The Best Guitar Strings for Metal

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.

Best Bass Strings

As you may already know, the definition of the ‘best’ strings is always subjective, and based on a number of factors including the genre of music you prefer to play, the tone you are looking for and the type of instrument you are playing. Here, we’re focusing on the best bass strings, having already covered acoustic strings and electric strings on the site. As a keen bassist myself, I have had the chance to try out a number of strings in my time and though I know the best is different for everybody, I have picked up some tips on finding the best strings in my time, which I will share here.

Why Are Bass Strings More Expensive?

It’s usually the first question people ask when they’re looking to buy a set of strings, and the easy answer is purely because of the materials used, of course it takes far more of a material to make a big, thick bass string than it does to make a normal guitar string, either electric or acoustic. Prepare to part with a little more cash when buying bass strings.

Factors to Consider

As with electric guitars, we are largely searching for versatility and reliability in the strings we use, though our bass won’t be processed as much as Electric guitar, with not as many effects, they’re still put through amps and the sound that the strings make won’t be ‘raw’ when it reaches our eardrum. Another key factor to consider is tone, when some of us will be looking for a low, subtle attack on our bass sound, some will be trying to make the bass guitar stand out in the mix with a higher, more vibrant tone. Genre and style play a big part and the main way to find out what works for you is to experiment.

Brands


The brands of bass guitar string I personally recommend are similar to those I recommend for electric guitar. For a good, solid tone and reliable string you need a manufacturer with years of experience delivering exactly that. Ernie Ball lead the market when it comes to guitar strings, and though some different brands come into play when it comes to bass strings, Ernie’s are up there with the best. They’re also pretty affordable as bass strings go, which is a plus point.

D’Addari0 strings are the only manufacturer I would happily have on all three of my guitars, electric, acoustic and bass. A versatile all rounder whose bass strings are up there with the best of them.

GHS Boomers are a little bit of a wildcard, not the biggest name when it comes to guitar strings but they are favored by many bassists around the world, with a sound that really does cut through the mix and help the bass stand out. GHS really specialize in bass, so it stands to reason that their strings would be among the best.

Best Bass Strings Conclusion

As I always say, experimentation is key to finding your sound, and bass is no different. The three brands above will give you a great starting point to find the sound you prefer, but only you can ever find what suits your sound best.

The Best Electric Guitar Strings

Strings have a big impact on the way our guitar sounds, and no matter which type of guitar we are wielding on stage (bass, electric, acoustic) it is important to find the right strings for our purpose. In this article I am exploring the best electric guitar strings available, to follow on from the acoustic string article I have already written.

It is easy to think that you are looking for the same things from your electric strings as you are from your acoustics, but I would beg to differ for a couple of reasons.

  1. The tone of your acoustic guitar is a lot more natural, it is not processed via an amp and effects, whereas your electric guitar probably is. Even if you spend all the time in the world focusing on the sound to come from your electric strings, they’re going to go through a lot of processing to get to the end result.
  2. Electric strings are easier to break, especially if you are bending or playing quite harsh genres of music, which means you need strings that will try and combat this.

So we’re looking for slightly different things with our electric guitar strings, and though the tone is very important (if you start off with an awful tone, no amp is going to make it sound sweet as a nut), we are probably looking more for the following:

  1. Reliability. Not going to break easily.
  2. Tune. They have to stay in tune! If you’re playing on stage you don’t want your strings going out of tune mid song or to have to retune your guitar 20 times in a set. It is important that your strings are good at staying tuned once you have put them there.

So which strings and brands do I recommend as the best electric guitar strings?

Ernie Ball

My number one recommendation for electric strings has to be Ernie Ball. If you were to survey thousands of guitarists about their favorite strings, I’m pretty sure most would say the same. These strings have a rich history, a great tone and fit the criteria we have already mentioned of being reliable and staying in tune! Most opt for their Slinky strings, played by Eric Clapton and John Mayer among many others:

These are nickel wound, but flat wound and other types and gauges are available. It’s about experimenting to find what works best for you.

D’Addario

Already mentioned on our home page and in the acoustic strings article, D’addario are another very strong brand when it comes to strings of all descriptions. I prefer the tone that comes from the Ernie’s but I know some prefer D’addario, and they’re also good at keeping in tune and won’t break every few minutes of playing! You can get three sets for under $10, which is very good value!

Elixir Strings

Elixirs are worth a special mention. There’s no denying their coating makes for an exceptional tone, but in all honesty they’re a double edged sword, losing their tone quite quickly and in many cases breaking easier than other strings. Still, if it’s all about tone for one big performance, they’re definitely recommended.

The Best Guitar Strings for Beginners

Ask even some of the most road-hardened guitarists and they’ll tell you that good guitar strings are good guitar strings, and that no make is necessarily better for the beginner to use, well, I’m here to disagree! There are a few things to consider when it comes to starting playing guitar, and after all you want it to be comfortable and enjoyable if you’re going to stick with it, so what are the best strings to help you do so, and what do we need to think about?

So, you’ve started strumming away on a friends guitar or maybe even bought your own and begun playing, and your fingers hurt! That’s pretty normal at the start, especially if you’re playing an acoustic guitar. Eventually, our fingers get calloused and harder to cope with the fact that we are (hopefully) playing a lot of guitar on hard strings, but don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to just grin and bear it at the start.

Gauge of the Strings

The gauge plays a huge part when it comes to how hard the strings will be on your fingers. The gauge, simply put, is the thickness, you can see a detailed description on our home page but all you really need to know is that the lighter gauge strings will be easier to take for your fingers, something starting at a .9 or a .12 will help, even if they don’t exactly feel like velvet on your fingers.

String Construction (Flatwound)

If you can find flatwound strings then you should think about buying these. This is all about the construction of the strings, roundwound for example will be harsher on your fingers. For a more detailed description of the string construction see wikipedia.

Coated or Elixir Strings

This is a matter of opinion, but many people claim that using coated or elixir strings have a softer time of things than those who don’t! It is a case of experiment and see but some manufacturers do claim that their coatings help, and may be better for beginners.

Nylon Strings

These are definitely easier on the finger and good for beginners, BUT, you can’t simply go and restring your guitar with Nylon, they won’t work on all models. Traditionally these are used with classical and folk guitars so perhaps if you haven’t decided which guitar to buy yet you might lean towards something with nylon strings, something like this lovely classical guitar:


A full sized classical gee-tar from music gear all-rounders and manufacturers yamaha, you might not see one on stage at glastonbury any time soon but they are the perfect guitar with the perfect strings for a beginner looking for a classical or folky sound.

Grin and Bear it Method

Of course, if you plan to become a pro and want to sacrifice your comfort in order to simply become the best, just remember that your skin will learn to deal with it pretty soon. Most of the best tones for pop and rock will come from harder strings, so at some point you will probably want to progress to them. Going through the pain barrier may be for the best in the long run.

How Much Do Guitar Strings Cost?

Musicians often have it tough when it comes to expenditure. Playing guitar, or any instrument in fact can be a really expensive hobby, and even more expensive if you do it professionally. New strings are just one of the expenses you may have to deal with from time to time, and depending on which strings you buy this could be quite a common expense, so it is important to know how much guitar strings cost and what you can get for your money.

Of course, as with any product, there are different ranges that will cost different amounts of money. How much you will spend on your strings depends on factors such as their quality, whether they have a coating, how durable they are and the brand that have produced them. The price of strings does vary, but this article is designed to guide you through the costs.

Budget Guitar Strings

In many ways, you get what you pay for, and most budget guitar strings aren’t going to do you an amazing job, but for a lot of amateurs and beginners they’re absolutely fine. There aren’t many budget brands as such, just budget versions within the brands we have come to know, such as Martin, D’Addario and Ernie Ball. These acoustic strings are an example of what you can get under $5 – make sure you shop around to get the best price.

More Expensive Strings

If you’re going to spend a bit more on your strings, for example if you’re recording or playing out live at an important gig and think it is worth the investment in your sound, you’re probably still only looking at $15-20, which isn’t too bad. For this, you can get some lovely coated strings with a beautiful tone, and though they may be built for sound rather than longevity they are not going to cost you the earth. Here is an example of what you can get for your money.

A real premium brand designed for acoustic guitarists, intricately made and exceptionally reviewed, this is a real luxury string.

Paying Somebody to Restring Your Guitar

This is an option for the less technically inclined, you can pay somebody working in a music shop to replace your strings for you, in this case it is going to cost you the price of your guitar strings plus labor. Most shops will charge you no more than $20 or around £15 if you’re in the UK (like me). You can learn how to do it yourself and in the long term it will save you money, but this is an option if you have money to burn.

Conclusion

To summarize, you shouldn’t often be paying more than $20 too often for strings unless you have an unusual instrument or a 12-stringed guitar, but nobody should base their purchase when it comes to guitar strings purely on the price, and the sound is much more important, you may find that your favorite strings are one of the cheapest you can buy, and who is to say that they are not the best sound for your music? It is all about experimenting to find your own sound, regardless of price.

How to Clean Your Guitar Strings

A guitar relies so heavily on its strings not just because they make it function (of course) but they add a lot to the tone of your instrument and the whole sound you’re attempting to create. Strings are underrated! Sure, they can be a pain to replace, and when they break it is not only the time but the money we spend to restring our guitars that can be really frustrating, but there are things you can definitely do in order to make your strings last longer, possibly the most important of which is cleaning your guitar strings. Cleaning wont just improve the shelf life of your strings but it will preserve the lovely tones of a freshly restrung instrument, so the benefits are clear to see. In this article I’m going to walk you through how to clean guitar strings on both electric and acoustic guitars.

Guitar String Cleaner

The most efficient way to clean your strings is with a product designed to do exactly that, fortunately we can buy these at a very affordable price. You don’t have to get one to do the job, but trust me, they’ll help, and they’ll pay for themselves in preservation.

This Fender “Slick” is not only easy to use, it is affordable, and even claims to increase playing speed by avoiding grubby strings. No complaints. To use this simply rest your guitar neck on a box or similar item before wiping from top to bottom (towards the body of your guitar) – works on both acoustic and electric and comes with a cool little case and awesome design. These can be used on their own or with a cleaning solution (we’ll get to that in the next bit).

Using Household Items/Without A “Cleaner”

This has the same effect, but is just a little less easy to do. Step by step guide:

  1. Rest the guitar on a box or similar (as with the cleaner)
  2. Find a towel or paper cloth
  3. Fold it in half so that you have a long, thin (2 inch ish) towel/cleaner
  4. Apply a cleaning solution if you wish, some people even choose to use WD40! This helps to clean and condition, again improving tone.
  5. slide half under the strings, keeping half on top, so that you’re wiping from both sides.
  6. Slide from neck down to body, wiping firmly without putting too much pressure on. Try not to move up and down as this will cause the dirt and grime that has built up just to spread around, if you need to wipe again use another towel.

You’re done! All clean. The solutions and added products are a real luxury, and even if you just have a paper towel to clean with it is better than nothing. Remember that the techniques above are only going to help you if your strings are in reasonable shape, it wont fix rust (though if you use WD40 it will prevent it) and it can’t turn back time, there are times when you simply need to replace your guitar strings as they all have a shelf life, but that’s what we’re here for. Check out our home page for the best guitar strings and brands available to you.

The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

As you may already know, the term “best” when it comes to guitar strings is slightly subjective, what is best for one model or guitarist is not what is best for another, and that is important to remember. There are, however, certain steps you can follow to make sure you get the perfect acoustic guitar strings for your own needs. To do this we need to take into account the following things:

Guitar Body

There are two mainstream acoustic guitar body styles, the dreadnaught style you usually see played in rock bands or the rounded style of a classical/spanish guitar – known as a grand auditorium body. If you are playing a dreadnaught you may be looking for a medium string, they are designed to handle the tension caused by heavier strings, this tension may break the neck of a grand auditorium style guitar, which are intended to be played with lighter gauge strings.

Your Style and Sound

Of course, the strings on your guitar greatly affect the sound that you end up with, but how? In a nutshell, medium or heavier gauge strings will pick up more bass frequencies and cause a richer, thicker sound that fills a room a bit better than a lighter string, medium strings are usually chosen for strumming style players, which isn’t to say they aren’t decent for picking too, but generally a finger-picking style will call for a lighter string, which will give you a brighter sound filling out more of the high-end frequencies. There is of course room for experimentation here, and I would suggest that you try both while you try and work out your own “style”. Looking for the best of both worlds? There are of course light-medium strings which try to cater for both styles, but compromise is always made in this instance.

Genre

What works for a country song may not work for a rock song, and the strings definitely play a part in this. A mariachi band is probably going to use a lighter string for that ‘spanish guitar’ sound, whereas a rock guitarist may want a thicker, medium string for his acoustic ballads.

Best Acoustic Guitar String Brands

D’Addario – These are one of the best selling types of strings out there, the D’addarios are renowned for not only their quality but for the longevity of use, which means you can play them for a long time without compromising sound, they’re sturdy, thick toned and well made, perfect for those looking for a medium string, though as you can see by their Amazon listing, you can pick different types of string including light, bluegrass (for a bluegrass tone), heavy (for a really heavy and thick sound, probably not desirable in most situations) and of course light. The model in the clickable photo to your left are a great all-rounder and definitely have my recommendation.

For a lighter and brighter model, the Martin 80/20 strings provide a durable and balanced sound, great for all round play. If I were in an ideal world I would recommend an amazing Elixir string, and if you are thinking of performance strings then the coated Elixir strings will do you proud with an exceptional tone you might not get from the Martins, however the tone dies quickly and the extra money you have paid might not feel worth it in the long run.

 

Notable Mention

It is definitely worth mentioning that there are strings out there made specifically for bluegrass, classical and other genres, and if you want one specific sound you can find it in a brand of string.

Conclusion

It is not for me, or anybody else, to tell you exactly which strings you should be using, but hopefully the aforementioned will come in helpful when you are making your decision. Music is all about experimenting and you may go through a few different strings on your journey to accomplished guitarist. Grab some of the above and see what suits your needs.