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.
Top 5 Best Electric Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set, .010 – .046
There are items on the market that are more used than others, and there are items that are simply ubiquitous. Items such as Nickel Wound string sets in the gauge of .010-0.46 are some of the most often found strings on the market. Priced for the perfect balance that is struck between ease of play and fullness of sound, they will often be easy to find and of high quality. The Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set, .0.10 – .046 is one of these ubiquitous items, but standing at an exceptional quality that you will find useful for a long time after buying the strings. The history of the Ernie Ball strings goes a long way into the past. Once upon a time Ernie Ball had his own music shop, often graced by visits from known and lesser known musicians thanks to the option to pick custom finish strings for their guitars. These customized gauges were often easier and more fun to play, which is why the Ernie Ball strings became a legend. Fortunately the Ernie Ball strings did not get picked up by any major manufacturers at the time, meaning that you get to enjoy the original make of Ernie Ball yourself, without the middleman.
D’Addario EXL110 Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings, 10-46
When I talk about ubiquitous, I am not talking about just the brand of the strings that you are looking at. I am also talking about the type of the sting – the Nickel wound, 10-46 gauge strings that are so adored and often bought by musicians everywhere. The thing is, there are dozens of brands out there making these types of strings, so how do you differentiate and choose the strings that actually deliver on their promises? One of the key actions you will be taking is to make sure that the brand you are buying from has a history of being trustworthy. There are many out there who overpromise and underdeliver, but the brands on this list have a good record of producing great strings, as far as I am concerned. The D’Addario EXL 110 Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings, 10-46 are part of the list of the trustworthy brand. Costing a dollar more than the previous option, these strings are just as good and possibly slightly better. They have a great, full tone that you will enjoy, are easy enough to play and have a long lasting lifetime. The point where they are different from the previous option is the slightly expanded longevity, but that also depends upon you. It doesn’t matter which strings you have, if you strike with the full force of Thor’s hammer, you will break them.
Elixir Strings 19052 Coated Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, .010-.046
Sometimes even the most replicated items in the world will find a reinterpretation that might make them worth taking a closer look at. Some of these items will even start to stand out as uniquely useful and find their place in the context of the market and the world they are being used in. Sometimes this might mean an enhanced structure and at others a unique use. In the case of guitar strings, the Elixir Strings 19052 Coated Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, .010-.046 are one of the few products on the market that found a way to give the nickel steel strings a slight upgrade. The coating on top of the stings allows them to last a longer time, giving the set a resistance against corrosion and wear over time. This is done without having to sacrifice the fullness of tone or the flexibility and ease of play of the strings. What is sacrificed is the price of the strings, almost doubling from the more affordable price of the previous two options. While that might seem like a turnoff, remember that having to buy strings less might end up saving you money in the long run. Don’t go busting your wallet though, since getting the same quality of sound is possible with cheaper options and you can make your strings last if you care for them.
DR Strings NMCE-10 DR NEON Electric Strings, Medium, Multi-Color
If you are one of the many bros and gurls who go out of their way to get onto the open air to listen to electronic music and love glowy things, you will find these guitar strings to be the best thing in the world. I mean who doesn’t like to throw a little bit of personality out into the world, attracting more attention as they stand on stage in front of thousands of people already. Aesthetics is quite important of course, which is why I am recommending these strings to whoever is looking to impress with looks before going for the sound. Built-in many ways just like the other string sets on this list, the DR Strings NMCE-10 DR Neon Electric Strings, Medium come in a Multi-Color option that glows in different colors in the dark. Awesome stuff really, could be one of the best electric guitar strings for beginners. These are all flash and while having some substance, you might be better off buying a set of different strings for a cheaper price if you want a good sound. If you are a beginner, you will find these to be a delightful toy, until your musical ability grows and you are finally able to identify good sound.
Fender 3250 Super Bullets
Fender loves everything musical, which is why they dabble in making anything musical they can get their hands on. Guitars, mandolins, banjos, drums, harmonicas and a whole bunch of accessories are being manufactured by them, strings included. Fortunately, Fender knows what they are doing most of the time and this time around they are offering us the Fender 3250 Super Bullet strings. Available in many gauges, these nickel wound strings are perfectly fine whether you are a beginner or a professional looking for a new set of strings. They are a full toned, easy to play set that you will find enjoyable for as long as they last, which they will do for a handsome amount of time. The bullet end design makes these perfect for fender and stratocaster guitars, with easy stringing and little to no slack left after the process. Sturdy enough and full toned enough is what makes these some of the most popular string sets in the world, whether bought by jazz lovers or hard rockers. You might find them just as useful as they do, and while a little pricier than the other options, these strings often end up on sale at one place or another. Good option all around, just make sure you can actually use them on your guitar.
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.