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How to Choose Strings for Your Instrument

Choosing the right set of strings can feel daunting given the wide array of options. But while there are seemingly dozens of strings for every instrument, if you know what gauge and alloy you’re looking for, it can go a long way in narrowing down your range of options to just a few well-suited for your instrument.

No matter what sort of instrument you’re restringing, the gauge of the strings will be the biggest factor in terms of the sound and playability of your instrument. In the world of guitars and banjos, a light gauge sits right in the middle of the spectrum and is a good fit for most people. If you’re a newer player and your callouses are still developing, a custom or extra light set will be easier on your fingers.

Medium gauge is typically preferred by guitar players with big guitars, or by banjo players who play in a clawhammer style.

In the world of mandolins, medium is the most common gauge, with light gauges preferred by newer players.

The bronze alloy that the strings are made from is your next most important choice. Phosphor bronze is the norm for most acoustic guitars and mandolins, but an 80/20 bronze set can provide you with a brighter sound. Nickel bronze is more common on banjos and while it’s occasionally used on guitars and mandolins, you see it much less frequently as it can give the instrument a very old-timey sound.

These two decisions can make a big difference in the way your instrument plays and sounds. Just knowing your preferred gauge and alloy will go a long way in finding the ideal strings for your playing style.