Quick Tip: Add Bottom End to Your Fingerstyle Playing

How do you choose your guitar strings? No, I don’t mean choosing the brand. I mean how do you choose which gauge to use?

It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to play leads? Go for Light strings. Want versatiliy? Mediums-Light. Volume? Go for Medium or Medium-Heavy. And for Heavy’s, well…I don’t know anyone that actually uses Heavy’s.

But what if there was a way to accomplish several goals at once? In the case of fingerstyle playing, in particular, we are trying to accomplish two things at once.

  1. We want the ability to play quickly and fluidly up and down the neck. This would usually imply using Light strings.
  2. But we also want a full sound, seeing as a lot of fingerstyle playing features prominent bass string movement. Plus, a lot of fingerstylists are playing solo or with minimal accompaniment. So using heavier strings would help achieve this full sound.

A tip I picked up from Jay Leach is to strategically combine strings from different sets. Use the “Light” gauge strings for your higher register strings, and “Medium” gauge strings for your low E.


A typical set of Martin Phosphour Bronze Light strings are are strung:

.12 .16 .25 .32 .42 .54

And a typical set of Phosphor Bronze Medium-Light strings are:

.13 .17 .26 .35 .45 .56

1. Use the Light set for strings 1 – 5.
2. Use the Medium-Light for 6 (the low ‘E’).

Your gauges should be: .12 .16 .25 .32 .42 .56

*You might also consider trading out string 5 (the ‘A’) for the Medium-Light gauge .45.

This is a great combination to enhance bass while maintaining playability. It’s ideal for fingerstyle playing on a steel string.

Where To Buy

Thanks for the heads up from P Cam in the comments below!  You can buy this combination of gauges as a set from D’Addario!

D'Addario EJ19 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Bluegrass, 12-56

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