Best Strings for a Stratocaster

Figuring out what are the best strings for a Stratocaster is a subjective thing.  It all depends on what you want to hear and feel.  Different strings offer different tones and feels.  Because of this the best strings for someone's Stratocaster may not be the best strings for another's Stratocaster.  The difference in opinion could also do with their different styles of play.  Certain strings are made with specific genres in mind, and because of that string manufacturers make their string sets optimal for one sound.  This is great for players that generally stick to just one genre or style of play, but the majority of guitarists are not like that.  Not many people like just one style of music. 

Although many string sets are catered to a specific sound, there are many strings that are extremely versatile, and can do almost any genre super well.  Personally I prefer these.  I like to play funk, country, and rock all with the same guitars, so versatile strings are a must for me.

P.S. We have an article about the best amps for Stratocasters.

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String Variables - Best strings for Stratocaster

Factors that go into how a string sounds include the metal, how the string is wound, the gauge, the string core, and the string coating.  Use these to determine which strings are the best strings for your Strat.

Best String Gauge for Strat

The gauge of the string simply refers to how big around the string is in 1000ths of an inch.  Most people agree the best string gauge for a Strat is either .9-.42 or .10-.46.  Both of these sets are light enough to bend easily, and they are thick enough that they won't rattle all over the place.  The choice between the two is really a preference thing.

Heavier gage strings also known as thicker gauge strings are good for things like hard strumming, drop tunings, and jazz.  Heavier gauge strings are advantageous for these things because if you are strumming hard, a thicker string will create more tension which makes the strings less likely to rattle creating an undesirable sound.  They are used for drop tunings for the same reason.  The more tension the less likely the strings will rattle against the frets.  This is what makes them the best guitar strings for metal.  Finally a heavier gauge string is good for jazz because in jazz the guitar is mostly a rhythm section instrument, and its role is to chunk out a bunch of quarter notes.  Not a lot of bending is required.

Lighter gauge strings are better for less developed players because they will hurt their fingers less, and players that are soloing a lot.  Bending is a super common solo technique and because of that lighter strings are best for soloing.  A strange exception to this is Stevie Ray Vaughn though.  He used thicker strings than most companies even sell, so not every rule is perfect, but generally thinner strings are better for soloing.

Metals

Electric guitar strings will often times come in one of these three metal combinations.

Nickel - Offers a warm vintage guitar sound.  Wear out faster than the others.  Ideal for Rhythm playing

Nickel wound steel - Create a bright sound and crisp attack.  Great for soloing

Stainless steel - The brightest of all the metals, stainless steel strings are used a lot it metal and rock music because they offer the most sustain, and a super strong attack on the high notes in solos.

How the String is Wound

There are three main ways a string can be wound.

Roundwound - The default winding.  By far the most popular.  Have a brighter tone other string windings, and are ideal for most popular music including rock, country, and R&B

Flatwound -  The second most popular string winding choice.  Offer a unique feel.  They are called flatwound because the string does not have its usual bumpy texture.  These create a warmer tone that is ideal for playing jazz. 

Halfwound - A combination of the previous two.  Not used by many, but offer a good balanced feel and sound.

String core

The core of a string comes in two different shapes, round or hexagonal.  

Round string core - A few decades ago this is the only way strings were made.  Because of that round strings have a "vintage" sound to them.  What makes this vintage sound is a weaker attack, warmer sound, and more sustain.  

Hexagonal string core - A more modern development in the world of strings.  The hexagonal string core offers a stronger attack, brighter tone, and are stiffer.  The stiffness of the string results in less undesirable rattling.  

String coating

String coating first came along in the late 1990's from the Elixir company.  By adding a coating the the strings they would last much longer.  Because of that they could justify a higher price.  Some people always play with coated strings, and some people never do.  

Some feel that the coating lessens the tone of the strings, and dampens the sound.  Because of that and the higher price many people like to stay away from them.  

It truly is an opinion thing.  I personally do not care for the sound of coated strings.  They feel like a paid more money to get strings that already sound used, but that is just my opinion.  Others love the coating.  

Best Strings for Stratocaster List
Top Pick: D'Addario NYXL

These are my personal favorite strings.  They are the strings I use on all my Strats.  They are simple, sound great, last a long time, and are extremely versatile.  They are very similar to the D'Addario XL's, and the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky's.  I think they all have a similar sound and feel, but the overall quality of these strings is far superior.  They are made from a high carbon steel alloy that is far stronger than the materials you will find in almost any other string.  Because of this they last longer and don't break as often as other strings.  They do all this without coating the strings.  String coating often times leads to loss in tone, and no one wants that.  The material is so good that I have never ever snapped a string while using these.  For the record, I am not someone that performs a lot of crazy bends on my strings though.  So beware if you are, you may still have some string snappage

The price of these string is the highest on this list, but I believe that the price is justified for how long these strings last, and because they are extremely snap resistant.  

These strings have a brighter tone that would be idea for any soloing, and tones of genres like funk, blues, punk rock, and Soul.

I find these to be the best electric guitar strings for blues because I really like how high output these strings are, and how they sing above everything else in a mix or at a live performance.  

Key Features:

  • .09 gauge
  • Roundwound
  • Hexagonal core
  • Nickel plated steel
  • No coating

When I dropped down to a 7 string from an 8 I knew i wanted to try some some different strings other than Ernie Ball. I had D’Addario strings on my acoustic and knew the tone was nice and that they were durable. fast forward about a year, I’m changing my strings over to my second set of these, never broke a single string, and the tone and tuning held up very well to my aggressive heavy metal shredding.

Bottom line is, you get what you pay for, I’m willing to cough up $30-60 a year for these (depending on how much I play) cause they hold up well and they sound awesome. I’ve tried a few string companies like Ernie Ball, GHS, DR, Dunlop, none compare to the tone and durability of D’Addario. 

al arsenault

Verified Amazon Purchaser

D'Addario XL's

D'Addario's XL sets are one of the highest selling sets in the United States currently.  This is because D'Addario simply produces extremely high quality strings that you can count on time and time again.  These strings are also known for staying in tune exceptionally well.  Another testament to how high of a quality these strings are.  Also not to mention the tone is great and versatile.  The array of genres these strings are used in is vast.  From rock, to funk, to soul, to country.  These strings can be used almost anywhere.   

These strings are a great value because of their low price.  Their value to price point ratio almost can't be beat.  For strings that stay in tune, feel great, and sound great.  The price is wonderful.

On a Stratocaster these would offer a punchy tone with lots of high end.  This would allow these strings to perform super well in many different genres, but they would really shine in blues, punk rock, classic rock, funk, and when soloing in metal.

Key Features:

  • .09 gauge
  • Roundwound
  • Hexagonal core
  • Nickel wound steel
  • Uncoated

This is written from the perspective of a guitarist from a metal band that uses Drop C tuning.

I've gone through a good amount of strings in my 12 years of playing guitar. It has only been within the past 4 years that I really am adamant about changing strings every 3-5 months... I have a Floyd Rose on my main guitar, so as some of you may know, it can be bothersome to restring with that configuration. However, now that I have found these, I absolutely don't dread the process because the payoff is just too great!

Eric E

Verified Amazon Purchaser

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

There is not much to say about this set of strings that wasn't already said about the last set.  These are the best Ernie Ball strings for a StratocasterThey stay in tune super well, feel great, and sound great.  Some big names that are known for using these strings include John Mayer, Eric Clapton, and Tom Morello.  Great players trust these strings because they always get a high quality product when opening a pack of regular slinky's.  They are always consistent and feel the same.  I think the difference between these and the XL's is truly just a matter of preference.  Some people like these strings more, and others like the XL's more.

Similar to the XL's, these strings would do super well in a ton of genres with the Stratocaster, but they really shine in the same genres as the XL's.  They shine in blues, punk rock, classic rock, funk, and when soloing in metal.

Key Features:

  • .10 gauge
  • Roundwound
  • Hexagonal core
  • Nickel wound steel
  • Uncoated

I don't even know if I need to review these, these are the gold standard for guitar strings as far as I'm concerned. I've been using them for 25 years. Every now and then I stray and try a D'Addario or GHS or some such, but I always come back to these. Nice balanced sound. Not too punchy, not too muddy. Great feel. Not too grippy, not too slippery. 

alisa Perez

Verified Amazon Purchaser

Elixir Electric Guitar Strings

Elixir is mainly known for making the best acoustic guitar strings, but now they have begun making electric strings as well. 

These are the first coated strings on the list.  They have Elixir's optiweb coating.  This is a very light coating that does not effect the tone or feel of the strings much while prolonging the life of the string.  That makes them many people's favorite coated electric guitar string.  Other than that they are pretty similar to the regular slinky's and the XL's. They are .10 gauge nickel wound strings that have a hexagonal core, and they are roundwound.  

These are great for anyone that hates the process of changing strings.  Because of the coating these strings last longer than any other string on the list.  Unfortunately that mean it comes with a little higher price as well though.  These string certainly are on the expensive side of the spectrum, but the product is high quality, and they last longer than any other set of strings.

Key Features:

  • .09 gauge
  • Roundwound
  • Hexagonal core
  • Nickel plated steel
  • Optiweb coating

These strings have a slightly different feel than a traditional uncoated string, so they take a little getting used to, but the longevity is amazing. After a few weeks of playing, I have gotten accustomed to the feel and am pleased that the required string changes are so infrequent. The tone is slightly different than a traditional string, but this is a small tradeoff for the incredibly long life. I would describe the tone as less metallic and less resonant.
With traditional strings, I can get 5 star tone for about 1 week but I can get 4.5 star tone for months out of these.

Fig

Verified Amazon Purchaser

Fender Bullets

These are the most unique strings on the list.  What makes these strings different is that they are made out of pure nickel, and they have unique ends.  Many claim the bullet shaped end of the string increases sustain.  The idea is that the frequencies resonate longer in the metal, bullet shaped, ends than in the plastic balls on the end of most strings.  Not many strings on the market are pure nickel today.  Pure nickel strings is an old school thing that has influenced the tones of many classic players.  If a vintage sound is what you are after, the Fender Bullets may be your best bet.  

The price of these strings is somewhere in the middle.  Not the cheapest set on this list, and not the most expensive set on the list.  If the vintage sound is what you are looking for, these strings are absolutely worth the extra few bucks.  

Key Features:

  • .09 gauge
  • Roundwound
  • Round core
  • Pure nickel
  • No coating

After 20 plus years of playing I've tried every brand and every gimmick of guitar string out there. The coated Nanowebs & Clear Tones, the different alloy formulas like the cobalts and platinums and the mix & match heavy top/light bottoms. To me nickel wound or straight nickel strings are the best for electrics, but for Strats in particular the Fender Bullets are my favorites.

The marketing device of the bullet ends making the strings sustain more with the trem block is true. I can hear the difference on my main Strat from using like Ernie Balls & D'addario's to the Bullets. Their not necessarily brighter, just more defined with better sustain.

Jrisv music ltd

Verified Amazon Purchaser

What gauge strings do Stratocaster's come with?
Most of the time Stratocasters will come with Fender Bullets .9-.46.  Often times though, guitar stores will change out the strings on their higher end instruments, so then they play and feel better.  So, especially when purchasing a higher end guitar, if you like the strings on it, do not be afraid to ask.  Guitar stores will often times put the same set of strings on most guitars, so an employee will know in an instant.  


What gauge strings are best?

It doesn't matter what the best gauge strings are for the general public.  It matters what is the best gauge for you and your playing.  It's really a personal preference thing, but allow me to guide you in the right direction.  Most times players that enjoy heavier music, like metal and rock.  Will opt for higher gauge strings.  This is because they are less likely to break, and they won't rattle when they are tuned down.  

Players that are attracted to more delicate genres like blues and funk will often times opt for a lighter gauge of string.  This is because bending on them is far easier, and they have no need for drop tunings.

Conclusion - Best strings for Stratocaster

Strings are just as personal as a guitar is.  What the best guitar strings are for one person is completely different than the best guitar strings for another person.  There are certain commonalities between the strings used by people in the same genre, but if you don't like those don't feel inclined to use that style of string.  Maybe you're a metal guitarist, but hate how the heavier gauge strings feel.  Have no fear of switching away from the genre's standard.  If you can't stand playing on those strings, feel free to switch to a lighter gauge that fits you better.




Best strings for Stratocaster - Colin J
Best strings for Stratocaster - Dwane's Music

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