If you’re into hard rock and heavy metal, you know that the strings you use will dramatically vary the sound of your guitar.
Metal –and its subgenres can be hugely extreme, so before submerging into this harsh world, there are some aspects to consider. Novices may find this task a bit overwhelming, so it’s better if you took your first steps before choosing something so complicated.
We have organized a list with some of the best strings for a metal guitar you can pick up in any guitar store. Besides describing these products, we will also be answering some common questions and examining the different factors that affect your purchase when it comes to the best strings for metal guitars.
Top 5 Best Strings for Metal Guitar
1. Dunlop DHCN1254 Heavy Core
The “Dunlop” brand has been around for more than sixty decades. Its founder, Jim Dunlop, was a Scottish engineer based in California. He brought up his idea and “created” his company in 1965. Since then, they have earned a place as one of the most remarkable brands for musical accessories, such as effects pedals and even plectrums.
But we are here for the strings, and it’s safe to say that they are one of the most known brands within the market. Dunlop is known for innovating and offering high-quality strings for affordable prices, so it isn’t rare that some of the most known guitarists like Zacky Vengeance from the famous band Avenged Sevenfold.
There are multiple excellent choices for strings when it comes to metal. But if what you want is strings for metal guitar, it would be best if you went for the “Heavy Core” series. These strings are manufactured with nickel-wound steel and come in three different options – Heavy, Heavier, and Heaviest. The “heaviest” option is best if you like a more aggressive tone when playing.
Additionally, Dunlop is known for designing signature strings for well-known musicians within the metal industry. You can find the Kerry King Icon Series, which excels at tuning down low.
2. DR Strings – Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-5 or DDT-11 Heavy
This may not be a brand that everybody has heard of, but DR strings are quite something.
Famous guitarists that use these strings include Meshuggah and Fozzy, for instance.
For the second option(s), we have the Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-5 and the DDT-11 Heavy.
Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-5
As for the first choice, they are characterized as being medium-gauge strings, but instead of being “thicker,” they are “slender.” Therefore, they are strong opponents against their overused thicker counterparts. In any case, you should know by now that “bigger” doesn’t mean “better” at all.
They have excellent durability and produce “full” and “clear” sounds despite their gauge range. It’s an excellent deal you can get for an accessible price.
These are affordable and due to their slender nature, friendly for beginners. If you’re starting or experimenting with some heavier tones, we recommend giving these strings a go! Although more experienced guitarists will be able to make full use from these strings too.
The second option is the Drop-Down Tuning 11. This series has been prominently used by multiple metal guitarists overtime. You can choose multiple options, from “big heavy” to “mega heavy,” depending on the thickness you want.
Additionally, if you’re familiar with Dimebag Darell, you should know that DR Strings offers a signature series in honor of the late guitarist. These strings are also excellent for metal, so be sure to give them a good look.
3. D’Addario – NYXL1052 or NYXL1254 Nickel Wound Electric Strings
We have a double recommendation for the third option as well. They’re from the same series, but both of them are excellent options for what we’re here – strings for metal guitars.
D’Addario’s NYXL series has been successful since its launch. The company’s main intention was to manufacture strings able to provide guitarists with “unrivaled” stability. The inspiration behind this line was the suspension wires used for keeping the Brooklyn Bridge in its place.
Additionally, these strings are made of a high-carbon steel core. However, there is something unique about the production process. The company used “reformulated-nickel strings windings,” and that is meant to boost the magnetic features that trigger your pickups.
The NYXL1052 option provides you with more stability. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about breaking strings too often. These strings are the most stable installment in this series and the D’Addario brand overall.
Similar to the previous option, the NYXL1254 is somewhat “beefy.” Suppose you’re looking for a heavier performance combined with a harmonious sound and enough endurance for the aggressiveness that comes with heavy metal music. In that case, these strings may come in handy.
4. Ernie Ball – “Not Even Slinky,” “Skinny Top Heavy Bottom,” or “2214 Mammoth Slinky Nickel Wound”
Ernie Ball is another significant name within the industry, and that’s why we are providing you with three different options for this next section. Although the three of them share the same brand and, therefore, particular similarities, you may want something more specific as you get more experienced.
Mammoth Slinky Nickel Wound – .012–.062
As for this option, we can compare these strings with those from a bass. If you want to explore the deepest tones of your guitar, maybe the Mammoth Slinky strings are what you need precisely.
Additionally, the Mammoth Slinky strings provide you with one of the finest tensions for the C String standard tuning. You won’t have to worry about floppiness, and the articulation of your full chords will sound as clear as ever.
If you intend to use them for heavy riffing, they can provide excellent results. We recommend them if you want to play the “heaviest” heavy metal you could ever think of.
String breaks are minimized thanks to the bronze wire they are wrapped in – at the ball ends.
Skinny Top Heavy Bottom
Ernie Ball’s Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Strings are predominantly used in the industry by some big names. This list includes Metallica, SOAD, and even Iron Maiden.
Although the Mammoth Slinky is one of their most popular products to date, the Skinny Top Heavy Bottom is also remarkable and is able to provide you with enough tonality and security. These aspects are comparable to heavy bass strings.
Moreover, these strings are hugely durable and extremely popular within the metalhead community.
“Not Even Slinky” – .012-.056
The “Not Even Slinky” series is another excellent choice if you want to give Ernie Ball a chance. These strings include titanium-reinforced technology that makes the strings exceptionally durable. The advanced RPS micro-coating also excels at providing you with such security.
Although Ernie Ball strings are hugely recommended (not for anything, we included three options!), we would like to give you a few other options to consider. Keep reading to explore more of the best strings for metal guitar!
5. GHS Strings – Pure Nickel Rollerwound Strings
For the last option, we bring you another remarkable name – GHS Strings. Some known brands that have been using these strings since their beginnings are Black Sabbath, for instance.
These GHS strings, in particular, are medium, so even if they are not as thick as some of the options listed here and others available in the market, we can say that the sound they produce is indeed thick.
As for their durability, these strings are hugely sturdy. Even if you are the most careless guitarist out there, we’re sure you’ll be able to use these GHS strings for a while with no worries. Or at least, you can expect them to last for a few months, as guitar strings often do.
Additionally, the Pure Nickel Rollerwound Strings are known due to the comfortable feeling they add to your plays. You’ll be hugely satisfied with the results, so we highly recommend them for those who are just getting started in the business. Professionals can take good advantage of these strings, too.
How to choose the right metal guitar strings for you
You should take the selection of strings for your electric guitar seriously. More than brands and prices, you should pay close attention to the caliber and the material.
With so many types of guitar strings, you should be aware that each of them will produce a different sound. Therefore, there are some factors you should consider when choosing the right metal guitar strings for you.
That being said, let’s explore the materials and how they affect your sound.
Electric Guitar String Materials
It’s usual for electric guitar strings to be made of three materials. We are not talking about the coating here – we are talking about the strings and how that material affects the sound and durability. Let’s see:
Nickel-plated steel – Most electric guitar strings nowadays are made of nickel-plated steel. This material excels at resisting corrosion, and it’s characterized for brighter tones.
Pure nickel – If you’re into vintage sounds, you should look for pure nickel strings. These strings are capable of “cutting” the particular sharpness of treble tones of your electric guitar (or at least some models).
Stainless steel – These strings will provide you with even more security and durability than the models explained above. If you’re afraid of “finger-squeaking,” we highly recommend choosing stainless steel. These strings produce brighter sounds, but if you equip your guitar with the correct humbucker pickup, you will counterbalance that unwanted issue.
This factor is probably the most crucial while trying to choose a metal string. But it would be best if you remembered that particular brands and the different strings they offer might produce different tonalities and sounds.
Are hybrid strings a good option for metal guitars?
If you’re considering hybrid strings, the answer is yes. Hybrid strings are excellent for metal for some of the following reasons:
- Hybrid strings combine what’s best of heavier-gauged bass strings with everything you like about the lighter trebles. Therefore, you’ll be able to deliver thicker low-end tones.
- Even if you think it may be impossible, these strings can provide ease of play if what you want is to excel at shredding.
- Hybrid strings are exceptionally good for searing solos. If you like chunkier rhythms – as both sounds are significant in the metal scene – you should definitely go for hybrids!
Why are gauges so important?
If you want to purchase strings for a metal guitar, you should pay special attention to the gauges. Perhaps this factor is the most crucial, and that’s because low-tuned instruments are predominant in genres like metal. Therefore, you want your guitar to have that deep and bass-rich tonality that is often related to metal and its subgenres.
If what you mentioned above is what you want to achieve, regular electric guitar strings won’t help you. For you to play metal correctly, it would be best if you acquired heavier gauges, especially if you want to cause an impact on your audience.
It’s standard for most guitarists to pick medium or heavy gauge string sets. Brands may be different, but gauges will always be similar in multiple aspects. For instance, some of the most common gauges include the .011-.050 for the medium setting, while heavier gauges may have .012-.054.
However, please note that “heavier” strings are not recommended for vintage models. Still, please consider that due to their thickness, their volume will be excellent; they will have better durability and sustainability. Heavier gauges will allow you to play aggressively with no worries at all.
Still, heavy strings have a bit of a downside – it’s more complicated to play them. It would help if you pressed to fret the note with too much force. Furthermore, the string bending is noticeable more challenging. So it would help if you decided the thickness, and that can be a bit of a headache.
Lucky for you, some brands are excellent at offering to the public heavier gauge bass strings that provide you with a lighter treble. It’s the best option if you want to get the best of this “hybrid.” Lastly, these gauges come in different variations, but it’s usual to find some like .010-.052. This gauge is enough for standard solos and low riffs with solid steadiness.
What about coatings?
If you want to know what the best strings are for you, you should pay special attention to the coating. Coatings provide the strings not only with a unique appearance but also security and playability. Different brands apply different coatings, and therefore, their durability and other features may vary.
Let’s take the D’Addario’s EXP series, for example – this brand has been putting at your disposal micro-fine coatings that not only shield the strings from getting dirty, rusty, and accumulating moisture but also “enhance” them and allow them to last for longer periods.
Aesthetics are not as essential as other features, but some guitarists care too much about their guitar’s aspect. Therefore, the strings play an important role when it comes to this factor. If you want colored strings or something more appealing to the eye, you should take a look at the different products that DR Strings has been offering since its beginnings. There are too many options to choose from, regular-looking strings to neon-colored ones, especially if you’re going to the stage soon.
Last but not least, we would like to remind you that you play heavy metal best in 7-string guitars. Although these guitars are not recommended for beginners most of the time, it’s like these guitars were specially made for playing metal.
If you own a 7-string guitar or plan on acquiring one soon, you should also consider purchasing a particular string set capable of catering to all the strings your guitar needs. For instance, the Dunlop DHCN1254 Heavy Core is excellent if you have this aspect in mind.
In summary, coatings add different factors to your guitar – not only a different sound but also affect the overall aesthetic of the musical instrument.
Now you know some of the best guitar strings for metal guitar in the market. Not only that, but you also know how to pick the best strings for your metal guitar if what’s listed here did not convince you at all.
However, we recommend experimenting with different strings and compare the results until you find a particular set of strings for a metal guitar that suits your style. We recommend trying as much as you can!
Remember to take into account the different factors – gauges, coatings, materials, and etcetera. You’ll find yourself having the best set of strings for both your guitar and your style in no time!