What makes up an amazing electric guitar? Apart from the electronics, build quality and materials, one of the most important component of a badass electric guitar is strings. No matter how great your instrument is, if your strings suck, the overall sound will be affected. Depending on the genre you play, you will need various gauges, materials and winding, which means you have a bunch of annoying stuff to consider. To make it all easier for you, this article will break down all the parameters according to different musical genres so that you know what you should look for. If you play blues or metal or anything in between, just stay with me as I discuss various string options available for you nowadays. Let’s get started, shall we?
Important details of electric guitar strings
Before moving to actual genres and the strings dedicated to them, there are several things you should know. Above, I have mentioned the gauges, materials and winding, which might be new terms for you if you are new to your instrument. I want to define all of them, so that nothing stays vague or ambiguous for you.
- Gauge: this is basically the fancy term used to describe the thickness of your strings. There are three basic gauges: the smallest gauge (0.009-0.042), the middle gauge (0.010-0.046) and the thickest gauge (0.011-0.048). This is the determinant that we will be using a lot today as it largely shapes the sonic outcome of your guitar.
- Material: the materials of electric guitar strings also impact your tone a great deal. The strings, generally, consist of more than one string. This means that the foundation (which is generally the same for all the brands) is wound around with another string. The most common materials are nickel-plated steel, pure nickel, stainless steel, chrome, titanium, cobalt and so on.
- Winding: there are three basic ways of electric guitar string winding: Roundwound strings have discernable winding patterns and, most importantly, have the brightest sound; Flatwound strings are easier and softer to play and have a bit more muted sound (and they are flat, duh); Half round wound strings are flat and smooth on the outside, meaning that they are soft on touch but still maintain the brightness of roundwound strings.
As I have already mentioned, the gauge of the strings affects the fullness and thickness of your sound. The heavier the gauge, the more character your sound possesses. Since blues has prevalent vibe of richness and fullness, the best choice for this genre would be the medium gauge. It has enough thickness to satisfy the needs of a bluesman, while being easy to bend and fret. You could definitely go for the smallest or the thickest gauges, however, if you want the maximum results, you should still stick to the medium one.
As far as the materials go, the one that you should lean towards to is the chrome. This bad boy has warmth and sweetness to it, which makes it perfect for the genre. The materials are not that important, though, because almost any metal will work just fine. Make sure that you experiment with many of them to see what works best for your sound.
When it comes to jazz, the most common gauge type is the thickest one. The reason for this is that thick gauge has the juiciest and the fullest sound. Even though such strings are a bit more difficult to bend, the tone they create is well-worth it. Jazz guitarists tend to prefer the heavy gauge flatwound strings, since they do not utilize note bending as much and rely on broad sonic spectrum. As with blues, chrome works best for jazz due to its warm character.
Now, the thing with metal strings is that this genre requires a lot of lower tones, dropped tunings and “heavy” notes. It is also played with heavier techniques, which means that the strings you choose must be able to withstand some abuse. You definitely do not need something that will break during the most important moments, right? This is why the thickest gauges work best for metal as well. They are durable, full and thick, which means they can satisfy all your metal dreams.
Other genres and electric guitar strings
When it comes to other genres (and the ones mentioned above), everything goes down to your craftsmanship. If you are a beginner, you will need something that is softer and has brighter tone. This means that you might want to use the smallest gauge, so that it will not be hard for you to bend the notes. As you advance yourself and master your techniques, you can start considering medium or heavy gauges. And once you figure out what you want to play, the music will dictate what strings you need.
No matter how many technicalities we discuss, the most important thing to consider while choosing the electric guitar strings is your personal taste. Your preferences and skills will define what you require from your strings and what is the most significant factor for you. You simply have to play a lot and experiment with various options available, so that you will find the most suitable one in the end. Good luck!