If you have been playing for at least a month, you might have found out that it is not as hard to break strings as you first thought. Hopefully, if it is your first time having a string break, it did not hit you in the eye. I also hope that you had someone to show you how to string a guitar back up, because for a beginner the process might be a little confusing (Thank god for youtube huh). Before you go trying to restring your guitar, it might be a good idea to check what some of the strings you might want to consider buying are. After all, some strings are inferior to others, and being a dedicated musician, you would want to pick up the best electric guitar strings available on the market. The best strings for electric guitar do tend to last longer than the factory-provided strings you got with your first electric guitar and we all know how much you don’t want to go through the process again.
Table of Contents
- Top 5 Best Electric Guitar Strings
- New Strings – What else is new?
- String Gauge
Top 5 Best Electric Guitar Strings
New Strings – What else is new?
You might be thinking that picking up a new set of strings might come with something other new as well. If you are thinking that the new thing is sound, you might not be wrong, though don’t expect too much variation in strings of similar make. A steel-string is a steel-string after all, so what kind of variety does it have to offer to you in terms of sound?
Prepare to be surprised. There are a couple of items that may end up catching you off guard when you go string shopping. After all the materials that the steel strings are made of are numerous in layers and despite being pretty similar towards the heart of the string, are highly varied by the manufacturer in the encasing steel. The same goes for how the string is wound, whether traditional or not, tends to define the type of the sound the guitar will be making. Finally, one of the most important aspects that seems to not exist to the trained eye, but affecting the sound the most, is the gauge of the string. While variability in the sound might not be instantly noticeable to one with an untrained ear, those of us who have experience with music and sound will easily notice the change with the type of string used. Which is why it is important to consider what string you are buying. You want a specific sound and a certain type of ease and comfort while playing. Considering the details of the string set you are purchasing will assist you in getting as close to the perfect sound as you can. Let me break down the details and their effects on the music:
The electric guitar string has a surprisingly complex structure. I don’t mean in the sense that it is somehow made up of complex geometric shapes, but in the sense of it being made out of more than one string. The electric guitar string has a center around which another string is wound. The material of the center hardly varies across the board of string available on the market. What changes is the steel wound around the center, altering the sound of the string as per what is used by different manufacturers. Nickel-plated steel is probably the most popular winding string, for its ability to provide balanced, well rounded sound with snappy and smooth being equally present. There are of course a number of materials offered on the market, each of which provides a certain benefit to the string. The winding metal also tends to define the durability of the string – the stronger the metal, the longer the life of the string will be, before wear and tear take their toll.
There are three ways electric guitar strings are wound: round wound, half-round wound and flatwound. Each one of these provides its benefits and drawbacks that you might want to consider before buying.
Roundowound – The brightest sound of all three types of the string, these are the strings that have “bumps” or obvious winding on the outside. They tend to be harsh on the fretboard and may cause fraying over many years of use.
Half Round Wound – These are the ones that go in no direction of the two, but try to strike a perfect balance between the round wound and the flatwound. The winding is on the inside of the string, with the outside being flat and smooth like with flat-wound strings. The result is a bright sound, but not one that can compare with Roundwound strings, while still retaining the typical flavor and ease of play of the flatwound strings.
Flatwound – you may or may not have encountered these strings in your musical career. These sound a little more muted than the round wound or the half round wound strings, but are also easier on the frets and your fingers. While some might find the idea of lost brightness unappealing, others will realize the true value of these strings and play them the way they were designed to be played.
Finally, the ever-important topic of gauge also known as “what do you mean how thick do I want my strings to be?”
The question arises when you walk into a shop asking for new strings for the very first time. Assuming that you know the very basics about buying things for your guitar, the salesperson will request an answer. Well know this – you are looking at three gauges that you might want to consider.
0.010-0.046 – the middle gauge that you will most often find on electric guitars. This gauge offers a nice balance between fullness of sound and ease of bending and playing the guitar.
0.009-0.042 – the smallest gauge that you will normally find in a guitar shop, this size offers extreme ease of bending and riffing, but at the same time has a limit to the fullness and strength of sound. Be careful with these as playing too strongly might break them, but it is a worthy payoff for some.
0.011-0.048 – the thickest gauge and also one that provides the fullest, juiciest sound for your guitar. This one is not easy to bend or riff with, but will be able to withstand some of the hardest playing you will be doing.
The first time I walked into a shop looking to pick up new string for my guitar, I was dumbfounded by the question that the shop assistant bombarded me with. I mean, all I wanted was a set of strings to replace the old ones I had. When I said that the long-haired twenty-something-year-old sighed heavily, striking me instantly as someone I did not like, and showed a pack of strings at me. I paid and left. Next time when I would come back, I thought, I would have the most specific request for strings ever, so that he would have to spend more than 30 seconds looking for it. What I had not realized at the time was that there was no point in getting specific with strings. The truth is that the best electric guitar strings are the best for one thing, and might be needed to be changed for the next song or genre you are going to be performing in. Of course this does not matter much to a beginner, but to someone who has spent a lifetime performing and playing, the strings play an important role. So, after acquiring a taste for a few types of strings over the next year, I went back to that shop. I intended to make the man’s life a nightmare by requesting several strings that I knew they might not have. The twenty something year old with the long hair and the bad attitude was gone. Instead, I had to torment someone else. I hated the fact that my revenge was never to be exacted, but at least, with the help of my friends, I had grown to know and love some types of strings over others and had learned to make my music sound better through right choices.