How Do I Choose the Best Electric Guitar Strings?

Dan Cavallari

Electric guitar strings come in a variety of materials, gauges, and tones, so you will need to first decide which ones will be appropriate for your playing style before you purchase. Several types of guitars exist: six-string models, 12-string models, and even seven-string models, and electric guitar strings are sold in packages that will include the appropriate number of strings. The gauge, or thickness, of the strings will have an impact on the playability of the strings as well as the durability.

An electric guitar.
An electric guitar.

Lighter gauge electric guitar strings tend to be more flexible, so the lead guitarist who does a lot of bends or tremolo movements may prefer such strings. The thinnest gauge strings for electric guitars are .009 gauge with .013 being the thickest in most cases. A set of electric guitar strings that is of a thicker gauge will tend to have a chunkier, deeper sound, so rhythm guitarists and those musicians who play heavy music such as rock or metal may prefer such strings. Some trial and error may be necessary to find the right gauge for you.

The thickness of guitar strings will have an impact on the playability and durability of the strings.
The thickness of guitar strings will have an impact on the playability and durability of the strings.

Stainless steel and nickel-plated electric guitar strings are the two most common types available on the market. Stainless steel strings have an exceptional tone that is bright and clear, but they tend to be noisy because they are wound; this means material is wound around a core, which in turn means your fingers will create some unwanted noise when they move over the wound material. Nickel-plated electric guitar strings are not quite as brilliant and bright in terms of sound, but they avoid the finger noise problem because the nickel coating makes the strings somewhat slippery or less rough. The choice will ultimately boil down to your playing style and your desires for tone.

The cost of the electric guitar strings can vary significantly by brand, material, and various other considerations. It sometimes helps to buy strings in bulk once you have determined which brand, gauge, and material suit your playing style best. A more expensive set of strings does not always translate into a better set, and a cheap set of strings may not always save you money; less expensive strings may be cheaper to buy, but they are likely to need replacement more often, meaning you will spend more in the long run.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Keep in mind that electric guitars are very flexible when it comes to strings. On an acoustic guitar, the gauge and materials in strings will impact the sound greatly. That is true on an electric guitar, but you've got an amplifier to alter the tonal qualities of the strings dramatically.

If you're happy with light strings, grab 'em and crank up the bass a bit on your amp if you want a heavier sound.

Post your comments
Forgot password?