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Electric Guitar Strings for Beginners

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If you’re just starting to play the electric guitar, you might feel confused by all the different guitar strings available. There are a few major differences that will affect your sound, and playability.

There are usually six strings on an electric guitar, (Some can have seven or eight.) and you will usually buy them in sets of six strings. (That’s a full set, high e to low e, not six of only one string.) They are usually tuned in standard tuning as follows:

  • e (Thinnest String)
  • b
  • g
  • d
  • a
  • e (Thickest String)

When talking about strings, you usually reference them from smallest to largest, or simply reference the highest e string. For instance, if someone says they switched from 11s to 10s, they usually don’t mean they only switched the high e string to a 10, they mean they switched to an entirely smaller gauge of strings, starting with the high e being 10.

String Gauge:

String gauge refers to the thickness of the guitar string. They measure in inches across diameter, so an 11 gauge string is .011 of an inch in diameter, and a 46 gauge string is .046 of an inch in diameter. For ease, everyone just calls them 11 or 46 instead of .011 or .046.

Sets of strings are usually referenced by the size of the high e string, (The smallest string on your guitar,) but they are also often referenced (especially on packages) as “high e string – low e string”. For example, 10-52 would mean the string gauges run from the high e string (10) to the low e string (52). A good standard set of strings for a beginner will be 10-46, or high e 10 to low e 46.

Plain Vs. Wound:

On electric guitars, the lowest three strings are often wound. String manufacturers take a smaller wire, and wrap it around a smaller gauge plain string to get the diameter they need. If they didn’t do this, the strings wouldn’t be as resonant, and the low e would be similar to playing bailing wire. The high e, b, and g string are usually unwound, or plain, although string sets can be found with the g string wound. (This is often the case on acoustic guitars.)

Round Core Vs. Hex Core

The center of a wound string is called a core, and it can be round shaped, or hex shaped. There is a lot of debate as to which is better, but nowadays most strings are hex core, although round core are still manufactured, and popular with some players.

Hex Core versus Round Core
Hex CoreRound Core
Stiffer Feel
Less Likely to Break
Tuning is More Stable
Brighter, Clearer Sound
Traditional Style
More Bottom
Less Highs

Flat wound Vs. Round Wound

Guitar strings can be wound flat or wound round. This refers to the way the outer string is wrapped around the core. Most electric guitar strings are round wound, although flat round strings are preferred by a lot of jazz guitarists. Flat wound strings are smoother, and cause less finger “squeak,” but are more expensive, and aren’t as bright sounding. Beginners won’t usually benefit from playing flat wound strings.

Flatwound versus Round Wound Strings
Round WoundFlat Wound
Brighter Tone
More Harmonics
Finger Squeak
Darker Tone
Smoother, Less Squeak
More Expensive

Coated Vs. Uncoated

Finally, we have coated and uncoated strings. Coated electric guitar strings have a microscopic polymer applied to them. This is meant to help resist corrosion, as well as the buildup of sweat and dirt left on the strings by your fingers. In theory, this helps the strings to last longer. The downside is that coating can change the way the string sounds, eliminate some of the highs, and change the way the strings feel. Also, the coating can start to come off the strings, leaving a stringy mess on your fretboard. Some people swear by coated strings, but for a beginner, they’re probably not necessary, or worth the extra money.

Coated StringsUncoated Strings
(Theoretically) Last Longer
Can Feel Slicker
Affect Tone
More Expensive
Available in Colors
Less Expensive
Unaffected Tone

Recommendations for Beginners

These are some strings I would recommend for a beginner. Once you’ve been playing for a bit, you’ll probably want to experiment with different string gauges, and brands and find which ones sound and feel best to you. For now, the strings on this list should be a little easier on a beginners fingers, and appropriate for any style of playing.

1. Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

Ernie Ball have been producing guitar strings since the ’60s. They are called ‘slinky,’ because your fingers will feel less resistance when sliding your fingers up or down the fretboard when compared to other guitar strings. They provide a full, balanced sound, are popular with a lot of players, and are easier on your fingers. Highly recommended for beginners.

  • Core Shape: Hex
  • Core Material: Steel
  • Wrap Material: Nickel-plated steel
  • Plain Material: Tin-plated High-Carbon Steel
  • Gauge: 10-13-17-26-36-46

Click here and get yours now.

2. D’Addario EXL110

D'Addario EXL110

The D’Addario EXL110 electric guitar strings are D’Addario’s most popular set of strings. They are ideal for all genres of playing, and are designed to have a bright tone, reduce fret wear and be long lasting.

  • Core Shape: Hex
  • Core Material: Steel
  • Wrap Material: Nickel plated steel
  • Plain Material: High Carbon Steel
  • Gauge: 10-13-17-26-36-46

Click here and get yours now.

3. GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers

GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers

GHS has been producing guitar strings in Michigan since 1964. Their Boomers are the “flagship” GHS electric guitar strings. They are suitable for any genre of playing, and have a long lasting tone, and bright sound.

  • Core Shape: Round
  • Core Material: Steel
  • Wrap Material: Nickel Plated Steel
  • Plain Material: Steel
  • Gauge: 10-13-17-26-36-46

Click here to get yours now.

4. DR Strings Tite Fit MT-10

DR Strings Tite Fit MT-10

DR strings have been hand making guitar strings using classic construction techniques since 1989. They are a great all around electric guitar string suitable for a wide range of styles and genres, and provide a clear, tight, fat sound.

  • Core Shape: Round
  • Core Material: Steel
  • Wrap Material: Nickel Plated Steel
  • Plain Material: Steel
  • Gauge: 10-13-17-26-36-46

Click here and get your now.


Why Do I Need To Change My Strings?

Guitar strings start to degrade the second they come out of the packaging. This is why they’re usually in some kind of sealed package. Once out of the package, they’ll slowly become harder to keep in tune, and start to look darker. Metal fatigue, oxidation, sweat/dirt from your hands all contribute, until your strings either break, or start to sound less bright, and full.

How Often Should I Change My Strings?

It depends on how often you play. A professional who plays for three hours every day will change his strings a lot more often than someone who only plays an hour a week. At a minimum, you probably want to change your strings every few months.