In this episode of gear tips, Sound Pure acoustic guitar specialist Barrett Brooks answers questions and provides some insight on string gauge for acoustic guitars. Most acoustic guitars will come standard with 12 gauge strings. While 12’s are a great choice, you always have the option to go with a heavier string like 13’s or a lighter string such as 11’s.
When it comes to 13’s, you can expect a heavier string that is typically found on an archtop, dreadnought, or a jumbo acoustic. These types of guitars are usually larger and that means they are able to support the extra tension that the 13 gauge string causes. This extra tension helps drive the top to provide a larger body of tone. Typically, these strings are used by bluegrass players who are heavy flat pickers. If you can handle the extra resistance from the strings, then you can expect a bigger and louder sound from your guitar. 13’s could be used on any style of guitar, but the extra effort might not always be worth the tonal benefits.
Going the other way by selecting 11’s will also provide substantial differences with your guitar. 11’s are going to be much easier to play than 12’s or 13’s but that comes with a sacrifice. The tone of the guitar will suffer because there is not enough tension from the strings to get that big, full sound. That is a choice you will have to make because maybe the extra hour of playing you receive outweighs the amount of tonal diminish.
One thing to keep in mind while changing the gauge of strings on your guitar is the setup. When going from a lighter to a heavier gauge, it is important to make sure the nut has enough room to support the extra girth from the string. When going from a heavier to lighter gauge, you may experience some buzzing from the guitar. It may be a good idea to take your guitar to a luthier for a setup after changing the strings.
Overall, we recommend trying different strings on your go-to guitar every few months to find a combination of what you prefer. One set of strings that we recommend are the Parabolic Strings from Santa Cruz. If you have any other questions about this or any other topic, please give us a call!