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Whether you’re new to guitar playing or a callous-handed OG, picking the right strings is a matter of ability and tonal taste. The best electric guitar strings are available in a wide variety of gauges and materials, each supporting different playing styles and offering different sounds when picked or plucked.
What You Need to Know About Buying Electric Guitar Strings
Nickel-plated steel round strings offer clear and vibrant tones. Others may prefer the warmer, more vintage sound of pure nickel, while yet another group of aficionados may lean towards stainless steel strings because of their bright twang. As for jazz musicians, they play to their own rhythm and tend to prefer flat wound strings because of the smooth warmth of their sound.
Generally speaking, electric guitar strings come in two basic designations: light and heavy. Lighter gauge strings are typically easier to play because they bend with less effort. Additionally, lighter gauge strings cause less tension on the neck of the guitar, making them a safer choice with more delicate instruments. However, due to the lighter form factor, these strings are prone to more frequent breakage, and they are not great for high volume shredding, though are arguably a necessity for nimble-fingered, high intensity progressions.
Alternatively, heavy gauge strings are usually for more experienced players, since they are more difficult to bend and require a bit more finger strength to strum. The thicker strings produce a higher volume output, but do put more pressure on the neck of the guitar.
Ultimately the decision is not binary, but a bit more Goldilocks. There is no definitive right or wrong string setup — it is truly a matter of personal taste. The differences between string gauges and wind types can be subtle, and thus the best course of action is to try a bunch and determine which style best suits your playing habits as well as elicits the best tactile response.
1. D’Addario EXL110-3D
Ask any electric guitarist for string recommendations and it is nearly guaranteed that D’Addario will be the first name out of their mouth. Capitalizing on years of string-crafting excellence with modern technology, D’Addario engineers stunning performance strings. The EXL 110s produce “bright” tone with a tactile response that keeps players addicted to their axes.
These strings are made from a nickel-plated steel with a high carbon steel core for durability.
PROS: The hexagonal core allows for exceptional durability and tonal accuracy.
CONS: Some users have had issues with low E strings.
2. D’Addario NYXL1046
D’Addario makes the bold claim of “playing fearlessly,” encouraging guitarists to play freely without worrying about breakage. Their nickel-plated NYXL strings are a newly-engineered set with “break-resistant” high carbon steel core.
The NYXL strings are designed with striking mid-range frequencies in mind. These strings will bend but not break under extreme shredding, so go all out. Guitarists say these strings are super comfortable to play, and won’t cause calluses or finger fatigue.
PROS: Premium build quality and superior engineering create acoustic excellence.
CONS: Built for a more advanced guitarist.
3. Fender 150R
The Fender 150R pure nickel strings are most appropriate for those who play blues, jazz, or classic rock, delivering a round, full tone. These electric guitar strings are of the highest quality and will endure dramatic jazz riffs and classic rock solos. Think modern mechanics with a vintage ethos.
Fender strings are known for being comfortable to play while being easy to install as well, and they’re backed by decades of experience from this expert guitar and accessories manufacturer.
PROS: Great everyday option for the hobbyist with grander visions.
CONS: Heavier gauge does put extra force on the guitar and may take some subtle customization.