Have you ever played a guitar with strings so thick that you could barely press the string down? Or maybe you bought strings that were too thin, and now your guitar goes out of tune too easily. Guitar strings come in all sorts of different sizes and materials, so you must learn your preferences and figure out what guitar string gauge works best for your guitar.
In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about electric guitar string gauge so that you’ll know exactly what size strings to purchase next time.
What is string gauge?
String gauge is essentially the measurement of the thickness of your strings. Guitar strings come in different sizes depending on the player’s preference and playing style. Because guitar strings are very thin, they are measured to the 1000th of an inch. The string gauge on a set of strings is generally labeled with the smallest of the six strings. For example, if the high E string is .010 inches thick, the string pack is called 10s. The thinnest string gauge you will generally find is .008, which will be used for the high E, while the thickest guitar string you can find is .58 on the low E.
Why does string gauge matter?
Size matters when it comes to guitar strings. The gauge of your strings plays a pivotal role in your playing. For example, thick strings are more difficult to bend and slide, but they can handle intense strumming and alternate tunings such as drop D or C. Thin strings are easier to bend and maneuver but will break more easily if you put a lot of strain on them. Most beginner guitarists play with thinner strings because they are easier to use and require less finger strength to fret.
Guitarists should choose their string gauge carefully with their playing style in mind. It is also worth noting that thicker strings maintain their tension better, which means they will stay in tune better than lighter strings.
Electric guitar string gauge sizes
|String||Super extra light||Extra light||Regular light||Medium||Heavy|
|High E||.008 inches||.009 inches||.010 inches||.011 inches||.012 inches|
|B||.010 inches||.011 inches||.013 inches||.014 inches||.016 inches|
|G||.015 inches||.016 inches||.017 inches||.018 inches||.020 inches|
|D||.021 inches||.024 inches||.026 inches||.027 inches||.032 inches|
|A||.030 inches||.032 inches||.036 inches||.037 inches||.042 inches|
|Low E||.038 inches||.042 inches||.046 inches||.048 inches||.054 inches|
What string gauge is best for you?
Now you know why string gauge is an important factor, but how do you choose the right size for your electric guitar, and what are the pros and cons of each one? I will go over this below.
Extra super light
Extra super light strings generally have a high E string that is .008 inches thick. This is SUPER thin. I would only recommend these to absolute beginner guitarists who are still building calluses and don’t quite have the finger strength yet to play with thicker strings. They are very treblely sounding and will break super easy. These thin strings are also much quieter than thicker strings. Extra super light strings are easier to play with and have a clear and bright tone.
Best extra super light gauge strings: D’Addario ProSteels Electric Guitar Strings
Super light strings often have a high E, around .009 inches thick. These are very common strings for beginner guitarists but are also used by guitarists who want light and easy strings. They are more versatile than extra super light strings, but they have limitations when it comes to strumming power chords and tuning to drop tunings. However, if you are a beginner, or just looking for light and bright strings with a lot of trebel, super light strings are a good choice.
Best super light gauge strings: Elixir Super Light Strings with Optiweb Coating
Regular light gauge strings have a high E string around .010 inches thick. These are some of the most common strings used because they are versatile and can be used for various playing styles. Regular light strings are relatively easy to play and manipulate but still have enough mass to produce some bass frequency. Regular light strings can be used by any guitarist that isn’t planning on using extra thick guitar picks or strumming heavy metal songs for hours.
Best regular light gauge strings: Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings
Generally, medium gauge strings will have a .011 inch thick high E. Medium strings are on the heavier end of the spectrum and may be more challenging to play and bend the strings. These strings are good for guitarists that want to play in drop D or drop C often and want some extra bass frequency in their playing.
Best medium gauge strings: Elixir Electric Guitar Strings with Nanoweb Coating
These are the thickest strings you can buy. Heavy gauge strings are any string in which the high E string is .012 inches or thicker. Heavy gauge strings also are better at staying in tune than other string types because the thickness allows them to maintain their tension. Their sheer width also makes them less likely to break than lighter strings. In addition, thicker guitar strings vibrate at a lower frequency, so they have a warmer and less trebely tone. Larger strings also produce a louder sound.
All this may seem fine and dandy, but heavy guitar strings have some disadvantages:
- They are harder to bend
- They are challenging to play for beginners
- They difficult to play fast licks with
Best heavy gauge strings: Ernie Ball Not Even Slinky Cobalt Electric Guitar Strings
What about acoustic guitar strings?
The string gauge for acoustic guitars is slightly different. Like I said before, thicker strings = louder sound, so acoustic guitar strings are generally thicker because they do not rely on an amp to project the sound.
Here is the breakdown of acoustic guitar string gauge:
|String||Extra light||Regular light||Medium||Heavy|
|High E||.010 inches||.011 inches||.012 inches||.013 inches|
|B||.014 inches||.015 inches||.016 inches||.017 inches|
|G||.023 inches||.023 inches||.025 inches||.026 inches|
|D||.030 inches||.032 inches||.032 inches||.035 inches|
|A||.039 inches||.042 inches||.043 inches||.045 inches|
|Low E||.047 inches||.052 inches||.053 inches||.056 inches|
How often should you change your strings?
As a general rule, you should be changing your strings after every 100 hours of playtime. The amount of time between string changes also depends on how often you play, your playing style, your environment, and the type of strings you use.
What gauge string do most guitarists use?
The most common guitar strings are regular light 10s, which means that the high E is .010 inches. Most guitarists choose the regular light string gauge because they have the best of both worlds. This string gauge has the most versatility, allows guitarists to play fast licks, and maintains their tune well.
Do thin gauge strings break easier?
Thinner strings break more often as they are not as good at maintaining tension. Guitarists who play with light, extra light, or super extra light strings while be changing out broken strings a lot more often than those who use heavy gauge strings.