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We’ve already written about some of the best guitars for jazz, as well as which amplifiers work best for the style but, in this article we’re going to focus on one question: what are the best jazz guitar strings out there?

Of course, there’s not a simple answer to this, as it depends on what sound you’re going for, but stay tuned for some of the key considerations and recommendations when it comes to setting yourself up to play jazz.

We’ll take you through a few of the technical aspects, talk through the two main types of strings – flatwound vs roundwound – and also look at what some of the great jazz guitarists around the world use.

Here’s the quick overview, before we dive into the details…

BrandTypeOur highlightBuy
D’addario ECG24flatwoundThe most popular strings for jazz guitaristsCheck Price
Thomastik GB112flatwoundMade to George Benson's specificationsCheck Price
D’addario EXL116 Nickel WoundroundwoundA distinctive bright jazz soundCheck Price
Ernie Ball SlinkyroundwoundGreat, affordable, all-round electric guitar stringCheck Price
Thomastik-Infeld Power BrightsroundwoundBrighter tone and stronger sound than most stringsCheck Price

jazz guitar strings

String Gauge (which jazz guitarists use what?)

The string gauge refers to the thickness of the string. Sets are referred to by the thickness of the thin E string and are generally broken down into 3 categories:

  • Light strings (0.09s)
  • Medium strings (0.11s)
  • Heavy strings (0.12-0.13+)

Lighter gauges are easier to press down and bend, making them easy to play, and tend to have a thinner sound. Heavier gauges are harder to play, but have a warmer tone.

Unsurprisingly, most jazz players prefer heavier gauges, tending towards 0.11s to 0.13s, but most brands of strings are available in multiple thicknesses.

In terms of the jazz guitar greats, John Abercrombie used one of the lighter variations of strings (0.10s), whilst Mike Stern & John Scofield are all reported to use medium 0.11 strings. In terms of the heavyweights, Joe Pass used 0.12s and Wes Montgomery was apparently on 0.14s!

Roundwound vs Flatwound strings

The lower strings of the electric guitar are wrapped in a second wire. Most guitar strings are round-wound, using a rounded outer wire.

These Roundwound strings are bright, with lots of overtones, and work well with more ‘electric’ guitars, such as semi-hollow or solid-body guitars.

Flatwound strings are wrapped in a flat wire, producing a more mellow, duller tone, favoured by straight-ahead guitarists, such as Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell.

Commonly paired with archtop guitars, using these strings will give you an authentic, old-school tone and, in general, will last a lot longer than a set of Roundwound strings

You can find a quick demo of both types in this video by London jazz guitarist Sam Dunn:

In terms of specific brands, here are some of the more popular choices…

Best Flatwound Strings for Jazz

D’addario ECG24 Chromes Flat Wound

Among the most popular for jazz guitarists, D’addario ECG24 strings are an excellent choice of flatwounds!

D'Addario Guitar Strings Set, Chromes, Jazz Light
  • LOVED WORLDWIDE – Pursue your passion...
  • FOR THE ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE –...
  • FOR JAZZ AND MORE – XL Chromes deliver...
  • STRING GAUGES – The gauges in this...
  • MADE IN THE USA – D’Addario...

Thomastik GB112 George Benson Flat Wound

Made by Thomastik to George Benson’s specifications, these high-quality GB112 strings are only available in higher gauges, starting at 0.12.

Thomastik-Infeld GB112 Jazz Guitar Strings: George Benson 6 String Set - Pure Nickel Flat Wounds E, B, G, D, A, E Set
  • Used by Students and Professionals...
  • This set includes: .012, .016, .020,...
  • Genuine Thomastik-Infeld Product

Best Roundwound Strings For Jazz

D’addario EXL116 Nickel Wound

With hybrid gauges optimised for down tuning, these Round wound strings from D’addario are made with nickel-plated steel for that distinctive bright jazz tone.

D'Addario EXL116 Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings, Medium Top/Heavy Bottom, 11-52, 3 Sets (EXL116-3D)
  • Hybrid gauges optimized for down tuning
  • Round wound with nickel Plated steel for...
  • Environmentally friendly, corrosion...
  • Made in the U.S.A. For the highest...
  • String gauges: plain steel .011, .014,...

Ernie Ball Slinky

These are a great, affordable, all-round string for electric guitar, available in many different gauges and played by the likes of Jimmy Page & Eric Clapton.

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Sets, .010 - .046 (3 Pack)
  • 3 individual sets enclosed in a single,...
  • Recipes and Popular gauges created by...
  • Played By Legends around the world...
  • Element Shield Packaging Prolongs string...
  • Made in California, U. S. A. Featuring...

Thomastik-Infeld Power Brights

As the name suggests, these strings produce a brighter tone than most, coupled with a long sustain, and a stronger sound. These are designed to enhance harmonics, and work excellently with overdrive.

They are very versatile, too – the brightness can be easily tamed with the tone knob of your guitar.

Thomastik-Infeld PB108 Electric Guitar Strings: Power-Brights 6 String Magnecore Round Wound Set E, B, G, D, A, E
  • Used by Students and Professionals...
  • This set includes: .080, .010, .015,...
  • Genuine Thomastik-Infeld Product

Kemp Strings

Kemp Strings are another great all-rounder, with great tone and sustain, but they also feature a unique ‘equal sensitivity’, meaning that the force required to bend the each of the strings is the same, unlike conventional sets, where bends are impractical on the thicker strings.

“Kemp strings are really fun to play – they feel and sound great, and the equal sensitivity for bending opens up all kinds of new creative possibilities!’Joe Williamson, guitarist & endorser of Kemp Strings

NEXT:
The Best Guitar Amps For Jazz (2020 guide)

Hopefully this guide gave you some better insight into your options when it comes to choosing the best jazz guitar strings for your sound.

Looking for more articles about jazz guitar? Check out this round up of 10 of the best jazz guitarists playing today, or this rundown of the best types and brands of guitars for playing jazz.

Lastly, you can check out our rundown of 10 of the best jazz guitarists in history!

Last update on 2020-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API