Acoustic guitar strings are dimensioned with gauges – the higher the number, the thicker the string – and sold in sets. Measurement kits are calculated by string manufacturers to produce even tension across all parts of the neck.
Typical media rates from high to low: .013-.017-.026-.036-.046-. 056.
Typical light sets from high to low: .011-.015-.022-.030-.042-.052.
Medium strings give more tension to sensitive guitar parts and require the player to press down harder when playing. Playing difficulties can be compounded when an instrument is not adapted, which leads to the strings being further away from the fretboard than necessary. Light strings provide less tension and are easier on guitar and player.
Sound is the real reason why some players choose medium. Thicker strings project more volume and give a more ‘solid’ sound due to the mass of the metal strings. Light strings project less volume and provide a ‘looser’ sound. Players who choose lighter strings have weighed the pros and cons and choose playability over volume and tone. Light strings sound perfectly good, they just sound different than medium.
Effects on guitar
Acoustic guitars are designed with thin, flexible tops to provide quality sound. The bridge is installed in a way that affects the highest vibration as little as possible. Guitar strings provide an enormous tension, which is increased with the help of heavier gauge strings. A number of manufacturers do not recommend the use of intermediate socks as the instruments would require extra reinforcement which could negatively affect the sound.
Which is best?
The choice between medium or light acoustic guitar strings is ultimately a matter of preference. Each has disadvantages and advantages, which should be carefully weighed by the player in an attempt to make the right choice. The type of strings installed on an acoustic guitar has a lot to do with its playability and sound. Although thicker acoustic guitar strings tend to sound louder, they can be much harder to play than light strings. Medium strings can also put unnecessary pressure on the neck and bridge of an acoustic guitar, sometimes resulting in expensive repairs.