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.

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 theirĀ favoriteĀ 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.


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.