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What are the best electric guitar strings for me?
Considering the enormous variety of brands, prices and offers that the electric guitar string industry has to offer, choosing the right model can be confusing. To make your choice easier, here are a few important things to consider:
Gauge: This refers to the thickness of each string. The most popular and the one you should choose in case of doubt is .010-.046, corresponding to the average size. The figure .010 refers to the thinnest caliber, that of string 1, while .046 is the widest or string 6. Another very popular size is the light, whose measures are .009-.042. These strings being narrower require less effort and are more optimal for bendings. If your playing is smooth and fast, or you play many hours a day, these are definitely your strings. Now, less tension means that the sound has less presence and the pitch less stable. Exactly the opposite of the latter is the third choice of strings that we want to highlight. The strings with caliber .011-.048 correspond to the heavy size. They are harder and more difficult to stripe, but also more resistant and allow tearing with force. Due to their thickness, the resulting tone is lower and more powerful. Beyond these three measures, there are options and combinations for all tastes. The best thickness will always be the one that fits your sound and playing style. This would be our recommendation:
- Light: Suitable for solos, fingerpicks or bendings. They are also recommended for vintage guitars because they exert less pressure on the neck.
- Medium: This is the most versatile thickness. For guitarists who combine playing plectrum or finger, chords and solos.
- Heavy: For guitarists who like to strum strong chords. They are more resistant and support greater tension. Ideal for jazz or acoustic playing because they have more volume and sustain.
Materials: Electric guitar strings usually consist of a steel cable, which can be twisted or untwisted (wound or unwound). The big difference between some strings and others lies precisely in the coating. The most popular is nickel-plated, which provides a good combination of warmth and brightness. Pure nickel is also very appreciated for being warmer and with a more vintage tone. The stainless steel ones are more resistant and offer more sustain. There are other materials such as cobalt, copper or chrome, but much less common.
Winding types: Roundwound strings are the most standard and consist of a circular cable wound over the core. They are the cheapest and most popular electric guitar strings. Flatwound strings, on the other hand, have a flat ribbon wrapper. The difference between the two is the rougher feel of the roundwound, and smoother on the polished surface of the flatwound. In terms of sound, the flatwounds offer a warmer, melodic and softer timbre, ideal for jazz. Round-twisted ones have a brighter, more aggressive tone. Their sound is more defined and therefore the noises of the fingers are more pronounced when playing. The most common in rock and blues.
Core: Finally, the core of strings 4, 5 and 6 can have a circular or hexagonal shape to obtain a greater fixation of the winding and prevent the winding from slipping. The hexagonal section adds more brightness to the sound due to the empty space created between the core and the external twist. Although invented by D'Addario, the hexagonal core has become a standard for almost all manufacturers. The round core provides a warmer, vintage tone.
Coating: In order to increase the durability of the ropes, manufacturers such as Elixir have opted to coat their ropes (coating) to prevent dirt accumulation and corrosion of the ropes. These ones are a little more expensive but they assure a greater resistance and a prolongation of the tuning of your electric guitar. They also have a softer feel and squeak less. In spite of their advantages, their detractors affirm that with the coating you lose brightness and sustain.
As we can see, buying electric guitar strings depends on the factors we want to prioritize, be it durability, brightness or softness. However, the best strings will always be the ones that best fit our way of playing, and the personal choice depends solely on the musical perception of each guitarist. We recommend that you try and experiment with each of them to find the ones that best suit your own sound.