Looking for the best strings for your Telecaster guitar? This guide will help.
Fender Telecaster is one of the most popular electric guitars in history. But if you’re lucky to own it, you surely also know that its full potential can only be unleashed in combination with top quality strings.
Its instantly recognizable twangy sound has become particularly popular with genres like country, blues, blues rock, jazz, and classic rock. But it’s also sought after by reggae or even punk guitarists.
How to approach the purchase of new strings for your Telecaster? Firstly, each player probably has slightly different expectations from his or her strings. This can depend on their style of play, preferred genre, and some other factors. We’ve tried to fill this list with recommendations that will suit all tastes.
Let’s start with a brief summary of the strings we’ll be discussing in this guide:
|D’Addario EXL110-3D (10-46)||.010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046||Regular||Roundwound||Steel/Nickel|
|Ernie Ball Super Slinky (9-42)||.009, .011, .016, .024, .032, .042||Super light||Roundwound||Nickel|
|Fender Super 250’s (9-42)||.009, .011, .016, .024, .032, .042||Super light||Roundwound||Nickel-plated Steel|
|DR Strings Pure Blues (10-46)||.010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046||Regular||Roundwound||Nickel|
|D’Addario XL Chromes ECG24 (11-50)||.011, .015, .022, .030, .040, .050.||Jazz light||Flatwound||Chrome|
With some very rare exceptions, your electric guitar can usually bear almost any type, brand, and design of strings. It seems like your options are pretty much endless, but if you don’t want to go down the “trial and error” road, you should have at least some idea about what you’re looking for.
Here are some important factors you should keep in mind when choosing your strings for Telecaster:
String gauge is one of the most important parameters you should be watching when buying a new set of strings. It’s basically a real measured physical size of the string given in inches. Logically, each package of guitar strings contains various sizes (thinnest to the thickest), but they usually come in stable sets.
Traditional 6-string electric guitars such as Fender Telecaster usually work very well with the set of .010–.046 strings (medium/regular gauge). This setup is generally considered to provide a great balance of tone and playability.
The second-most-popular setup of string gauges for Telecaster is .009–.042 (light/super-light). The tension is lower here, which players can feel and appreciate in the form of improved, easened playability.
On the other hand, light-gauge strings lack the fullness and clarity of sound provided by the heavier gauge, which can be bad or good depending on your preferences and style.
Which option should you pick? I personally recommend going with the lighter gauge if you’re more into experimenting, or if you play excessively for many hours in a row.
In both cases, you’ll surely appreciate the gentle touch and easier response of your strings. Nevertheless, be prepared to spend more time tuning since light-gauge strings are more prone to falling out of tune (as a result of the decreased tension).
If you’re unsure or prefer a more traditional style of play, you can simply stick to regular medium gauges (.010–.046). And there’s also a third option – .011–.050 gauge strings. These will lead to increased tension and allow an even harder style of play.
At first sight, most strings might look very similar to you. But when it comes to the material they are made of, they can differ greatly. In general, you’ll usually be dealing with some amount of steel – if you’re looking at a plain, unwrapped string, it’s standardly fully made of steel. Wrapped strings have a steel core and some other metal material atop of them.
Nickel-plated steel strings are the most common type you can come across with electric guitars. They feel perfectly balanced – not too warm, not too sharp, very versatile. They are also a good starting point if you’re not sure yet what exactly you want from your strings.
Pure nickel is also very popular. It’s warmer, mellower, and very smooth. Telecaster players sometimes prefer this option since it perfectly complements this guitar’s naturally warm and twangy sound. Pure stainless steel, on the other hand, gives you a sharper feeling, bright and perfectly articulated.
Occasionally, you can come across some other alloys too. If you want to play with your sound, trying different string materials is a great way to challenge yourself and explore the possibilities of your guitar’s sound.
When you’re browsing ranges of guitar strings, you will often come across the terms “flatwound” and “roundwound”. It means exactly what it sounds like.
Flatwound strings have a core wrapped in a flat wire that resembles a metal tape. Roundwound strings have core wrapped in a round wire, so they look and feel ’round’ too.
Of course, the shape is not the only difference between these two types of strings. The main difference comes in their sound. Flatwound strings are usually associated mainly with jazz. Their sound is truly a bit flatter, not-so-bright, yet at the same time exceptionally smooth. These strings are also preferred by players who use fingerstyle.
Roundwound strings are generally considered to have more complex, harmonically even and crispier sound. They are perfect all-rounders for genres like rock, blues, country, metal, etc. They are also usually easier to find on the market.
Does brand really matter when it comes to guitar strings for your Telecaster? Frankly, I believe that as long as you stay within some range of renowned and proven manufacturers, you’ll always be fine.
Of course, many guitarists have their personal preferences. The most popular string brands with Telecaster players include Ernie Ball (these are also the strings of choice for the legends like Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, and Slash), D’Addario, and DR Strings.
If you’re unsure which one to choose, you also can’t go wrong with the Fender’s very own strings range which complements all Fender guitars perfectly.
Price is usually one of the crucial parameters we consider. However, even the best set of strings won’t cost you a fortune, so I would recommend you to push this factor completely aside when making your choice.
You can always reduce your expenses by buying a value package of 2, 3, 5, or even 10 guitar sets once you find your preferred type and brand.
D’Addario EXL110-3D is a set of regular round wound guitar strings made of steel and nickel combination. These strings are definitely one of the most popular choices with Fender Telecaster players. They are particularly good for beginners since they are easy to manipulate and offer a perfectly versatile sound.
Telecasters work perfectly with smooth strings, which is another reason why D’Addario EXL110-3D is preferred by many owners of this guitar.
When it comes to genre preferences, I’d suggest going with these strings especially if you play rock or blues – their bright sound works very well with both. These strings are also known to be durable, and I can confirm it from my personal experience too.
One small disadvantage is that these strings are a bit quieter than you might expect them to be. Some users also reported that color coding on their strings was wrong out of the package, but experienced players will likely resolve this issue quite easily.
The Ernie Ball Super Slinky are super-light gauge strings by one of the biggest names on the market. They are made of nickel and offer standard and reliable thickness all across the board. This can improve your consistency through the whole session or performance, so you are free to focus on experimenting.
Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings feel super soft and gentle under your hands, so I really recommend them to anyone who prefers using their fingers instead of a pick. This finger-friendliness also makes these strings ideal for kids or any beginner.
On the other hand, softer strings sometimes lack durability, and these are no different. If you play long hours every day and restring/tune your guitar often, the life expectancy of this set is probably going to disappoint you. Some players also complain that these strings are prone to rust more in comparison with some other strings.
Fender Super 250’s are highly versatile and very traditional strings by Fender designed to fit Telecaster perfectly (but they will suit many other guitars by Fender and other producers too). These strings are made of nickel-plated steel. Thanks to their versatility and well-balanced highs and lows, they are great for anyone who struggles to decide which strings to choose.
Fender Super 250’s are super-light gauge strings, which makes them good for any beginner, junior player, or guitarist preferring fingerstyle.
Their sound feels fresh and dynamic, and it suits Telecaster’s unique character very well. Particularly in combination with Telecaster (or Stratocaster), these strings provide exceptional sustain, which is something I personally appreciate a lot.
Some of the weaker points of these strings: Again, don’t expect endless durability. These strings are a bit delicate and tend to break quite quickly if you manipulate with them often or play too harshly.
Some users also report experiencing fret buzz because of small unevennesses and factory faults. Being one of the most budget-friendly strings for your Telecaster, these strings are simply not perfect.
DR is known to be focusing mainly on purely nickel round wound strings and their DR Strings Pure Blues fit into this category perfectly. These strings are a relatively rare choice for Telecaster players, nevertheless, if you’re after a warmer, slightly muggy blues sound, I believe this should be your number one choice.
Nickel certainly has its tonal qualities – some players like it much more than the crispy clear, yet somewhat cold steely sound. But there are some other strengths to admire here too. These strings can also offer a quite good durability and very nice sustain.
If you’re looking for flaws, it’s probably fair mentioning that some customers claim they received mixed-up packages where some of the strings were missing or duplicate. Numerous reviewers also mention the poor quality of some of their strings.
The truth is that these are not the most expensive nickel strings on the market and weaker quality control might apparently play some role in it.
We’ve already mentioned one D’Addario strings in this article, but this is definitely no repetition – D’Addario XL Chromes ECG24 is something really special. As its name says, these strings are made of chrome, which is one of the less common materials for guitar strings. Nevertheless, it surely has its advantages including minimal resonance and nice clarity.
Another parameter that clearly sets these strings apart from all the other products in our selection is their flatwound design. This will surely be mostly appreciated by jazz guitarists, who, in general, represent one of the most important groups of Telecaster players. XL Chromes are also perfectly smooth, polished to perfection, and their sound is really punchy with wonderful lows.
One disadvantage to consider before making the purchase – chrome strings tend to lose clarity of sound relatively sooner than most of the nickel, steel/nickel strings. You will hear this as if the sound was gradually becoming dead and dull.
Another disclaimer – these strings probably won’t suit everyone, so if you’ve never used chrome, flatwound strings with 11-50 gauge, you can be a bit disappointed.
Answer: Fender Telecaster guitar is usually combined with Medium (Regular) gauge strings or Light/Super-Light gauge strings. The choice depends on your personal preferences – regular gauge strings are believed to be more durable and versatile, while lighter strings are easier to play on and great for experimenting.
Answer: Out of the box, most of the Telecaster guitars come equipped with 9-42 strings. Special and limited Telecaster series (Classic Series ’50s Esquire, Classic Series ’50s Telecaster, etc.) are standardly equipped with 10-46 strings.
Technically, yes. Practically, it doesn’t make much sense. The acoustic guitar needs to produce a strong and clear sound without amplification which requires different types of strings.
Usually, acoustic strings are made of resonant materials like bronze or nylon. Electric guitar strings designed to work in combination with electric arrays are made mostly of steel, nickel, chrome, or some other alloys.
Answer: This is extremely individual. It depends on the quality and material of your strings, but also on your style and frequency of play.
Professional guitarists who play their instruments for long hours every day often need to replace their strings every week or two. If you’re playing only occasionally and don’t apply any excessive pressure on your strings, they might work fine for months.
Answer: Of course! Telecaster is very popular with jazz guitarists who also often prefer flatwound strings due to their smoothness and unique jazzy sound. A combination of the two therefore makes perfect sense.
As you probably already know by now, there’s no universal answer to the question of which strings are best for your Telecaster. Each of the strings we’ve mentioned in this article has many fans and happy users, but each of them also comes with some drawbacks.
The most important thing is to know your own preferences and understand how each parameter of the strings affects their quality and sound.
But if you can’t decide, there’s also nothing wrong with experimenting. It’s often by coincidence that we discover our new favorite products. After all, buying a set of new strings if you make a poor choice is still relatively painless.
Nevertheless, if I had to pick just one ‘winner’ from our selection, I would personally go with D’Addario EXL110-3D XL.
Although it might be totally individual, I always had only the best experience with these strings over the years. They are easy to bend and wind, their durability is really good, and they are also very versatile, which suits my multi-genre taste in music perfectly.
I hope you found the answers to all your questions about the best strings for Telecaster guitar in this article. How about checking out our article about Proper Guitar Strings Cleaning to learn some useful tricks for perfect strings maintenance?
Our in-depth Guide for Choosing the Right Guitar Strings might provide you with some additional information too.
Jodie is a trained classical guitarist. She is also a full-time blogger and loves to write about different types of guitars. Just give her 60 seconds of your time, and she’ll tell you all that you need to know about any guitar of your choice.
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