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Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby twotoedsloth » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:01 pm

Hello, thanks for reading this.

I'm looking to buy 3 sets of acoustic guitar strings for my mother. The style is Irish folk music, or at least as Irish and folky you can get in Canada. She's in her 60s so she needs lighter tension strings.

I'm an orchestral double bassist, and I have used Thomastik (top 3 strings are Dominants and E/C string is a Spirocore) strings for nearly 20 years. As such I was intrigued to learn that Thomastik also makes guitar strings. However, they are about $25 CDN a set, compared with $7.50 CDN for a set of her usual strings (Dean Markley Blue Steel).

Is it worth the extra money?
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Wonks » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:18 pm

The Tomastik Plectrums are very nice strings, probably the best you can get. And they are light to the touch because of their construction. On the 0.011" set, the bottom E and A are slightly smaller diameter than on a typical set of acoustic strings. Yes they are expensive but even though they aren't coated, they do last a long time.

I fitted some on my old Gibson acoustic and they were nice sounding but the guitar needed heavier bottom strings but the lighter top strings, so the set of .011"s wasn't the best match for it, but I've got them on my Martin.

I fitted them on a friend's guitar that I'd just set up for him and he was surprised how much he preferred them after previously using either Martin or D'addario strings.

It's certainly worth trying at least one set, so why not treat her.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Hewesy » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:13 pm

Long term user of D'Addario phosphor bronze here, EJ16 (light but 12 gauge).

I should try something else again but for me they work perfectly.

I presume your mum will be using various tunings so a slightly heavier gauge might be better than 11's.

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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby twotoedsloth » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:26 pm

Thanks for your replies.

She is my mother, so I probably shouldn't be stingy over the price of strings. Maybe the shop will give me a deal if I buy 3 sets.

I can't imagine her using exotic tunings, and as I said, she's in her 60s so heavier strings might not be suitable.

Sincere thanks!
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:38 pm

I mostly use coated strings, they never have that "brand new" sound which some like but on the Emerald X7 in particular (it's a bright sounding guitar to start with) they work well. The advantage is they stay sounding 'new' (for their own definition of new) for very much longer than uncoated strings. I used Elixir strings for a long time but currently use D'Addario EXPs.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby twotoedsloth » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:48 pm

I've actually never liked the sound of new strings. On my double bass, it takes a week to get rid of the rangy sound of the low E/C string...

I suspect the difference on a guitar may not be as pronounced. My mother has a rather mellow sounding Larrivee recording model. Perhaps this will mate well with the Thomastik strings, which seem to be reported as very bright.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Oct 05, 2018 10:45 pm

John Pierce are great for folk, super bright warm tone and they last a decent while. I also use Martin SP's and Elixer nano-coated. Martins have the shortest life but sound great while they last. Elixer's also sound great and last a long time but they're pricey.

Generally, I go for 80/20 bronze over phosphor because my technique lends itself to squeaking but phosphor does cut through the mix.

Once, many moons ago, I cut the top of my finger off and it took a couple of years before I could really play again, I used silk and steel strings which were very easy on the fingers.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:22 pm

Silk and steel round wound strings have a lighter tension for their gauge because they have less mass for their diameter. Plain strings have (about 15-20%) more mass than a round wound string of the same diameter. Nickel would strings have lower tension than Phosphor Bronze (but the density of the core and windings is only part of the story, the relative diameter of the core and windings also makes a difference). String tension is an exact function of scale length, string mass and pitch.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby zenguitar » Sat Oct 06, 2018 1:19 am

When I read the OP I did consider suggesting silk and steel as an option too. They are a little different but definitely an option for light fingerstyle and strumming.

But in general, I would point out that there are no absolutes when it comes to string selection. It's all about which option works best for a specific guitarist with a specific guitar, and the only way to get there is by biting the bullet and trying a few options over a few months.

Just to give you an illustration; when I built my first acoustic I intended to put silk and steel strings on it. So when it came to stringing uo for the first time I slapped a set on...

.. and hated them. I ended up with a set of phospher bronze 13's that worked like a dream.

And, on a positive note, there is an open mic night in my village pub once a month and for the last few months there has been a woman in her 60's turning up with her Ovation and singing 1960's folk and country songs. She always get's a great reception and I hope your mum would get the same where she is in Canada.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby IvanSC » Sat Oct 06, 2018 11:29 pm

Just a quick "me too" for Wonks`s suggestion of thomastik plectrums. My little 000 Martin became a joy to play when I put a set on it. Plus they seem to last forever.
I have arthritis in both thumbs (in fact in both hands, but thumbs are worst) and struggle to even hold a pick these days, but the Plectrum strings really help with the left hand work.

Haven`t tried them on anything else, but I may buy a set of their electric bass strings next time I re-string mine.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Wonks » Sun Oct 07, 2018 10:17 am

And I know that Max won't use anything but Thomastik strings on either electric or acoustics.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:57 pm

I actually use two brands of acoustic string...
1) the aforementioned Thomastik Plectrums.... they're NOT overly bright, and they offer reduced fretting noise as they're "ground wound" , a halfway house between tape wound and round wound.... they have the surface finished flatter than a typical round wound string, which is why they feel smoother to play, produce less fretting noise from sloppy technique , and are NOT as bright as many round wound strings..... they have a very nice balance, bright enough to be sweet , but only sweet, not strident.....

2) Whatever Rotosound are calling "country gold" this year.... (" Super bronze " I believe ) uses a piano string typer construction at the bridge end and offers very precise intonation and a very pure tone , and excellent sustain, but needs a guitar set up specifically for them.... the wound strings all sit fractionally lower than normal strings , as they sit on the core, not the winding .... brighter than "plectrums" and with all the usual fretting noise of round wound strings.





For recording, I would always use Plectrum....

the rotosounds are nice though..... and IF you have good precise left hand technique, would maybe be a better choice.... but the thomastik's make ordinary players sound much better than they are...
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Dave B » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:13 pm

Studio Support Gnome wrote:but the thomastik's make ordinary players sound much better than they are...

Hold my drink ..... :bouncy:
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby blinddrew » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:16 pm

How do the Thomastiks compare to d'addario flat tops?
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Wonks » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:49 pm

According to Thomastik themselves, the E is roundwound, whilst the A, D and G are flatwound (however some sets seem to have a different number of round and flatwounds to the Thomastik generic description) . The plains can either be bought with tin or brass plating, depending on the set.

http://www.thomastik-infeld.com/family-detail/Plectrum
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:04 pm

that's a change from how their rep described them to me when I first started using them....


I've not bought any for several years as I have effectively been sans acoustic , and pre surgery, i could;t really cope with an acoustic for any length of time.... and so was only really playing electric....

Will have to investigate when I get around to acquiring an acoustic worthy of the name (current shoe box is a bit shit , but bashes out a few chords when required.... )
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Aug 10, 2019 11:38 am

Just temporarily reviving this thread to report my recent experiences.

I was obliged to use a Baggs m1a mag pickup on a Crafter so was thrown into a Well of Uncertain Depth to find a set of strings which could be made to sound a little bit like a guitar.

I settled on D'Addario nickel bronze which worked reasonably well for a time but within weeks were pretty unusable. Other people like them so might be a chemistry thing.

Anyroadup, I gave up and stuck a Fishman Matrix UST on the guitar. NBs were horrible, EJ17s choked the guitar top much more than the Takamime ef370s I usually use them on, I tried Rotosounds and Martin's (this is getting expensive) and, in a rage of midnight folly, some Thomastik Plectrum (up to .59).

Game over. I don't know if the guitar is just very choosy, I can't really afford to experiment like this between instruments, but:

Tone - even, clear, percussive but not bright
Consistency - even across the strings more than any others I've played
Playability - tension is not super-low like classical but a revelation in terms of tension/diameter as discussed previously by Herr Spoons. The guitar is a bit agricultural in it's construction so a low action is not really possible but with the Thoms I'm up and down the neck like a heatrash, in a nice way.

I found some on UndermineTheBasisOfTheEconomy-azon for £11.50 each and reckon with a light tailwind the three sets I bought should keep me plucking happily for the foreseeable.

Highly recommended.
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Re: Best light acoustic guitar strings

Postby Wonks » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:04 pm

I've just fitted a set of Rotosound Jumbo King lights (11-52) onto my '65 Gibson Country Western and have got the best sound from it yet. Previously had plectrums. OK, I've just done a full fret level and re-profile to get rid of all the cowboy chord dents in the frets that came with the guitar when purchased. These were causing some light buzzing and affecting the sound, so that may be part of it, but certainly the lower strings (minimal pitting on their frets) sound brighter and clearer than before.

It still doesn't do loud (considering it's a dreadnought), but you get that nice compressed sound as you play harder. I'm liking it a lot more now than when I got it. Sounds really nice and detailed when fingerpicked.

The Rotosounds do produce a lot more finger noise than the Plectrums, but in this case it's worth it for the overall better sound. I have no experience (yet) of how they perform over time, but they aren't expensive - I paid just over £4 per set (in a pack of 3 plus a free nylon guitar strap). And Rotosound strings now come in foil packs that also contain a pack of silica gel, so should last a long time in storage. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00 ... UTF8&psc=1
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