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How Tight Should Acoustic Guitar Strings Be? (Things to Consider)

Nothing is more frustrating than floppy or acoustic strings that are too tight.

In this article, I will be discussing how tight the strings on your acoustic guitar should be.

Afterwards, this article will be going in two directions. I will be discussing:

  1. How to achieve the right string tightness while tuning an acoustic guitar by ear, and;
  2. What to do if the strings of your acoustic guitar feel too tight

Let’s get onto it.

How Tight Should Acoustic Guitar Strings Be?

The strings of your acoustic guitar should be so tight as to keep the instrument in tune. You want to make sure your acoustic guitar is still comfortable to play and the strings are not too loose or tight.

If this is the case, then you may want to consider different gauge strings for your acoustic guitar.

The importance of tuning machines

A six-string acoustic guitar has six tuning keys whose job is to maintain the right tightness of the strings. However, as the tuning pegs are constantly under tension, the lower quality ones tend to give in and loosen the strings they command by a tiny notch.

Hence, you’ll have to tighten (tune) the strings more often. 

By contrast, top-notch tuning keys like Grover 102-18N Rotomatic are more resistant to string tension and maintain your acoustic instrument in tune for a longer period of time.

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Acoustic Guitar

The Strings

The strings of a brand-new acoustic guitar may feel too tight at first.

They need time to find their optimal seats on the guitar so that the tension behind the nut and between the nut and the tuning keys becomes equal to that behind the bridge, between the bridge and the tailpiece, and along the entire scale length.

How Hooke’s Law Affects String Tightness

As per Hooke’s law, the deformation of an elastic object or material is proportional to the stress applied to it. Because tuners constantly apply stress to the strings to keep them in tune, then the strings are bound to undergo some deformation, so you’ll have to replace them over time. 

Top-quality strings Elixir 80/20 Bronze with Nanoweb or Gibson Masterbuilt Premium retain their tightness for longer.

String Tightness & Tuning “By Ear”

If you have an acoustic guitar, you should already know your E-A-D-G-B-E. With a finger on the fifth fret, use your best hearing to determine if the bottom string on the fifth fret sounds like the A above it. Similarly, the G string is tuned from the D string, and so forth. 

If the sound is a bit flat, tighten the string until it starts sounding bright and crisp. The B string is the only exception as it is tuned from the fourth fret. The top two strings are again tuned from the fifth fret. 

In short, when your acoustic guitar’s sound gets a bit flat, it’s time to tighten the strings a little bit.

How Acoustic Guitar Setup Affects String Tightness

If your guitar’s strings are well-seated but still feel a bit tight don’t rush to replace them with a lighter set, as keeping the right intonation will become a challenge.

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Check The Action

Lowering the saddle by a notch or two may reduce the tension in the strings. However, if the action is set too low, fret buzz may appear. Turn the saddle’s screws clockwise to raise it and counter-clockwise to lower it.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this article has helped you if you are having a problem with the tightness of your acoustic guitar strings.

If you have any questions or comments then let us know using the comments section below.

Until next time!