Which strings for a martin dreadnought
May 16, 2008 9:58 PM   Subscribe

For a friend: I have an acoustic Martin dreadnought guitar and I am wondering which type of string to use. I have heard that elixers are good, but was looking for more opinions/info. Thanks!
posted by meta87 to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Different types of strings sound different and feel different. Elixirs tend to sound bright. They're more expensive but they're supposed to last longer. I find that they usually do, although I stopped using them because I'd frequently break one right after changing them, wasting $13. Martin Silk and Steel are nice and have a mellower sound than elixirs. A pack of strings is a pretty small investment -- you should try several different brands on your guitar and see what you like best.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:26 PM on May 16, 2008

Martin's dreadnoughts tend to have a very smooth and slightly boomy tone. Elixer Nanowebs really do sound excellent on them -- depending on the specific model, try out a few different weights. The heavy ones sound best, in my opinion, but they are a bit tougher to play. The medium ones are a bit flat sounding (as in the tone, not the notes).

It really comes down to the trade-off between personal sound and feel preferences -- the boomier and lush sounding strings will be harder on your fingertips, while the softer strings will have a less desirable tone. Also, the latter don't last as long if you keep retuning (e.g. if you like playing Nick Drake songs).

ludwig_van's nailed it -- try a few out and see which ones you like. You can't go wrong with Elixer, Martin, or D'Addario strings.
posted by spiderskull at 10:29 PM on May 16, 2008

You'll get a different answer for each person you ask this question to. It's a totally subjective thing. But in general, use what sounds best for the guitar. I use different brands/gauges for each of my guitars.

Elixer Nanowebs on my Taylor
Martin Silk and Steel on a Martin 0-16NY
D'Addario's for Martin dreadnought and Takamine

It's really not the brand thats gonna make the difference, but the gauge. You just have to experiment.
posted by eightball at 10:52 PM on May 16, 2008

i use plain ol' Martin medium or medium-light strings on my D1 dreadnought.

it's a Martin. it should sound good as long as you put decent strings on it.
posted by gnutron at 12:41 AM on May 17, 2008

D'Addario phosphor bronze... I don't like to play the plastic coated elixers that seem so hip these days.
posted by magikker at 2:30 AM on May 17, 2008

2nding D'addario phosphor bronze. I have a Martin and like them much better than the Martin strings.
posted by supramarginal at 6:09 AM on May 17, 2008

Strings are so personal; I play a D28 and always come back to regular Martin bronzewound strings (not the Marquis or S&S lines) as the right sound and feel for most purposes

I like the D'Addario phosphor bronze strings too, but always found them too boomy in the bass for recording purposes, and less long lasting than the Martins before intonation became a problem

But again, all any of us can do is say what we like; there is no best string and a hundred guitarists will have two hundred opinions about this
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2008

Gotta go against the grain here. Elixirs are shit. They will wreck the tone of a good acoustic guitar because of the weird coating they use. I would recommend anything over Elixirs, except maybe cat hair.

It's really not a big deal to change your strings once in a while. Get a string winder and most of the PITA of changing them goes right away. If you get into the habit of doing it on a regular basis, it becomes second-nature.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:41 AM on May 17, 2008

Sorry: "against the grain of the Elixir crowd"
posted by Mikey-San at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2008

I think the grain has turned around... Another D'Addario phosphor bronze player here. The heavier the better.
posted by zoinks at 2:04 PM on May 17, 2008

Another good thing about D'Addario phosphor/bronze strings: they're available almost everywhere, so the good thing is that you should never have a problem getting them.

Since no one has mentioned them yet, I also recommend trying John Pearse phosphor/bronze strings. They may not be as prevalent as D'Addario but most of the big music stores will carry JP strings. After playing D'Addario strings for years, I was really impressed by a set of medium John Pearse p/b strings and prefer them now. They sound a little richer to my ears, and the tone seems to last longer. I still buy both brands, though (D'Addarios are usually cheaper to buy). But as it's been said, string sound is so subjective.

If you like really bright tones, you might prefer 80/20 bronze strings instead of phosphor/bronze.

As for gauges: try the light, the "bluegrass" (light/medium combo) and the medium sets. You might start in the middle with a bluegrass set and then decide to go lighter or heavier.
posted by macguffin at 11:14 PM on May 17, 2008

We need some more information. I'm going to go with the odds and assume you have a D-28 with bone nut and saddle and plastic pins. Your priorities/preferences would play in here as would your setup. I recently swapped my plastic bridge pins on my D-28 for bone pins, and everything has gone out the window as far as what I can expect from strings in terms of sound. I used to play straight up Martin phosphor bronze mediums, currently have a set of Martin Marquis 80/20 mediums on it but due to the bright, perpetual new string tone (and insane sustain) that the bone pins have given me I think I may go back to phosphor bronze.

If it's a very old or exceptionally expensive guitar consider getting silk-coated strings to protect the bridge - the Marquis strings have this.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:15 AM on May 18, 2008

I have an older d-28. I'll second the John Pearse recommendation - they're all i've put on for the last 7 years or so.
posted by PFL at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2008

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