Ernie Ball manufactures over 200 varieties of electric guitar strings in a diverse selection of materials, string gauges, and styles. Whether you are a beginner or a professional guitar player, you can find the right strings for your level and guitar type with this electric guitar string buying guide.

Electric Guitar String Gauges

Electric guitar strings, like acoustic guitar or electric bass strings, are manufactured in a range of thicknesses or gauges. The thickness of an electric guitar string has a large influence on the playability and sound in addition to other factors like the string material.

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Light Gauge

  • Easier to bend and play, so ideal for beginner guitar players with uncalloused hands
  • Ideal for vintage electric guitars
  • Even projection with bright sound

Heavy Gauge

  • Require more finger pressure to fret and bend notes
  • Hotter output with punchy tone
  • Are preferred for low tunings such as Drop D, Drop A, etc
  • Exert more tension on the guitar neck

Electric Guitar String Materials

Electric guitar strings are made using various metal alloys which have a significant impact on the strings’ sound. Here are some general tonal characteristics of the most common types of strings:

  • Nickel: Balanced brightness and warmth
  • Cobalt: Wide dynamic range with increased low end and crisp highs
  • M-Steel: Rich and full tone with powerful low end response
  • Pure Nickel: Vintage output with a warm tone
  • Stainless Steel: Bright, crisp, “edgy” tone with corrosion resistance.

Ernie Ball Electric Guitar String Comparison

Ernie Ball electric guitar strings come in a variety of materials described above including the popular Nickel Wound Slinky’s, M-Steel, and Cobalt electric guitar strings.  Here’s a quick comparison of the different types of Ernie Ball electric guitar string types. You can also use our useful compare tool on ErnieBall.com to compare any of our electric guitar string products.

P02221Slinky Nickel Wound

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Electric Strings are our top selling set, and are favored by Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Steve Vai and legions of guitar players worldwide. Regular Slinky wound strings are made from nickel plated steel wire wrapped around a hex shaped steel core wire. The plain strings are made of specially tempered tin plated high carbon steel producing a well balanced tone for your guitar.

P02723Slinky Cobalt

Engineered to maximize output and clarity, Ernie Ball Cobalt Slinky Guitar Strings provide an extended dynamic range, incredible harmonic response, increased low end, and crisp, clear highs. Cobalt provides a stronger magnetic relationship between pickups and strings than any other alloy previously available. Cobalt Slinkys are also soft and silky to the touch, making string bending a breeze.

P02915Slinky M-Steel

M-Steel, short for Maraging Steel, is a superalloy used in high stress applications for the aerospace and defense industries. These wound strings are comprised of a patented Super Cobalt alloy wrapped around a Maraging steel hex core wire, producing a richer and fuller tone with powerful low end response. A patented winding of steel around the ball end of the plain strings reduces slippage, breakage and stays in tune better than conventional plain strings.

P02250Slinky Classic Rock N’ Roll Pure Nickel Wrap

Made from pure nickel wire wrapped around tin plated hex shaped steel core wire, these guitar strings produce a warm rich tone with that signature Slinky feel.

 

 

P02241Slinky RPS Nickel Wound

Ernie Ball’s RPS wound strings consist of specific gauges and core to wrap ratios for balanced rich harmonics and a signature Slinky feel. Plain strings in RPS sets last longer and stay in tune better than conventional plain strings. A patented winding of brass wire is tightly wrapped around the lock twist of the ball end of the plain strings. String slippage and breakage are minimized at the ball end where these most often occur.

P03126Slinky RPS Coated Titanium

Titanium’s inherent strength prevents string breakage, string slippage, and is proven to keep your guitar strings in tune better than conventional plain strings. Ernie Ball coated Slinky guitar strings maintain the feel and sound of uncoated sets, combining the added protection with the vibrant tone Ernie Ball customers have relied on for over 50 years.

P02249Slinky Stainless Steel Wound

Made from stainless steel wire wrapped around tin plated, hex shaped, steel core wire. Plain strings are tin plated, high carbon steel. These strings provide brighter tone and longer string life.

 

P02208Light Electric Wound

Widely referred to as a jazz set, Ernie Ball Light Nickel Wound strings feature a wound G string. Unlike their Slinky sibling, these Nickel Wound sets are not limited to jazz musicians and are tailor-made for alternative, rock, and pop.

 

Ernie Ball Electric Guitar String Demo

Watch as Joe from Reverbcom compares three popular Ernie Ball electric guitar string types: Slinky, Slinky Cobalt, and Slinky M-Steel

Bonus Content

Our web series, String Theory, explores the styles and string selections of some of the world’s top guitar players. Watch the most recent episode below and see them all at ErnieBall.com/StringTheory

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