The strings on your electric guitar have a major impact on its sound, volume and playability. If you’ve taken a look at the vast & daunting number of strings & manufacturers, you’ve likely realized that there’s a lot to consider in figuring out which strings are right for you and your Guitar.. Read on to find the strings that best match your electric guitar, music, and playing style.
Today, electric Guitar Strings are manufactured in a range of thicknesses or gauges. These gauges are designated in thousandths of an inch. The lightest strings are typically an .008 (often referred to by guitarists as an “eight”) and the heaviest a .56 (or fifty-six). String gauge has a big influence on playability, sound, volume, sustain and lifespan.
Lighter gauge strings:
Heavier gauge strings:
Most string manufacturers identify the string gauges in a set using terms such as “extra light” or “heavy.” While the exact gauges may vary slightly among manufacturers, here are typical gauge ranges for electric guitar string sets:
String sets are sometimes identified by the gauge of the high E string—the smallest-gauge string. A “medium” set of electric guitar strings for example might be just identified as an “0.11 set”.
The most important items to consider in shopping for electric guitar strings are:
The things that impact those factors are:
We’ll next look at each of these variables to come up with the strings most likely to work for you and your guitar.
As mentioned above, lighter strings are easier to play. If you aspire to be a shredder burning up the fretboard with lighting-fast leads and intense rhythm chording, you’ll want to use lighter gauges. That said, if you’re a metal player who uses detuned scales such drop-D tuning, heavier gauges are needed. Should you be like us at Blues Guitar Center, you are probably a Blues to Blues/Rock Guitar Player. For us, tone, sustain and bendability are the focus. We suggest nothing lighter than a .10 to .46 set and probably nothing above a .12 to .50 gauge. Unless of course you are determined to be like SRv. Mr. Vaughn was prone to very, very heavy strings ( in the range of .13 to .54)
Cleartone Treated Strings have a 1-micron coating that greatly extends their life without impacting tone.
Blues and classic rock guitarists who use a lot of string bends often settle on medium gauges that combine reasonably easy bending with more sustain and fatter, richer, darker tone. Mainstream jazz guitarists typically use heavy-gauge flatwound strings since they don’t typically do a lot of note bending and want a broad tone spectrum.
Elixir Nanowebs have a polymer coating on the tops of wound strings and anti-rust plating on plain strings to prolong the life of the entire set.
Most new guitars come strung with super-light or light-gauge strings. For beginning players, that’s probably a good place to start. As you develop fretting and picking skills and your fingers gain calluses and strength, you may want to gradually move up to heavier strings, depending on the music you play and the tone you seek. Many guitar manufacturers make specific recommendations about what strings to use. Some produce their own strings or have them custom-manufactured to their specifications.
DR NEONs have bright colored coatings that look great in natural light and glow under black lights.
The key to finding the gauges that work best for your playing style is experimentation. Try various gauges, brands, and string compositions to find those that feel best to your fingers and are most pleasing to your ears.
Differences between various string types can be pretty subtle, but focusing on the nuances of touch and tone can help lead to your own signature sound.
Keep in mind that changing string gauges may require adjustments to your string height or “action” at the bridge saddles as well as adjustments to the nut and neck. Depending on your skill and the type of guitar you own, this may be better left to a guitar tech.
All electric guitar strings are made using steel, nickel, or other magnetically conductive metal alloys since they’re essential for transmitting string vibrations to the magnetic pickups. The type of plating or coating applied to the steel alloy has a significant impact on the strings’ sound. Here are some general tonal characteristics of the most common types of strings:
High E, B, and sometimes G strings are unwound. The other strings have a winding wire wrapped tightly around their cores. The method used to wrap the strings affects both tone and playability as noted below:
There is no stock answer, but here are some factors that shorten the life of your strings:
Hopefully, after Reading this intro guide you will have a good overview on the basics of Guitar String theory and application.
Now, as Blues Enthusiasts, what are our favorite Brands of Guitar Strings at Blues Guitar Center? First Choice: D'Addario NYXL Nickel Coated Steel, in objective testing they out perform every other string. Subjective testing, well, only you can judge that. I can attest to the fact that you will think you changed your pickups after trying a set of these strings. Longer life and more responsive to the pickup are hallmarks of this set from a Premier maker of Guitar Strings. Second Choice: And a close second at that are Ernie Ball Cobalts. They perform as close to the NYXL's of all the Ernie Ball sets.