Have you been feeling a little blue, out of the blue, because you can’t play the blues that your soul feels and craves to play? Have you tried anything and everything in your power to sound better, from changing guitars, going from acoustic to electric and back again, all kinds of tonewoods and all kinds of sliders? Has nothing worked and are you down to your last resort? Changing the strings might be a solution for you.
You see, sometimes the reason why you can’t get your music to sound as moody, dirty, or just plain as moving as the blues you hear on the radio is that you might have a set of strings that needs changing. Whether this be because they are old and strung out (ha, ha) or because they were made by a subpar manufacturer, the solution is easy. Go look for the best blues guitar strings on the internet, ask your trusty friend, and maybe you will find something to solve your problem. Since you’re here, let me offer you some suggestions.
What Are The Best Guitar Strings for Blues
Before we get into this I’d like to make a few disclaimers and throw a few commentaries your way that, while you might not find them pleasant, might be constructive towards your music and your future attitude towards playing an instrument.
The problem a lot of people have with “sounding right” when attempting to play in the confines of a genre is not that they do not have the right tools for it, but that they do not actually know how to play the instrument well enough. While you might have a solid grasp of the basics of the guitar and might know what some of the more popular blues guitar chords are, this does not mean that you actually understand how to play blues music. It takes months of practice to actually get good at playing the guitar and then to be able to conform to a certain genre. So my suggestion is, before changing the strings on your guitar, ask yourself – how much of a beginner of the instrument are you?
The same goes for professionals. While you might be amazing at playing different genres of music, you might have difficulty getting to play a new genre without having an understanding of how it works. Do a little bit of research of the techniques of the blues guitar musician and then you will start sounding like one, without having to dip into your savings account for new gear.
Ignore the previous comments if you are already a blues musician and are simply looking for a new set of good strings. Let’s get into that discussion right now.
What makes good blues guitar strings?
A question that has bothered me since I for the very first time decided to play blues. The reality is, just like with any other sets of strings, the best blues guitar string sets are a very individual things. There are several things to consider when picking up a new set, and most of these things are a result of experimentation and understanding what you want out of your strings. Still, there are a few things you know right away, without experimentation, that you can use to help you pick out a set of strings.
First and foremost you need to look at your instrument. Take a good long look at it and answer this: is it an electric guitar or an acoustic one? For those of you who did not know – yes it does make a difference. There are musicians who prefer acoustic and there are those who prefer electric. For them the gauges of the string sets are different. For you too, they will be different, so make sure you are looking at the right type of strings, dedicated to your instrument.
Now that we know the basics, here comes stuff that is a little more detail-oriented.
The gauge of your strings determines the fullness of sound they produce and the ease of play. The thing is that blues loves itself some thick, saucy sound that feels tangible. At the same time, blues guitar players enjoy bending and in general playing with their notes. This means that a certain level of malleability is appreciated. This means that most blues guitar players will find the medium gauge the most comfortable for them. That is 0.011-0.050 for electric guitars and 0.013-0.056 for acoustic guitars.
Now there are still those who like to make life harder for themselves. These people will sway between light and heavy gauges. Whichever you choose there will be a tradeoff – the easy bendability and high malleability of the light gauge strings comes with a flatter sound and much less durability. The opposite is true for heavy gauges – they will be much harder to bend and play with but they will produce a much thicker tone as well as be much more resistant to your picking.
The material you should definitely consider making your strings of is definitely Chrome. The tones produced by this material are very warm and less resonant, giving you the chance for much more speed in your playing. This does not mean that other materials are much worse – in actuality, you can use any material you like for playing blues music, it is just chrome is more prevalent in the genre thanks to its characteristics.
After going through the list of the best blues guitar strings and the general discussion about them, you might find yourself picking up a set or two. You might find yourself sitting in a room, full of light, smoke, and silence. You will stare down at your guitar as you string it up, reflecting on what you have been doing wrong up to the very point in time you are in. Guitar techniques, musical riffs, chords, and tones you found to be not good enough to compare to the greats that once were. You might find yourself wondering, why you keep playing, day in and day out, when you cannot achieve anything those before you have already achieved.
When you strike the first chord you might feel disappointed because the guitar doesn’t sound anything like John Lee Hooker’s guitar did. You will keep playing something, but you will not feel like it can compete. If that does happen to you I want you to remember something that John Lee Hooker himself said: “I don’t play a lot of fancy guitars. I don’t want to play it. The kind of guitar I want to play is mean, mean licks”. Now that might not make a lot of sense right now, but think of it this way: the man was not trying to measure up to anyone. He was not competing with anyone.
He did not try to play fancy guitar because his guitar playing was not intended to impress anyone who came before or after him. His music existed only because he wanted to play it. It was his own child that was created for the sake of himself, enjoyment, and fun. It was pure musical genius because it was a musical reflection of who he is. Take a pointer or two from him then. Don’t try to compete or compare yourself to anyone. Admiration does not mean you have to compare yourself, it means you can learn from them and build upon them. It means that you have the chance to use their influence to build something unique. Play your own music, is what I’m saying.