Metal is truly a genre like no other, and in many cases the equipment used is different to in any other type of music. All the different types of metal have signature sounds made from a combination of certain guitars and effects. It is important then for metal players to be using the correct strings for metal music, that will make the tone you’re searching for from your instrument. The strings that come with your guitar or that you would use for rock or other types of music might not cut the mustard, so what are the best guitar strings for metal?
To tune down or not to tune down?
Lots of metal music is played in different tunings, drop C or A for example, and if you’re looking to tune down for your music then you are probably going to be better off using a thicker gauge of strings. This D’Addario model is the perfect example of strings with the versatility to do this:
In the manufacturer’s own words:
“EXL145 is a popular choice for rock and metal where heavier gauges are required. A plain 3rd/G string offers more flexibility than traditional 12-gauge electric strings. Optimized for down tuning!”
These definitely get my recommendation for anybody looking to tune their guitar down, they’re designed for it, whereas regular or light strings just aren’t, and will sound pretty awful if they’re used in this way. As well as D’Addarios you can get good quality heavy strings made by Ernie Ball, or…
These Dunlop strings are designed for metal specifically with the tone in mind, and are excellently reviewed, I haven’t used them myself or even heard them but the reviews truly do speak volumes for the strings, which the manufacturers describe as “Heavy Core strings use special core wire and proprietary wrap ratios to let you really dig in with your pick, while keeping a punchy low end, crisp mids, and silky highs, whether clean or overdriven.” So as you can tell, they’re built with metal in mind.
Not Down Tuning?
To be perfectly honest with you, if you’re not looking to down tune, then a lot of the tone you are making will come more from the effects, amplification and model of guitar than they will from the strings, so we are looking for the same things we are looking for in normal electric guitar strings. For this, we need reliability and a set of strings that will stay in tune and form a solid basis for our sound. In my experience, the best for this have always been Ernie Balls, reliable and rock-style strings that will fit a metal sound just as well once they have been processed. If you’re not tuning down, or just plan to tune down to say drop D, then a medium or medium-heavy Ernie Ball set will be as good as anything for your metal needs. No need for specific metal branded strings, just a good solid tone.