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What type of strings for a Jack Johnson sound?
Old 2nd January 2008
Gear Addict
simonv's Avatar

What type of strings for a Jack Johnson sound?

Hi all,

What strings would you recommend for an acoustic guitar sound similar to Jack Johnson ?

Old 2nd January 2008
Gear Maniac

depending on what type of acoustic guitar you have, I would use vintage martin or gibson acoustic strings. Even gold ones if you need a brighter sound. I really think his tone is all in his hands though as I've seen him play several "garage sale" type acoustics that are all run-down, yet his tone still prevails. Experiment also as strings are so cheap you could just try a new pair every week for a couple months. You could also check who he sponsors.
Old 2nd January 2008
Lives for gear
mixerguy's Avatar
Originally Posted by simonv View Post
Hi all,

What strings would you recommend for an acoustic guitar sound similar to Jack Johnson ?

It is easy, really.... simply call up Jack Johnson and have him come over to play.


i'm only 1/2 joking.

it is in the fingers.
Old 3rd January 2008
Gear Addict
simonv's Avatar

Thanks, even though it's a bit typical gearslutz "All in the fingers"...
I know it, you know it.. we all know it.

Now, what I should have said is this:
Have you ever been in a recording situation where you've tried multiple types of strings in order to optimize the recording sound of an acoustic guitar played in a way similar to Jack Johnson, and if so, what strings were the best for you that one time?

I'd love to go out and buy 200$ worth of strings and try them all out during studio time to figure out which one will do the trick, but it is not an option. Therefore, I am open to a few suggestions that might narrow it down to 2-3 brands.

Old 3rd January 2008
Lives for gear
peeder's Avatar

12 gauge D'addario is pretty much industry standard and I don't really remember his tone deviating much from that. The pick (or fingernails or whatever) in use is going to have a major effect too. Fender Celluloid or Tortex probably.

Then yeah the guitar and the technique of course. There are people who pick hard enough to make a Martin seem bright and others delicate enough to make a Taylor seem dull.

And finally the recording and mixing chains.
Old 3rd January 2008
Lives for gear
elambo's Avatar
The type of guitar will make much more of a difference. And yes, unfortunately for your expectations, it IS in the fingers. A very small percentage of the tone is the brand of strings. Play around with your picking style - different picks, closer to the bridge, further, lighter pressure against the strings, heavier, etc.
Old 3rd January 2008
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enroper's Avatar

Watch some of his videos closely, he finger picks a lot, and does some cool slappy things with his other fingers to keep in beat with song. It truly is in the fingers.

I've been listening to the guy for years. You look at his songs on paper, and you're like "eh?". But then you hear him play it, that brah has da kine soul.
Old 3rd January 2008
Lives for gear
A LaMere's Avatar

Dude... this is one of THOSE questions to me...

The sound IS in the fingers and guitar... that IS your answer.

My advice is to buy at least one set from each major brand Martin, D'addario, Gibson, etc and then try each out and figure out which one you like the best. After being on an acoustic guitar 3 weeks, the strings will change... so I'd suggest that every time you re-string the guitar you re-string using a different brand until you find the kind that you like the best..

It will take some time, yes. It will cost some dough, yes.
That's music-making in general though... It costs some time and money.
Old 24th February 2012
Here for the gear


I cannot really agree that it is all in the fingers at all!

I have over 50 guitars and I can play each one in the same style and they will have a different tone, this is down to setup!

Jack uses a Cole and a Maton for a reason but it does not stop there!

Ensure that your guitar is setup correctly first and ensure that the neck right for your guitar, there are lots of videos for this on Youtube but it is important, take your time with it.

Jack Johnsons tone also comes from his amp setup as well as his amplified sound as you would expect will have EQ so this gives you more control over the tone etc.

Buy good quality strings, mix them up a little as well, do not just put a set of lights on there because they come in a pack experiment with some lights on top and some mediums on bottom to get a nice treble and bass tone then play around!

Of course technique has a big part in it, but I always found that if I could get a sound like the one I was trying to emulate then the rest would come.

I think that Jack is very much like us in as much as he will take what he can get but the gauge is the tone really if you disregard idiosyncrasies!

Peace V

Old 24th February 2012
Lives for gear
swafford's Avatar

It's my understanding that Jack uses the stretched gut of an armadillo struck by a semi-truck on a state road during a new moon. It's important to string your guitar with fresh gut as the you do not want the gut to dry crimson. I hate that dried crimsons sound.

Best of luck!
Old 24th February 2012
Lives for gear
kennybro's Avatar
Those sound like coated strings to me. A slight damping effect from the coating. Could be a medium or thin pick, or how tightly he holds the pick. A heavy with a light grip will give a softer sound like his.

Also, there's no boominess there, and that could be from the guitar itself, where he's strumming (closer to bridge, less bottom) mic choice & placement, EQ, the whole chain.

Of course, you won't get that sound unless you strum those Latin style rhythms he uses. That's a huge part of it.
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