We’ve already written about some of the greatest jazz guitarists in history but, for this guide, we wanted to focus on some of the gear they use and answer this 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, the two main types of strings out there and also look at what some of the great jazz guitarists around the world use.

If you’ve got experience with some of these brands of jazz guitar strings, or have others to recommend, feel free to share your tips in the comments section at the end.

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 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 archtops, using these strings will give you an authentic, old-school tone.

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…

Flat-wound Strings

  • D’addario ECG24 Chromes Flat Wound

Among the most popular strings for jazz guitarists, D’addario ECG24s are an excellent choice of flatwounds!

Sale
D'Addario Guitar Strings Set, Chromes, Jazz Light
  • LOVED WORLDWIDE – Pursue your passion with the world’s most popular flatwound strings, D’Addario XL Chromes electric guitar strings. They offer the perfect balance of smooth feel and warm, mellow, fat tone. Corrosion resistant packaging ensures your strings are always fresh.
  • FOR THE ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE – D'Addario flat wound stainless-steel strings are expertly “ribbon” wound onto a complex series of interlocking under-windings then precisely polished for an ultra-smooth feel with virtually no finger noise.
  • FOR JAZZ AND MORE – XL Chromes deliver a round, full low end without losing punch, making them the ideal strings for traditional jazz, rockabilly twang, R&B and some pop/rock styles of playing.
  • STRING GAUGES – The gauges in this electric string set include: Plain steel .011, .015, and Nickel Wound .022, .030, .040, .050.
  • MADE IN THE USA – D’Addario leverages centuries of string-making experience and advanced computer-controlled winding technology to bring you the most durable, consistent and long-lasting guitar strings. Made in the USA for the highest quality and performance, only D’Addario strings are sealed inside and out.

  • Thomastik GB112 George Benson Flat Wound

Made by Thomastik to George Benson’s specifications, these high-quality 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 around the world
  • This set includes: .012, .016, .020, .028, .039, .053
  • Genuine Thomastik-Infeld Product

Roundwound Strings

  • Ernie Ball Slinky

These are a great, affordable, all-round string for electric guitar, available in many different gauges.

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Sets, .010 - .046 (3 Pack)
  • 3 individual sets enclosed in a single, flow-wrap package
  • Recipes and Popular gauges created by industry icon Ernie Ball
  • Played By Legends around the world including Slash, Jimmy Page, Metallica, Eric Clapton, and more. . .
  • Element Shield Packaging Prolongs string life and keeps strings as fresh as the day they were made
  • Made in California, U. S. A. Featuring the finest and freshest materials.

  • 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 around the world
  • This set includes: .080, .010, .015, .022, .028, .040
  • 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

I hope this guide gave you some better insight into your options when it comes to buying great jazz guitar strings. And, as always, let us know in the comments what your set up of choice is.

Looking for more jazz guitar? Check out our rundown of 10 of the best jazz guitarists in history. You can also find some industry interviews here:

Interview with Kurt Rosenwinkel
Interview with Wolfgang Muthspiel

NEXT:
The best jazz guitars (2020 buyers guide)

Last update on 2020-08-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API