So you love to play metal. As a fellow metalhead who’s been rocking out since a young teen, I don’t blame you! With the crazy intricate solos and heavy booming rhythms what’s not to love! Well, to play proper metal guitar you need to get yourself the right strings. Guitar strings for metal need to be a heavier gauge to help deliver that really thick heavy sound. They also need to retain the right tension when you tune down.
Sure having looser strings makes fretting easier so can speed up your playing dramatically but it comes at a cost. Loose strings cause you to lose sustain in your playing, they can cause fret buzz on your guitar and they can fall out of tune easier. This is why you’ll want to stick with a heavier gauge.
But a heavier gauge makes your playing a bit harder and slower, right? And more than a few metal guitarists love speeding around the top-end for solo’s, shredding at speeds that would leave an amateur with fingers like confetti. This is where the heavy bottom skinny top comes in. Having a heavy bottom will allow you to have punchy rhythm while having a light enough top to tear up the fretboard while soloing.
Which leaves us with two options, go all heavy and accept that you might not be able to play as fast in solos and that bending will be harder. Or you can go heavy bottom and light/medium top, so can still play down low thrashing out disgustingly heavy metal riffs while playing lightning fast solos that would make Michael Romeo weep. Now there’s no one size fits all so I’ve picked out the three best guitar strings for metal.
Curt Mangan strings are not the most well known coming from a small business in America but they are incredible guitar strings. Their Stainless Steel strings provide a really bright tone which are perfect for playing metal. Stainless Steel strings give the brightest tone which really makes the distorted tone of metal stand out and come out clear as bell. You can get the Curt Mangan Stainless Steel strings in 12-54 gauge which are great for tuning down while still having enough tension to give you some feel beneath your fingers. Find them here on Amazon! Curt Mangan strings are made with a hex core which gives them great grip to your fingers, especially when you are playing leads. You can read the ultimate guide to Curt Mangan Strings here!
For those of you with 7 or 8 strings guitars, Curt Mangan strings are well worth your time. They will provide you with some of the clearest tone out there, great tension and awesome feel to the finger.
I have not hidden my love for D’Addario’s NYXL strings. I have written a review of them which you can read here if you’re interested. The NYXL strings are ideal for metal because they are made in a range of gauges for 6, 7, and 8 string guitars. I personally like the 11-52s on a 6 string for tuning down. They allow you a thick enough bottom to handle heavy rhythm and the 11 on the top allows you to keep the tension when tuning down while still being manageable to play.
The NYXL’s have increased mid-range frequency response which really helps your guitar cut through the noise, which can be a problem in metal tracks, and pack a full punch full of great sounding guitar.
Now you can’t talk about using metal guitar strings without mentioning the signature strings of the absolute hero of metal who is Zakk Wylde. You can get Jim Dunlop’s Zakk Wylde signature strings for electric guitar in two different gauges, the 10-46s, and the 10-60s. Now having 0.060 on your lowest string will take some getting used to, especially if you’re normally a slinky player! But these strings are designed for tuning down so if you favour drop C then definitely try them out. You will get awesome low end output, and be light enough up top to handle any solo’s.
Should add the disclaimer that putting on these strings, unfortunately, won’t turn you into Zakk Wylde himself 😉
These have been tried and tested by so many famous guitarists they hard to fault. If they are good enough for slash they’ll be good enough for you! They have a really nice feeling skinny top heavy bottom set which are perfect for metal but are a little on the skinny side for tuning down. Ideal for drop-D tuning with the thicker bottom string but things will get a little flimsy if you tune them all down. They are also the cheapest of all the guitar strings!
Like I said before there is no one best set of guitar strings for playing metal, it really depends on what your style is. For regular and drop-D tunings the Ernie Ball’s will serve you well. But, if you like tuning it down then definitely get yourself the Zakk Wylde signature strings.
Now it might be that you like playing a lot of different styles of metal. Maybe you don’t even play metal all the time! Well, the most versatile of all the strings are definitely the NYXLs. So if you like changing your tunings around trying different things then the NYXLs are the perfect fit.