In the early 1960s, a Los Angeles based multi-instrumentalist had an out-of-the-box idea to open a music shop that only sells guitars. Always having the everyday player in mind, he took his wild dream one step further as he began manufacturing made-to-order custom guitar string sets he dubbed “Slinkys”. Nearly 60 years later, Ernie Ball’s Slinky empire has grown into one of the most recognizable names in the music industry today.
With over 200 different varieties of guitar, bass, and specialty instrument strings to choose from, we know that finding the best set for your playing style can be a challenge. Below we’re breaking down some key things to keep in mind when deciding on your next pair of Slinkys.
Electric Guitar Strings
Whether you play classic rock, blues, metal, country, or punk, a new set of Ernie Ball electric guitar strings can help you and your guitar sound its best. With options ranging from various gauge, style, and material choices, experimentation should produce the ideal string for your sound.
Let’s take a look at our top-selling string sets.
Cobalt Electric Slinky
Some people say you need “golden ears” to detect much difference between strings. Steve Vai was among them. Although he changed his mind after trying out a set of Cobalt Slinkys. The cobalt component in the winding alloy produces higher output with greater definition and is ideal for any energy-intensive music like punk, metal, hard rock or blues. Their clarity can help you cut through the dense sonic onslaught of bass and drums.
Nickel Wound Electric Slinky
Not too bright or dark, our Nickel Wound Slinkys are a great choice for overall tonal balance. You’ll find sets for seven, eight, nine, and 12-string guitars as well as 10-string sets for pedal steel. Other options include Beefy and Power Slinkys as well as baritone guitar sets. With near-endless gauge options, we’ve got your guitar’s ultimate setup covered.
The ‘M’ in M-Steel stands for maraging steel — a defense-grade superalloy known for its extreme durability and fatigue strength. Ernie Ball M-Steels are wrapped with Super Cobalt alloy over a maraging steel hex core for a high-output signal with commanding low-end response. The super-durable M-Steel lineup includes Power, Regular, Super, and Hybrid Slinkys. There’s also a Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom set for players who want the heavy rhythm chunk of thick strings combined with solo-friendly lighter gauges on the plain strings.
A former Nickel Slinky player, John Petrucci considers M-Steel Slinkys an evolutionary step ahead for their smooth top and punishing bottom that serves his heavy approach.
Reinforced Plain Strings (RPS) Slinky
If you tend to dig into your strings and experience frequent breaking and slipping, a set of RPS Slinkys is the fix. RPS Plain Strings use a brass wire winding at the lock twist of the ball end that solves both these issues while delivering trademark playability. Our Coated Titanium RPS string sets have a proprietary nano treatment on wound strings and titanium reinforcement on the plain strings for maximum longevity and better tuning stability.
Pure Nickel Slinky
For the purist chasing down classic retro guitar tone, Pure Nickel Slinkys make a great fit. Their warm, round tone and harmonic complexity at the front end of your all-tube signal chain will help you conjure up classic blues, rock and R&B sounds. There’s a complete lineup that includes Extra, Super, Hybrid, Regular, and Power Slinkys in the Pure Nickel lineup.
Stainless Steel Slinky
The Stainless Steel Slinky marries our trademark feel with the decidedly bright attack and shimmer stainless steel brings to the game. They’re also mighty tough. You’ll find an extensive lineup of Stainless Steel Slinkys in Extra, Super, Hybrid, Regular and Power, string packs as well as an E9 tuning set for pedal steel.
Acoustic Guitar Strings
Acoustic guitars present different challenges than their electrified cousins to the string maker. Ernie Ball rises to those challenges with a robust collection of acoustic string lines that have won over a broad range of artists including Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Dierks Bentley to name just three.
While all acoustic guitar strings have steel cores, the materials used on the wound string windings influence their sound and performance. In exploring the Ernie Ball acoustic string collection, keep in mind these general sonic characteristics of the materials we use:
Phosphor Bronze – Warm, mellow yet ringing tone
80/20 Bronze – Bright, balanced tone
Aluminum Bronze – Greater projection and clarity plus corrosion resistance
Everlast Coated – Prolonged string life; available in a full range of materials
To give you maximum choices in shaping a signature acoustic guitar sound, we have a broad and deep selection that includes Aluminum Bronze, Earthwood 80/20 Bronze, Everlast Coated Phosphor Bronze, Earthwood Phosphor Bronze, and Everlast Coated 80/20 Bronze.
As you zero in on the best gauges for your guitar, the age, neck bracing and condition of your instrument should be considered. It’s generally safest to go in favor of lighter gauges on older acoustics. Also, though they may not have quite the punch of medium or heavy strings, light-gauge sets are usually recommended for newer guitarists.
Bass Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball’s relationship with the bass goes way back to the 1970s. The Music Man collection of basses and guitars boasts a stellar artist lineup that includes bassists like Paul McCartney, Tony Levin, and Mark Hoppus.
With more than 100 different choices and string packs designed for four, five, and six-string configurations, including long-scale and short scale options, Ernie Ball is guaranteed to have the right pack for you.
Our best-selling roundwound bass strings have a bright, articulate, “poppy” tone ideal for funk and crisp rock bass. Ernie Ball flatwound bass strings are preferred by jazz, reggae and country bassists for their more rounded, mellow tone and softer attack.
As with our acoustic and electric guitar strings, our line of bass guitar strings is extensive. You can choose from Flat Wound, Slinky Flatwound, Coated Electric, Nickel Wound, Stainless Steel, Cobalt, and Earthwood Acoustic Bass strings.
We hope you find this guide helpful in sorting through all the options. Once you’ve honed in on a set to try, use our store locator to find a local dealer.