Fingerstyle playing or fingerpicking is starting to become more popular again lately, but is somewhat of a dark horse. It is lovely to listen to but not so easy to learn, and it’s also not easy to find strings that can withstand that style of playing while still sounding good.
While there was never a time when people weren’t playing fingerstyle, the recent uptake in popularity has gotten guitar string companies to make strings that are better suited toward this style of playing.
The best acoustic fingerpicking strings are:
- Elixir Nanoweb
- Ernie Ball Everlast
- Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze
- Martin MA550FX
- Ernie Ball Earthwood
- GHS VN
- VIBE Acoustic
- D’Addario EJ40
- John Pearse 700M,
- DR Sunbeam
- D’Addario EJ16
- Martin MEC12
- Martin MA540FX
- DR DSA-2/12
- Martin MSP4100
However, not all strings are created equal, and neither are the preferences of players, so to give you the best chance of finding the right string for you, we’ve compiled a list with detailed reviews in no particular order of the 15 best strings to use for fingerpicking available on the market. Let’s get straight into it!
Though Elixir is relatively new to the guitar string world, they have quickly made a name for themselves as one of the best in the business. Their Nanoweb line, in particular, seems to be extremely popular.
They created a proprietary coating for this line that is said to help them keep their tone for much longer than uncoated strings do. This is what makes them so popular among finger pickers, as the tone is a critical element in this playing style.
These strings come in two variations, phosphor-bronze and 80/20 bronze, and have gauges varying from extra light through to medium. The phosphor-bronze strings offer a balance of rich and full-bodied tone and excellent clarity on the high-end, whereas the 80/20 bronze strings have a brighter and more focused sound.
The only possible downfall about these strings is that they are more expensive than most other options on the market. However, the nanoweb coating’s protective qualities ensure that these strings are also very long-lasting.
It should come as no surprise that Ernie Ball would make it onto this list. They are the top choice string manufacturer among many guitarists, and with good reason. They manufacture consistently good-sound, high-quality strings for an affordable price.
The Everlast line is no exception to that. The “everlast” coating is added to both the inner hex core and the string’s outer wrap wire and is said to be “1000x thinner than any other string coating”.
This coating helps protect the strings and repel the moisture and oils that build up on the string over time and impact their tone. The Everlast strings come in both a phosphor-bronze and an 80/20 bronze variation and come in string gauges ranging from extra light to medium gauge.
The phosphor-bronze strings offer warm and rich bass tones and clear trebles, and the 80/20 strings provide a crisp and vibrant sound with pleasant and expressive overtones.
They have also been said to withstand the treatment they receive when players experiment with different tunings, as finger pickers often do. Overall, these are high-quality and long-lasting strings that come at an affordable price point.
Another incredible string set from Ernie Ball that you should consider is the Aluminium Bronze string set. They offer a new, patented technology that makes these strings more dynamic and expressive than other strings.
The aluminum bronze wrap wire protects the strings from corrosion caused by moisture and oils, and the combination of aluminum bronze wrap wire and maraging steel hex core give the string more projection than phosphor-bronze.
The steel hex core also provides better tuning stability and fatigue strength. These strings offer a more pronounced and fuller low-end, crisp high notes, and greater note separation. They come in extra light, light, medium-light, and medium string gauges but offer the same outstanding tonal balance across the whole spectrum of the gauge range, all at a great price.
The Martin & Co manufacturing company has always been a top contender when it comes to their guitar bodies, but their strings are not to be overlooked either. Their “FX” line of strings have been made specifically with fingerstyle players in mind. There are several variations within the line, but we’ll be taking a look at their 550 strings.
These strings are a medium gauge, phosphor-bronze string type that features a flexible core created to allow for bigger bends and reduce finger fatigue while playing. The core wire is a lighter gauge wire, while the wrap wire is somewhat heavier than usual.
This allows them to offer excellent tuning stability and superb playability. These strings were designed to give a full and balanced sound, paired with rich and bright tones.
The Earthwood range of strings is known to be an excellent acoustic workhorse and is also one of the most popular acoustic string ranges on the market. They are available in three variations: 80/20 bronze, phosphor-bronze, and silk and steel.
They also come in string gauges ranging from extra light to medium, as well as a specialty gauge called “rock & blues” for players who enjoy that kind of sound.
These strings are made from the finest quality materials and are packaged in Ernie Ball’s signature “Element Shield” packaging, ensuring the strings reach you in perfect condition. They offer a rich and expressive sound, which is slightly brighter in the 80/20 strings and warmer and more mellow in the phosphor-bronze and silk and steel strings. Their rich tones also come paired with excellent clarity.
If you like Ernie Ball strings but aren’t quite sure which you should choose, you can always get their Tone Pack, which will give you three string sets to choose from. It comes with the 80/20 Bronze, Phosphor-Bronze Earthwood sets, and Aluminum Bronze set that comes in light or medium-light gauge variation.
GHS is known for manufacturing high-quality strings that provide consistency and long-lasting intonation. Each of the strings in their sets is sealed in an individual package to ensure they stay fresh until you need to use them.
Their Vintage Bronze (VN) range of strings are great for fingerstyle playing and said to be particularly good if you have a guitar that usually produces a bright sound with other strings. These strings will help warm up the sound.
These strings are made of 85/15 copper-zinc alloy wire wrapped around a hex core that produces a rich and warm tone that still maintains its vibrance. They come in light (VN-L) and medium (VN-M) string gauges and offer a more traditional or “vintage” sound when being played, hence the name.
These strings from VIBE are certainly the most unique strings on this list. This is because of their shape. They’re hexagonal! While almost every other guitar string you see on the market is round, the VIBE manufacturers decided to break the status-quo with their hexagonal strings. However, they have not sacrificed the quality or sound of their strings even one bit.
Their strings are made from a high-carbon steel core and wrapped in either phosphor-bronze or 80/20 bronze wire, and their string gauges range from extra light all the way to heavy. Their strings are durable and long-lasting and offer a balanced and consistently warm tone that produces a rich and full-bodied sound. They are comfortable to play and offer great sustain too.
Each string is individually vacuum sealed to ensure that it is protected from environmental factors that could erode them and comes fresh out of the packet when you need it. However, they are also a little bit on the pricey side.
D’Addario is another well-known name in the guitar string business, and their quality and variety never seem to disappoint. These silk and steel folk strings are designed and explicitly gauged to be used in fingerstyle playing, and the silk intertwinings make them feel soft and comfortable on your fingers.
The first and second strings are made from plain steel, and the third to sixth strings are made from a plain steel hex core wrapped in intertwining silk and steel wire. They come only in a light gauge but are said to offer some of the warmest and mellowest tones of any guitar string on the market.
They also reduce string noise while playing, which is very beneficial to fingerstyle guitarists, and they won’t break the bank either (Related: how to play guitar with long nails).
John Pearse was a folk guitarist in Britain, who had a program on BBC 2 where he taught and played guitar for many years. He eventually went on to create a line of guitar strings specifically designed for professional guitarists (Related: Do Professional Guitarists Use Tabs?). The 700M strings are just one of the many string varieties from the John Pearse brand, but these are best if you are a fingerstyle player.
These are durable strings that will keep their brightness for quite some time and feel more supple than some of the other strings on this list. They are made from long-lasting phosphor-bronze and are listed at medium gauge. They provide the player with a supremely warm tone with sweet high notes and rich and full bass tones.
Unlike some other strings, John Pearse 700M’s still sound great even once they have reached the end of their cycle and need to be changed. These are not the cheapest strings on the list. However, you pay for the value you get. They do also come in a John Pearse 3 Pack, which is, in turn, quite a good deal compared to buying a single pack.
This Sunbeam set from DR is another unique set of strings. Many other string manufacturers use hex cores nowadays, but DR did not for this line of strings. The Sunbeam strings have a round high-carbon steel core with phosphor-bronze wire wrapped around it.
Using a round core instead of a hex core means these strings are more flexible than others and also offer longer sustain, without the sudden drop-off at the end.
These strings produce a bright and rich sound that fades slowly and evenly while being played. They come in a custom gauge called custom light and range from 0.011-0.050. This gauge is similar to an extra light gauge from other string manufacturers.
What is also remarkable about these strings is that they are all hand-wound and individually packed to preserve their freshness and protect them from corrosive elements they might encounter during transit to you. Overall, these strings have great consistency and offer some of the best sustain while playing, at a price that is on par with competing manufacturers.
11. D’Addario EJ16
Here is another string set from D’Addario that is great for fingerpicking. They are made from high-quality phosphor-bronze wire wound around a high-carbon steel hex core, which results in consistent and long-lasting tones that are comfortable to play. The sound they produce is a balance between warm and bright and has excellent intonation.
These strings come in a variety of gauges, from extra light to heavy. They also have a medium top heavy bottom, true medium, bluegrass, and resophonic gauges. They are some of the most durable, long-lasting strings that can resist even the harshest of playing styles, which fingerstyle most definitely is not, so you can be assured that they will last you quite some time.
12. Martin MEC12
Nicknamed “Clapton’s Choice,” these strings sure have a lot to live up to. Luckily, they do so with absolute ease. I mean, if they’re good enough for Clapton, then who are we to judge, right? Boasting “legendary tone and playability,” these strings are an excellent choice for reliability, whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist.
These strings are made from 92/8 phosphor-bronze and come in both light and medium gauges. They are said to bring a full-bodied and balanced tone to your guitar while also brightening up its natural tuning. They are high-quality strings that produce a fantastic sound and lasting intonation while also being extremely durable at a great price point.
All-in-all, these strings provide an amazing bang for your buck, and you’ll be able to say that you use the same strings as a guitar legend!
13. Martin MA540FX
These strings are part of Martin’s “Authentic Acoustic” Line, specifically, the “Tommy Emmanuel Signature” series of strings. These strings are also known as “Tommy’s Choice” and are designed to play the fingerpicking style.
They feature a flexible core, which is excellent for string bend and produces authentic and consistent tones. The flexible cores also reduce finger fatigue while playing, in turn, making them more playable.
The wire wrapped around the core is made from 92/8 phosphor-bronze, which gives your guitar a full and balanced tone when being played. They come only in a light gauge, ranging from 0.012 on the high E string to 0.054 on the low E string.
These strings are long-lasting and provide excellent tuning stability, so you can play performances and practice without worrying about tuning your guitar mid-song.
The Dragon Skin string set is another handmade set from DR manufacturers. They feature a hexagonal core wound in phosphor-bronze wire and coated in DR’s K3 clear coating to help keep moisture and dirt off your strings, making them corrosion resistant. These are light gauge strings.
The clear coating is an ultra-hard coating, unlike coatings from other string makers, which are soft coatings. However, the coating does not dampen the sound of the strings. These strings have great volume and projection, a bright sound with very few overtones, and outstanding clarity. These strings are of excellent quality for value, come in a 2-pack, and sound great for longer.
15. Martin MSP4100
Finally, to end off this list, we have another string set from Martin. The MSP4100’s are high-quality strings that are great for daily use. They feature a core wire wrapped in 98/2 phosphor-bronze alloy, giving them exceptional clarity, sound longevity, and wonderful brilliance, something that many artists look for in their strings. They also have great note definition, and it feels like you can hear every individual string as you pick it.
These strings are listed as light gauge strings, ranging from 0.012-0.054 in thickness. The phosphor-bronze windings produce deep and rich bass sounds and clear and bright trebles, overall, a well-balanced tone that’s not too warm and not too bright.
There are many different strings available on the market nowadays, but some stand out above the rest.
Not to mention that some strings are made for particular purposes, which quite clearly makes them more suited to the task than other strings.
All that aside, we hope that we could help you find a set of strings that is right for your fingerpicking needs.