To this day, Fender Stratocasters are among the best-selling guitars in the world. It’s no secret nor is it a surprise. Many virtuosos and guitar legends have handled a strat at least for part of if not their entire career.
If you’re also a strat enthusiast then you’ve probably struggled to figure out what strings sound best.
Should you be a purist or should you experiment? – I tend to lean toward the latter, which is why in this article I’ll be going over what I think are the best strings for Stratocaster guitars.
You would be surprised at how many successful combinations you can try. It doesn’t matter you’re trying to stick to the classic strat tone or if you’re trying to come up with something new and exciting.
5 Best Strings for Pairing with Strat Guitars
Nothing says Fender Strat like a set of Super Slinky strings by Ernie Ball. These nickel wound strings do a great job of giving you that authentic feel when you’re jamming on the fretboard of a Fender Stratocaster.
The strings are cheap and come in the recommended strat gauge of .009-.042 (also known as light strings). Now, some would argue that Regular Slinky strings are the way to go. I personally believe that the Super Slinky strings are a lot more comfortable to play with at any level.
They also seem a bit more durable, which is what you want if you tend to abuse bends when you’re jamming or if you go on the road a lot. The tone is well-balanced and reminiscent of the classic blues and rock ’n’ roll tones of the earlier decades.
All Fender guitarists have played with a set of Fender strings at least once. Though mixing and matching is part of the fun, the Fender 250L strings remain to this day among the best strings for the Stratocaster.
I recommend going with the light version, gauges 0.009-0.042, if you play blues, soft rock, jazz, folk, and anything along those lines. This gauge is easy to play with whether you’re a beginner or a master.
The 250L nickel-plated steel strings can emphasize notes in the low and high register really well, thus adding a unique warmth to your sound.
As the name suggests, this time we’re moving up in gauge. Don’t underestimate the potential of the Fender Stratocaster in more modern genres.
The D’Addario NYX strings come in a single pack or a 3-pack. The regular light strings are 10-46 in gauge. These strings are not for beginners because they require additional finger strength and well-developed calluses.
However, you can squeeze a bit more volume out of them, achieve better sustain, and emphasize the midrange frequencies. All of which which lower gauge strings simply won’t be able to accommodate.
Another benefit of using these strings would be the tuning retention properties. You won’t have to check your clip-on tuner as often as you would with lower gauge strings.
Here’s another Ernie Ball string set for your strat that can open up new avenues for you. The Cobalt strings are made from a cobalt alloy which adds durability, flexibility, and note sustain.
Compared to the regular set, the tone is brighter and clearer. Of course, I still recommend the 9-42 gauge for the strat. However, even with a light gauge, these strings have the build quality and potential to handle alternative, grunge, and even hard rock.
They’re a bit more versatile than you would expect and can really make your Fender Stratocaster sound unique. You might find them to play a bit louder too.
These strings feature the iconic Elixir Optiweb coating which extends the longevity and smoothness of the strings. This won’t remove the need to clean the guitar, but it makes maintenance a lot easier.
The tone of the strings is a bit crisp. It’s not exactly a replica of the classic Stratocaster sound. However, if you’re looking to branch out and experiment, these strings make a nice pairing with the renowned Fender guitar.
The recommended string gauge is 9-42. Light strings will always work well with a strat. The durability of these plain steel strings is more than impressive. I also like how long it takes before any noticeable tone issues pop up.
How to Look at Gauges
Guitar string gauges are very important to understand when picking strings. They influence everything from feel and sound to the musical genres that you can tackle with them.
Since the Fender Stratocaster is an iconic guitar featured heavily in blues and soft rock, the guitar’s design doesn’t accommodate heavy strings to well.
Most guitarists play their strat in E (or maybe D in some cases). Therefore, anything beyond the 9-42 or 10-46 is not recommended. You may be able to slip in 11-52 strings but not without making some adjustments to the bridge and neck.
That being said, pick the strings that work best with your playing style and genre. Lighter strings will always be super easy to play fast or to bend and shred. Heavier strings will give you a bit more output and will stay in tune longer if you go lower than D. But as mentioned, they’ll also require more finger strength.
Should You Go with Fender or Not?
Every guitar manufacturer also makes guitar strings. But there’s no law that dictates you should only use Fender strings with Fender guitars like the Tele and Strat. This is especially true when it comes to the Strat, which is a lot more versatile than most people realize.
There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with other brands. You’ll notice that many Fender guitarists actually prefer Ernie Ball or D’Addario strings and they don’t shy away from letting people know that.
How Much Should You Worry About the Material?
The most popular guitar strings are nickel-plated. They’re cheap and consistent, and most manufacturers have the fabrication process down to an art.
That being said, string materials are a matter of personal preference. The feel can be very different as can the sound.
Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want to stray outside the box and start playing on cobalt strings or even pure nickel strings (not as durable but have an amazing vintage sound).
Be as Classical or as Modern as You Want
I can’t stress enough how underused the Fender Stratocaster is as an electric guitar. Although it may be slightly limited in string gauge compatibility, the natural clean tone of the strat can transcend.
Any of the strings featured in this article will help you get high-end tones out of your strat. It just depends on how willing you are at taking chances.