Finding the best electric guitar strings is the perfect way to amp up your sound without having to spend thousands of dollars on gear. What are the things to look for when you are purchasing new strings? What different options do you have? How do certain types of strings lend themselves to a different type of sound? We strum out all of these questions and much more on today’s sidekick.
Changing your electric guitar strings can be a hassle when you are a beginner, but to any experienced player, it is a life source of sound. What are some the reasons you should consider changing your strings?
For starters, the obvious choice is when you have a broken string. You can’t play electric most effectively if you are missing guitars strings, that is unless you are Stevie Ray Vaughn. Take a look at the way he changes his guitar mid solo while performing. Amazing!
For those of us who are not guitar playing aliens, and do not have private assistants to bring out our guitars, we have to take the time to actually change them ourselves. This is a good thing. One of the best ways to become a better musician is to learn more about your craft.
What Should You Look For When Choosing Your Electric Guitar Strings?
For me, the number one thing you should look for when choosing your electric guitar strings is the gauge level. The gauge of a string refers to the overall thickness or thinness of the wiring, and has to do with the playability of your guitar by it’s strings.
If you are a beginner and you have an electric guitar with higher action, and you set heavy gauged strings, the overall playability of your guitar is going to be well below what you need. When you are just starting out, you need strings that are going to be long lasting and ones that are easier to chord and shape. Light gauge strings are the most effective route to take because they will make your life much easier by allowing you to practice for longer periods of time without your fingers falling off.
On the positive side, in a light gauge strings setup (between .010 - .46), guitars are much easier to play because of the thinness of the wiring. This allows for more bending of notes and makes bar chords easier to produce.
Lighter gauge strings also produce less wear and tear on your guitar by providing a lower tension rate. This is especially helpful for those who have vintage guitars and are not looking to lower the overall value.
On the negative side, light gauge strings tend to break more easily because they are much thinner than heavier strings. Because of their size, they also produce less volume and output because the thin wiring cannot absorb sound long enough to hold and sustain notes. This will make time in between each note shorter, although most effect pedals can compensate for this.
Heavier gauged strings are typically reserved for more seasoned guitar players. Because of their thicker wiring, they are more difficult to play. Each individual string is much heavier and requires more thumb and finger power to fret. This is a natural turn off for beginners.
However, heavier gauged strings do produce a better overall sound. Because of the thickness of the strings, the wiring allows notes more time to sustain and produces a much larger sound. The thick wiring provides the proper amount of absorption to excerpt more volume and control.
Heavier gauged strings are the perfect choice for alternative electric tuning because they can absorb high or small tension rates while producing the right amount of volume. However, they are not ideal for those who are looking to shred their guitar for hours and hours, unless you have fingers of pure gold.
Choose The Right Material
Choosing the right material is perhaps as important as choosing the right gauge, but in my experience, it is more next level. After you begin to understand how to play your electric guitar and you have developed some sort of playing identity, it is crucial that you start looking for the best tone.
Many will tell you - the most important attribute for any electric guitar player is not their playability, but their tone ability. Having the right tone to set’s you apart from the rest of the players around you (if that is what you are going for).
Electric strings are made out of magnetic materials because they are “electric” in nature. They need a pickup in order to produce sound. There are two main elements used in strings, steel, and nickel. Upon the nickel or steel wiring, is various types of layers or coating. These different types of coating are what allows for different types of tonality. For example, chrome strings produce a warmer tone with less resonance and are a go-to choice for jazz players. As compared to pure nickel, which is less bright but has more sustain and is used by many heavy metal players.
If you are interested in learning more about different types of coating, watch this video below.