June 1

Best Strings For Stratocaster Fender Electric Guitar

Buying guitar strings can be a bit like online dating: there’s an overwhelming sea of options, and each choice takes some degree of time and commitment. You can’t possibly try every type of string out there, and even if you could, they’re all going to perform differently depending on the guitar you slap them on.

Finding the best electric guitar strings, then, is challenging: there’s no such thing as a singular best set of strings. It depends on what you want to do with those strings and what you want to get out of them.

For the purposes of this guide, we can narrow the field considerably. We’re only looking at strings for Fender Stratocasters here. And while Strats are used in all sorts of styles and genres, we feel pretty confident in making these picks for the best strings for Stratocaster guitars.

While the discussion can get complicated, the goal isn’t. You want the electric guitar strings that will sound best on your guitar. The guide below will help: if you have a Fender Stratocaster, these are our top picks to consider!

How Much Difference Do Electric Guitar Strings Make?

To make a very long and complex topic simple, guitar strings can make a huge impact on the experience of playing your Strat, and they can affect the sound as well.

Old, worn-out strings won’t play well or sound good, but it’s more than just keeping your strings fresh. There’s an overwhelming array of choices when you go to replace those strings.

We won’t go into every category and type of string in this piece, but if you’re new to playing guitar, this is content you need to know. We covered most of this in our recent guide, Best Guitar Strings for the Beginner Guitar Player 2021.

So if you don’t know the difference between heavy and light gauge or nickel-plated vs. full nickel strings, start with that guide and then come back to this one.

What Attributes of the Fender Stratocaster Can Influence String Choice?

Much of the debate about the best strings for Stratocaster and even the best electric guitar strings period comes down to personal preference, as we’ll get to later on. But there really are some differences between various guitar families and models that can influence string choice.

Pickup Type

One of these is pickup type. The most common setup on the Fender Stratocaster is a three single-coil pickup arrangement. And generally speaking, stainless steel strings aren’t the best choice for single-coil instruments. Steel strings are exceptionally bright, which can have a compounding effect with the natural brightness of single-coil pickups.

Of course, not every Strat uses single coils alone. It’s a very wide family of guitars with many configurations and series to choose from. HSS models swap in a humbucker for one of the single coils, while HH models ditch the single coils altogether.

Tremolo Bar

Another consideration is whether your Strat has a tremolo bar, or whammy bar. As you likely know by now, a tremolo system adds a ton of flexibility and expressiveness to your sound. But it also makes your guitar harder to string, tune and keep in tune.

Because of the challenges with keeping your whammy-equipped Strat in tune, you might want to give more consideration to strings that are better at keeping in tune (such as the D’Addario NYXLs reviewed later on). You’re already working from a disadvantage, so if your strings can help you out in this way, that’s a useful advantage.

Heavier gauge strings can also be problematic when using a tremolo bar. They can put too much tension on the bridge or require adjustments to the bridge. And string bending is exceedingly difficult when you combine the added tension from the tremolo with the added tension of using heavy gauge strings.

Instrument Scale

The Fender Stratocaster is a long-scale guitar. Because it has additional length compared to some guitars, the Strat can accommodate thicker gauge strings better than some. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically buy the heaviest gauge available in a given brand — especially if you aren’t an experienced player.

But for experienced players with sufficiently developed finger and hand control, a heavier-gauge string can add to the sustain and clarity of that beautiful Strat tone.

Best Strings for Stratocaster Guitars: Our Top 7 Picks

If you’re ready to find the best string for Stratocaster guitars, the ones that will speak your musical language and feel the best under your fingers, chances are you’ll find them among the selections below. We’ll cover some of the best electric guitar strings for just about any use case where a Strat makes sense.

D’Addario NYXL Strings

D’Addario NYXL Strings

D’Addario has been well-known for making strings of all kinds, from violins to bass guitars and everything in between, for decades. Their NYXL series of electric guitar strings are a fantastic choice for any electric, including Stratocasters.

These are nickel-plated strings, and the core is something special here. D’Addario calls them high-carbon steel cores, but what you need to know about them is they’re durable. Like, really durable. They stand up to bends and whammies/tremolo action very well and with improved tuning stability.

If you’re concerned about tuning, the NYXL is a great option that should help keep you in good shape longer.

The NYXL series comes in an astounding array of string gauge combinations. You can get standard super light/light/medium/heavy, plus balanced tension versions of most, seven- and eight-string sets, and a range of other combinations like medium top/extra heavy bottom or sets with wound thirds.

Quite a few string gauges can work well on a Strat, but some top choices in this particular string are the Regular Light 10-46 or the balanced tension version of the Regular Lights, if that’s more your speed.

If you prefer a heavier string, move on up to medium or heavy. Ultimately, the choice of string gauge is up to you.

Check current prices on Amazon for the D’Addario NYXL Strings

D’Addario ECG23 XL Chromes Flat Wound Strings

D’Addario ECG23 XL Chromes Flat Wound Strings

If jazz, rockabilly, blues or R&B are more your style, you want something warmer than the NYXLs. And some players just plain enjoy the experience of playing on flat-wound strings. They’re smoother under your fingers and produce much less string noise.

If any of this sounds appealing to your personal playing style, the D’Addario ECG23 XL Chromes are worth a look. They’re a great set of flat-wound stainless steel strings, with interlocking under-windings that are polished flat on the top.

As far as sound, you get a full low end with a good amount of warmth, yet the stainless steel construction retains plenty of punch. Still, these are the mellowest and smoothest strings available from D’Addario, so don’t expect a particularly crunchy sound.

These strings are made with the same high-tempered high-carbon steel hex core, so you get that long-lasting durability that D’Addario is known for.

If you’re going for jazz and blues aesthetics and choosing flat-wound strings, chances are you aren’t looking for anything heavy. Our top gauge recommendation in this set is the Extra Light 10-48.

As you might expect, these strings are a bit pricey, primarily because they’re flat-wound. But the good news is that with D’Addario’s durability, you won’t have to replace them quite as often as cheaper strings.

Check current prices on Amazon for the D’Addario ECG23 XL Chromes Flat Wound Strings

Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt Strings

Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt Strings

Ernie Ball is another highly respected string maker, and the company has done something unique with its Cobalt Slinkys. These are the first strings to market that use cobalt (as an iron-cobalt alloy) as the wrap wire for the wound strings.

This unique wrap surrounds a high carbon steel hex core, and together they produce higher output with better clarity, intonation and consistency, according to the manufacturer. A higher peak output is a welcome factor for lower-end Strats, especially those using only single-coil pickups.

Interestingly, cobalt interacts with the magnets in your Strat’s pickups more aggressively than any other alloy currently being used in guitar strings. This is part of the explanation for that additional output, crispness and clarity.

The tone here is rich and bright, even downright beefy. Lows are extremely present as well. These are all-around performers that can cover the gamut from rock and pop to rockabilly and country.

Gauge is a matter of preference with the Cobalt Slinkys, but if we had to pick just one, we’d go with Regular.

Check current prices on Amazon for the Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt Strings

Ernie Ball Slinky Strings

Ernie Ball Slinky Strings

Take away the newfangled cobalt, and you’re still left with a truly fantastic set of nickel-plated electric guitar strings in the Ernie Ball Slinky series. These versatile strings have been around a while—since 1962, to be exact. And generations of artists have used them, including the Stones, Green Day and Eric Clapton.

Modern Slinkys use nickel wound around tin-plated high-carbon steel cores for a balanced and versatile tone. Because of the materials in use, your gauge choice is going to make a pretty significant difference in the sound. That’s what makes Slinkys great for everything from rock to reggae.

We mentioned earlier that the Stratocaster’s status as a long-scale guitar could influence your choice of string gauge. Namely, it can make playing heavy gauge strings more manageable. If you’re looking to experiment with a heavier gauge (or are aiming for thicker sounds in general), the Power Slinky (11-48) is a good bet.

If you want your Strat to sound great but aren’t quite geared up for the finger workout of heavy-gauge strings, the 10-46 Regulars might be a better choice for you. And other Strat aficionados swear by the Super Slinkys, which clock in at 9-42.

Again, the ultimate decision on gauge comes down to your own preference and your desired tone. Genre plays a part as well. But whether Power, Regular or Super Slinkys, your Strat will sound fantastic.

Check current prices on Amazon for the Ernie Ball Slinky Strings (Power Slinky, 11-48 gauge)

Fender Super 250R Nickel-Plated Steel Electric Guitar Strings

Fender Super 250R Nickel-Plated Steel Electric Guitar Strings

You love your Fender Stratocaster. Why not stick with strings from the same company? Well, there are a few reasons, but the truth is, Fender strings aren’t half bad. (And they’re cheap — really cheap.)

If you’ve changed out your strings once or twice but feel like nothing you’ve tried matches the feel of what was on your guitar when you bought it new, you should definitely pick up a set of Super 250s. These are the strings your guitar probably shipped with, and the regular 10-46 set is a solid middle of the road gauge choice.

Are these the fanciest strings? Not hardly. Are they the best? Maybe not. The sexiest? No way. But they do carry the Fender legacy, and they’re proudly crafted in the USA. Also, for this price, you won’t be out much if you don’t like them.

The Fender Super 250s are nickel-plated steel strings that will give a versatile tone that works across a wide range of genres. And there’s really not much more to say about them. They’re quality, basic strings suitable for old-school guitarists and beginners alike.

Check current prices on Amazon for the Fender Super 250R Nickel-Plated Steel Electric Guitar Strings

Elixir Electric Guitar Strings with Optiweb Coating

Elixir Electric Guitar Strings with Optiweb Coating

We haven’t mentioned coated strings yet in this guide, but choosing a coated string is one way to extend the life of your guitar strings. Some players like the feel of coated strings better as well, though this is not a universal opinion.

In the coated strings market, Elixir is the top brand bar none. They practically invented the category and have continued to innovate within it.

Their latest coating is called Optiweb, which prides itself in feeling like nothing at all. (So much for those players who liked the feel, then.) They approach (and maybe match) the feel of uncoated strings, but they won’t corrode or succumb so quickly to dirt and skin oils.

The set we’re recommending is nickel plated and produces a tone that sits on the crisp end of the spectrum. This, too, is unusual, as coated strings tend to be on the muted and mellow side.

For all the talk of how Stratocasters are long scale and can handle heavier gauges, they don’t necessarily need heavy gauges. Many players love the sound of a Strat with light or light-ish string gauges. For that reason, we’re recommending a light (9-42) set in this brand.

Check current prices on Amazon for the Elixir Electric Guitar Strings with Optiweb Coating

Bonus Pick for Blues Players: DR Strings Pure Blues Nickel Strings

Bonus Pick for Blues Players: DR Strings Pure Blues Nickel Strings

If you’re using your Stratocaster for all blues, all the time, you’re not alone. It’s a great instrument for the genre. But if so, you want blues-specific strings like these Pure Blues from DR Strings.

We haven’t reviewed any other pure nickel strings here, but these will produce a vintage sound that’s just lovely, warm and rich. It’s perfect for classic American rock in addition to blues and related genres.

Pure Blues strings feature a round core in addition to the nickel wrap, which adds to the sustain you’ll get with these strings.

These are very traditional handmade strings, which makes them more susceptible to breakage than some of the high-tech sets reviewed earlier. Still, the sound they deliver is unmistakable and might just be worth the fuss.

Check current prices on Amazon for the DR Strings Pure Blues Nickel Strings


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