If you’re looking for the best strings for acoustic slide guitar, you’ve come to the right post!
Things to Consider When Starting Slide Guitar
But if I were to give you a simple list of the best strings for this purpose, I’d be outright lying to you. Sure, I’ll share a few sets which I think work well. But there’s no such thing as the best string set for acoustic slide guitar.
Before we even get to strings, we should first think about guitars. The instrument you’re looking for shouldn’t have that electric-like setup. Look for those with higher string action. As you may already know, you can’t do much about string action on acoustic guitars. So you’ll have to find an appropriate guitar for this.
Up next, I’d also recommend guitars with regular or larger bodies. In my experience, something like a regular dreadnaught will do the trick. Just make sure not to use those ¾-size student guitars. And I’d also avoid models with smaller bodies, like parlor guitars.
And finally, we get to the playing techniques. Sure, this is a whole other topic. But no guitars or string sets out there will help you if your playing technique is not on point. You need to know how to apply the right amount of pressure, keep unwanted strings from ringing out, and sort out the pitch.
Best Strings for Acoustic Slide Guitar
Now, we’ve already cleared up that it’s hard to point out specific string sets. In all honesty, anything will do. You technically can’t go wrong with any regular acoustic guitar string set.
However, some traits might just help you get better performance. So let’s get into it.
Favorable Sonic Traits and Materials
For the most part, you’ll want a rich, full, and balanced tone. For this, I prefer phosphor bronze. They have a somewhat warmer tone. However, there’s still enough crispiness in there to have a great attack.
Speaking of, you’ll want a somewhat stronger attack. There’s got to be that zing to the tone, giving it almost percussive-like properties.
Not too much, of course. You still don’t want the noise to drown your tone. Especially if you’re using a metal slide. That’s why I’d avoid 80/20 bronze.
Aluminum bronze might be a good choice as well. However, they aren’t that common compared to phosphor bronze.
I’d avoid brass strings as they’re too bright-sounding. You’d get some pretty harsh tones with it. Furthermore, those silk and steel kinds of strings aren’t the best either. They’d give you a fairly mellow tone and you’d possibly lose volume and sustain. And you definitely want sustain.
There’s one rule with acoustic strings for slide. Thicker strings do a better job. You’d want to go as heavy as possible in this regard.
For instance, resonator guitar strings can get pretty heavy. We’re talking about gauges like .016 to .056.
Heavier strings increase tension. As a result, you get much better and more precise performance, as well improved sustain.
A thinner gauge, on the other hand, will lack sustain. And, most importantly, you’d go sharp if you were to apply just a tad more pressure on thinner strings.
If you’re going to be using that guitar solely for slide purposes, I’d suggest that you get resonator strings. Just bear in mind that maybe not all guitars would handle these well. If you’re worried about your instrument’s structural integrity, then get 13s.
If you’re using your guitar for conventional playing, then go slightly lighter. In my experience, 12s do. Don’t go above that if you’re not used to heavy gauges. But do your best to get used to 13s as you progress.
I would always recommend going with more durable strings. For the most part, any strings with protective treatments or layers keep the tone fresh for a very long time.
Additionally, you need to bear in mind that there’s a lot of friction when playing slide guitar. This is especially the case if you’re using metal slides. So a protective layer will always help.
However, strings with coatings can reduce sustain. Additionally, they may also cut some high-ends as well. But it depends on the strings.
Some Great Examples
Ernie Ball Paradigm Phosphor Bronze Medium
Within Ernie Ball’s collection, Paradigm strings stand out. These have the company’s so-called Everlast nano treatment, which helps prolong their life. So you’ll have a fresh tone for as long as they’re on your instrument.
This also helps them stay more durable. With less corrosion, they’ll stay more resistant to breaking in the long run.
Other than that, we have a fairly balanced tone. There’s also some crispiness in there. They’re pretty much typical phosphor bronze strings when it comes to the tone. And that’s what you’re looking for.
The Medium set is a 13-gauge one. The bottom string is .056 so it’s a fairly thick one.
Elixir Phosphor Bronze Nanoweb
Now, I know I’ve said that protective coatings aren’t exactly the most favorable trait. However, what Elixir does is pretty amazing.
Their Phosphor Bronze set with the Nanoweb coating is a surprisingly awesome one. Above all, I favor their very balanced tone. You can use them for pretty much any genre. They’re also incredibly durable and stay fresh for a very long time.
I’d recommend going with the Medium variant, which is .013 to .056. However, you can also try the so-called HD Light which is .013-.053.
D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze
D’Addario Phosphor Bronze is always a safe bet. If you don’t know which ones to get, you just can’t go wrong with them. They give a balanced tone and fairly reliable performance. There’s enough brightness to help you get that much-needed zing.
And, most importantly, you get enough sustain. EJ17s are a .013-.056 set. This will give you more than enough sustain and tension.
I hope this article has helped you think through these strings and which might be best for you!
And if you want to read more about slide guitar on this blog, then check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!