A lot of guitarists stick to the same set of strings recommended when you buy a new guitar. It wouldn’t be a surprise if many of you were still using the same brand or type you bought way back when you started playing.
That’s completely fine – you know exactly what to expect from a tried and tested set. But could there be better strings out there to suit your playing now? It’s time to try out a new gauge or brand to take both your sound and playing to the next level. Here’s a very brief synopsis of why you’d change the type of strings you use:
- Different string gauges can help create specific sounds
- Your current guitar strings don’t feel comfortable
- You want to maintain steady string tension in alternate tunings
- Your strings aren’t of the required quality
Experiment with Strings as You Progress
Your string preferences naturally change over time as you become a more proficient guitarist. Thin gauge strings tend to be the popular choice for beginners because they hold a lower amount of tension across the fretboard than their thicker counterparts. This makes it easier to fret, bend and pick the strings, putting less stress on inexperienced hands.
At this early stage, you should opt for packs of 8s or 9s from the likes of the Ernie Ball Slinky range, which aren’t too heavy on the fingers or the wallet if you decide the guitar isn’t for you. The choices you make here on in will be closer suited to the style of music you play.
Just as you would a guitar or amp, you’ll want to adjust your setup to suit a particular playing style when you’ve got all the basic techniques down. Strings play a massive role in the way your instrument sounds and reacts to your fingers.
Why Change String Gauge?
String manufacturers make different gauges to suit certain tunings and genres. That isn’t to say you can’t play heavy metal with thin nickel strings, for example. But it is worth relying on the tried and tested combinations for guidance.
There are four general string groupings: light, medium, heavy and hybrid sets. Check out our blog on string gauge to get a detailed breakdown on each type. Since you were most likely recommended thin strings at the beginning of your guitar journey, it’s worth experimenting with heavier gauges to get a more rounded idea of what works for you.
Rock and metal guitarists will definitely want to give heavier strings a go for their beefy tone and tight feel. Players who use half-step, whole-step or more extreme tunings will feel right at home, as thicker strings deal with the lowered tension better than your standard 9s.
Some string packs swap out just a couple of gauges in order to suit specific tunings. Say you’re playing in an open tuning; you’ll want your first, fifth and sixth strings to be heavier than usual to maintain firm tension which is lost when you downtune. A similar theory would apply if you’re using drop tunings.
Hybrid sets also deal with the conundrum combining the qualities of higher pitch light strings for solos and lower, thick strings for riffing action.