Face it: Buying the best electric guitar strings sucks if you are a beginner. The music store has an overwhelming choice – some in pretty packages and others just bare wire. And it’s confusing.
That’s where I want to help. I want to provide you with a recommendation on how to choose the best electric guitar strings for your
As far as electric guitar strings go, I always choose something from the Ernie Ball line of guitar strings.
Not only are Ernie Ball guitar strings used and endorsed by master if musicians like Paul Gilbert, Slash, Buddy Guy, and Steve Vai to name a few big names, but Ernie Ball has lots of choices, depending on where you’re at in your career or if you play in standard or alternate tuning.
Beginners love Slinkys
For beginners, Ball created a special model of guitar strings in the 1960’s. He noticed that beginner players had trouble playing the then standard line of guitar strings, Fender’s #100 medium gauge strings.
Beginners were having trouble holding down the 29 gauge third string, or the “G” string, it being too stiff for beginners’ fingers.
Ball’s solution was to have a special custom set with 24 gauge third strings manufactured so that he could sell them in his stores.
He also had the first string in the set replaced with a banjo string, due to the then trend of musicians “Slack stringing”, or replacing the high E string with a banjo string. Ball combined this with his lighter “G” strings.
This line came to be known as “Slinkys”.
Careful when changing strings
With “Slinkys”, players have to be careful when changing the strings. Because they are lighter, it is easier for them to snap, especially that sixth string.
They are very inexpensive though (around $4 per pack), so you might as well buy two packs just in case a string happens to break.
But they are great for beginners who are still working on their bending strength and will have difficulties holding down heavier standard models.
Nowadays, you can choose either the Regular Slinkys, which are based on the original idea of the 1960’s, or one of the brand’s several offshoots.
Right now, I have Ernie Ball Skinny Top/Bottom Heavy strings on my guitar. I picked these out a while back because they are good for playing heavier types of music, such as heavy metal.
They’re also good if you have difficulties bending top strings, but also want heavier bottom strings.
I like these strings because I always end up breaking my bottom strings if I get regular slinky bottom strings when I’m tremolo picking, or just during string changes. I also like the well-balanced tone these strings give my playing.
These last a bit longer at least. However, strings do wear out and you have to change them regularly anyway.
Drop tuning guitar strings
For guitar players looking to play in lower tuning (drop D tuning in particular), another good option would be the “Slinkys Not Evens”.
These strings are also on the less expensive side, but cost about a dollar more than the “Top Skinny/Bottom Heavy Slinkys”.
Because of the thicker diameter (larger gauges), they maintain proper tension. This helps to make tremolo picking more consistent so that you don’t end up with any unwanted buzzing sounds.
Ernie Ball manufactures a string set called “Beefies”, which are specified on the package to be made for drop tuning.
The “Slinkys Not Evens” are far better than “Beefies” for drop tuning though. The “Slinkys Not Evens” actually allow you to tune lower than the “Beefies” do.
Just don’t try to use “Slinkys Not Evens” in a higher tuning–they would make it harder and more uncomfortable to play.
If you’re looking for some strings that need to last a little longer (like if you’re touring or traveling and you know you won’t have time to stop at a music supply store if a string happens to break), I highly recommend looking into Ernie Ball’s selection of titanium coated strings.
Ernie Ball takes their regular nickel wound strings and coats them with a layer of enamel. The strings also have rust-resistant plating and titanium reinforcement winding. They still have the tone of uncoated strings, despite the coating.
You can choose from “Regular Slinkys” with titanium coating, or Ernie Ball coated “Super Slinkys”. The coated “Regular Slinkys” sound particularly good on Les Paul model guitars.
They’re also good for down-tuning because the tension caused by it tends to wear regular strings out more quickly. I would advise staying in standard tuning if you’re using the coated “Super Slinkies”. They’re still pretty thin and ill-suited for down-tuning.
Elix guitar strings
The other popular brand of strings is Elixir. As crazy as this sounds, my first string at the moment is an Elixir Nanoweb medium. I’m also using five Slinkys on the other strings.
I broke the 1st string when changing them and what happened to be around was a pack of Elixirs.
Elixir strings are a lot more expensive than “Slinkys” (at Guitar Center they go for $10.99), but they do last longer.
I haven’t really noticed a major difference between the tone of “Slinkys” and “Elixirs” on my electric — the acoustic is a different story, though.
The popular verdict among more refined guitarists is that Elixirs give a more “crisper” tone.
Personally though, I’m happy with my Skinny Top/Heavy Bottoms, as long as my first string doesn’t break during a string change.
My first string does feel a little bit more slippery compared to my other strings, because of the polymer tube. But if you can live with that and just don’t want to have to change your strings so much or you like the tone of the strings, then the slippery feeling is definitely no big deal.
My recommendation: Ernie Ball Slinkys
My go-to string brand is Ernie Ball because of the brand’s choices for musicians who play in drop tuning.
I also like their wide variety of gauges they have to choose from, which is what made the brand successful in the first place.
The Elixirs are nice strings and do last longer, but I’ve only noticed three choices when it comes to gauges and the price on Ernie Balls is just better.
If you play in alternate tuning, go with the Ernie Ball strings.
If you just play in standard tuning and don’t want the hassle of constantly having to change strings, then I would suggest Elixir strings.
I’ve had success with both brands either way, and I hope this helps you choose the best electric guitar strings.