Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right Electric Guitar Strings
Truth is - guitar strings have the same impact on your tone as your amp does
Still struggling to achieve your favorite tone of your favorite soloist? People often focus on guitar models and pedal/amp configurations, and ignore the rest. Truth is - guitar strings have the same impact on your tone as your amp does. The material and gauge will define pretty much every aspect of your guitar sound.
The gauge of the strings is marked by the thickness of the thinner string. For example, a 009 gauge means that the High E string is 0.09 inches in diameter. Those gauges also come in different configurations. Also, even the best strings sound dull after some use. Thus, it’s recommended to replace your strings every couple of months. Which ones will you choose next?
008 String Sets
Some folks say that 008 strings are too easy to play and have poor tone. Nevertheless, looks like Jimmy Page has a different opinion on the topic. He’s one of the many guitar legends who are zealous 008’s worshippers. While 008 is the second thinnest gauge, it sounds just great when used correctly. 008’s allow you to get huge, emotional bends and make your riffs sound spacey.
If you strive to recreate early Van Halen days, then the Ernie Ball 2225 are exactly what you’re looking for. Perfect for shredding and fast leads, Ernie Ball 2225 are also very comfortable to use. Those strings have a lot of air between the notes and produce a clean tone. Take a listen to early Van Halen’s albums if you’d like to know more about the kind of sound you can achieve.
009 String Sets
The 009 gauge is widely used in blues. For instance, Albert King, a major influence in the world of blues guitar playing, used strictly 009’s. Other guitar legends, including Carlos Santana and James Hetfield have been seen with 009’s in various occasions as well.
The 2222 have juicier low ends than the 2223. The 2222’s are also praised for having better expression and more durability than other 009’s. In fact, the 009-046 gauge setup has attracted the attention of many guitar legends over the years. For example, Jeff Beck, one of the three noted guitarists to have played with The Yardbirds, is well-known for using 009-046’s.
Whether you want to find your own tone or sound like your favorite guitarist, choosing the right strings is crucial.
010 String Sets
There’s a lot that can be told about the classic 010 gauge. It is considered one of the most popular string gauges for a reason. It combines the playability and brightness of thinner gauges and the durability and rich low end of the thicker ones. The 010 is like a middle ground that fits most guitarists’ needs
Having the same exact gauge as John Borchard's '67 Gibson ES-355, the Ernie Ball 2221 excel when it comes to expression. They feature almost the same low end as the 2222, yet the highs and mids are overall richer.
Elixir strings have a unique signature tone. Many guitarists fall in love with it and refuse to use any other brands. Elixir strings keep sounding great 3 to 5 times longer than ordinary strings. Nevertheless, they might be not the best choice for heavy strummers.
Daddario EXL110 strings have probably the brighter sound in this category. In addition, thanks to their nickel coating, D’Addario strings reduce fret wear. The EXL110 are also considered the hardest to break than any other 010 gauge strings.
011 String Sets
This string gauge usually has a great tone. They offer a rich and deep sound, and more sustain than thinner gauges. On the other hand, you’ll need to exercise more in order to feel comfortable by playing 011 strings.
Besides their signature tone, Elixir strings have a special nano-web coating (hence the name). This allows them to accumulate less dirt or grease. On the other hand, they sound slightly less bright than non-coated strings.
2220 have great note definition. They make your guitar sound more powerful and perform great with any tuning. Due to their gauge, they don’t detune easy. On the other hand, they don’t feel too rough and can be easily bended.
The Bottom Line
Strings have a great impact on your tone. Whether you want to find your own tone or sound like your favorite guitarist, choosing the right strings is crucial. Every gauge has its own pros and cons, and ultimately the choice comes down to what makes you most comfortable.
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