighter strings. These are appropriate for heavier sounds like grunge and metal strumming. They are also a fine choice for country guitar picking.

Medium gauge strings fall in between the other two categories. They are the best choice for beginners and most casual players. They produce a nice, evenly balanced tone when played correctly.


If you are looking for a change in tone, or just want to experiment, try a new gauge of string! You might be pleased with the results.