I'm a newbie and want to play mostly thrash metal. My guitar is Dave Mustaine VMNT-X and amp is a Fender 10g (I know, not a great choice but money issues at the time).

I've looked at Ernie Ball skinny top heavy bottom, and D'Addario nickel wound, but any other suggestions are most welcome.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Carl Witthoft, Matthew Read May 14 '17 at 15:02

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    As should be obvious given the responses so far, this is purely a personal choice. You won't know until you try a few. – Carl Witthoft May 14 '17 at 11:22

It doesn't actually have to matter what gauge strings you use for metal.

That said, drop D or lower tunings are common in this genre, and to do that without the lower strings getting too flappy or loose on a standard guitar, you need more mass, and that requires a thicker gauge.

On my six string guitars I used to use '009s and '010s for blues and rock, but for metal I went initially for skinny top heavy bottoms and then tweaked that with an extra thick low string - then went with Elixirs as I was rusting strings too fast.

On my seven string guitars I played around with string gauges even more to make my low A sound awesome.

Don't worry about the brand. Just get gauges that let you play in the tuning you want.


In metal it is not uncommon to use slightly heavier strings to facilitate dropped turnings which tends to give a somewhat darker and heavier sound to riffs. Equally fairly light top strings may be preferred for playing lead runs.

Having said that it is not unusual to see two guitarists in the same band with vastly different setups.

Nickel wound strings can add a bit of brightness which helps mitigate the muddy sound you can get from very low tunings.

As a very general rule of thumb heavier strings will give a more meaty sound while lighter ones make fast, precise playing easier so there is some compromise. This is one of the reasons why 7 string guitars are used by some bands.

Having said that string gauge is as much about playing style and feel as tone so it is worth trying a few different sets and see what works for you and it's not something you need to worry about a lot. Both brands you mention in the question are pretty standard for metal.

Thrash and related genres tend to have a mix of quiet bass heavy guitar riffs and technical solos which need to cut through the rest of the mix, although these will often be handles by tow guitarists with different setups, or at least some means to radically change tone on the fly.

It is also worth mentioning that frequency control is often at least as important as outright distortion in this type of metal so a good parametric or graphic EQ pedal may help a lot in getting the sound you want. Equally there are a ton of distortion pedals which are aimed at getting precisely this sort of sound and will often have some sort of parametric EQ in the form of a 'presence' and/or tone knob. These are often the easiest way to get a decent metal. You will never get the full punch of a big 4 speaker cabinet from a practice amp whatever you do but in most practice situations this isn't achievable anyway.


Dunlop’s Heavy Core strings are made especially for drop tunings and are the choice of many metal players.

How to choose the right strings for electric guitars


I personally use elixir nano webs, they are a bit pricey compared to other strings but they keep their tone a lot longer than any other strings that I have played with. They also play buttery smooth.


D'addario strings are very good and will last a long time. I had mine for over a year. And as for gauge, I recommend 10s.

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