5 Best Electric Guitar Strings for the Les Paul

best strings for a gibson les paul guitar

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I was recently browsing a forum for Les Paul owners. Someone had posed the question, to which genre of music is the Les Paul most suited?

The answers were variations on a theme, but one response summed it up nicely: “The kind with notes in it.”

Yep, it’s that good. But even with a legendary axe like the Gibson Les Paul, you still need to take care of the basics which include quality strings. Strings break, especially when you’re shredding on a Gibson (or Epiphone) Les Paul the way it was meant to be played.

We’re going to talk about how you can find the best strings for this bad boy and what to look for when picking them out. But if you just want to get straight to the point, you can check out of favorite options here:

Best Overall
D’Addario XL Guitar Strings (10-46)
9.9
  • Easy on the budget but still sound amazing on the Les Paul
  • Multiple gauge options for guitarists that want to experiment
  • More than 27,000 five star reviews on Amazon
Most Durable
D’Addario NYXL Electric Guitar Strings (9-42)
9.8
  • Objectively strong strings based on custom "string torture tests"
  • Lighter gauge is great for leads or Les Paul players that want to go fast
  • More than 7,000 five star reviews on Amazon
Premium Pick
Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt Guitar String (10-46)
9.7
  • Unique cobalt design gives these strings a unique tone and feel
  • My personal favorite setup for my own Les Paul
  • More than 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon

Before we start talking about the right strings for the Gibson Les Paul, we need to make sure you really respect that legend that is this guitar.

Respect The Legend Of The Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar

The Gibson (or Epiphone) Les Paul is a verifiable classic for a reason. Introduced in 1952, this gorgeous design trailed the Telecaster by two years and headed off the Strat by another two. The Les Paul is an excellent contrast to those two guitars, however. The Les Paul and the two Fenders could be described as the founders of parallel families. The Tele and Strat are known for their single-coil tone, popular in twangy aesthetics such as country and surf.

But the Les Paul originally had P90 pickups and now has humbuckers. Relatively speaking, its tone is round, warm, and saturated. The Gibson Les Paul is the guitar for high-gain playing, among many other things which also means you need a particular set of strings to match this style.

Les Paul the man was an extremely innovative guitar player and recording artist. Among other things, he was one of the first to successfully experiment with multi-track recording, overdubbing and close-miking. He also invented the flange effect. So yeah, he’s a big deal.

Ironically, Les Paul was associated with country and jazz playing, but now his guitar is known for just about anything but these genres. The Les Paul plays a mean rock, classic rock, or blues. It can be heard on classic recordings by The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Who, and The Grateful Dead. One of my absolute favorite examples of the blues tones from the Gibson Les Paul is the track “Hideaway” from Eric Clapton:

In modern times, guitarists have discovered its very heavy solid body and thick humbucker pickups are excellent for high-gain hard-rocking applications. Guns ‘n’ Roses, Kiss, Ozzy Osborne, and Rush recordings make great use of Les Pauls, and the guitar is possibly The Pop-Punk Guitar today as well, with a little help from the right distortion pedal of course.

What does all this have to do with finding the right strings for the Les Paul?

Some would say nothing. But for me, I say you need to know the tradition behind this amazing guitar before you even play it so consider this just a little housekeeping before we pick up some new strings.

Choosing the Best Electric Guitar Strings for the Gibson Les Paul

Now that you know your history, let’s let at some of the key characteristics of the Gibson Les Paul that will help us understand what strings we need to consider.

Scale Length

The Gibson Les Paul’s scale length affects its characteristics and therefore affects string choice as well. Compared to the Fender siblings, the Les Paul has a short scale (25.5” vs 24.75”.) This means the Les Paul has a thicker, muddier tone, as opposed to the Fender twang. This is also what makes it so well suited to blues and classic rock in the first place.

If you’re not as familiar with scale length, I whipped up this little graphic to get you up to speed:

 

showing exactly how to measure scale length on a guitar

The shorter scale length also means that the Gibson Les Pauls isn’t as apt at bending notes or the sort of expressive playing that you see in other guitars from the same era. A shorter scale length also usually means less tension in the strings which can offer some flexibility when it comes to selecting a string, especially when it comes to gauge.

Guitars with shorter scales are more associated with rhythm playing or “comping” and less with shredding or soloing. That said, the Gibson Les Paul’s chunky and distinct tone is responsible for some of the most iconic solos of all time and you can hear some of them below:

Okay, I promise we’re (almost) done showing off what the Gibson Les Paul can do and we’ll stick to the strings.

String Gauge

One of the simplest, yet most effective, changes you can make to your guitar is to change your string gauge. Just changing the string gauge can not only change the tone but can also totally change the way a guitar plays.

String gauge refers to the thickness, and is usually referred to in the shorthand by the number representing the high E string. For example, medium-gauge string packs usually have a high E string of 0.010” and are referred to as “.010s”.

Strings are also available in light, extra light, heavy, and extra heavy, though names vary depending on the maker. Lighter strings are known to have a thinner tone, and break more easily, but they are easier on your fingers when playing and better for bending. As you may guess, heavy strings have the opposite characteristics. They require some muscle to play, but have thicker (and usually warmer) tones and tend to last longer.

Light, medium, and heavy strings can all be great on Les Pauls for different contexts. Since the guitar already has a fairly short scale, lead players should err on the side of lighter strings. This will make quick and expressive playing easier. And with the Les Paul’s dual humbuckers, you already have tone to spare. I personally love the buttery lead tones of a Les Paul played through a vintage Fender amp, like a Twin Reverb.

Rhythm players in hard rock and punk contexts should try heavy strings. Nothing beats the massive distorted tone you can get from a Les Paul with heavy-as-hell strings played through a Marshall or Orange amp. And the heavy strings just encourage you to chug the rhythm that much more aggressively. Players of harder genres will be grateful to break strings less often as well- especially if they’ve been hit by a stray string before.

String Material

Nickel-plated steel strings are the electric guitar default, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that 90% of electric strings are made this way (though I don’t actually know the figure.) Pure stainless steel and pure nickel strings are also available.

Nickel is a vintage material, formerly the standard for electric strings, and it produces a warmer, more classic tone. Stainless steel strings are very bright, and nickel-plated steel splits the difference.

Nickel-plated steel strings are popular because they do the job in almost any context. But try stainless steel strings on a Les Paul, because the brighter tone could bring out some of the twang that the humbuckers tend to mute.

What Type Of Strings Do Gibson Les Pauls Come With Out Of The Factory With?

We’ve covered the basics you need to know when it’s time to pick out a new set of strings for your Gibson Les Paul but what if you’re a purist and just want to stick with the way Les Paul intended?

So what strings does the Les Paul come with as a standard?

The standard Les Paul string gauge is .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046. They use the Gibson Brite Wire as the standard string which are made from high-carbon steel, nickel-plated and use the hex shape. These light strings will give the Les Paul a sharp tone with an easy-to-play feel right out of the box. 

If you consider yourself a Les Paul purist, then there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics. Even if you aren’t a purist, knowing what the Gibson Les Paul comes with as a standard can help us find the tone and style that we prefer.

For example, knowing that the standard is 10-46’s, if we want to try and shred even faster or go for an even sharper tone we can go for even lighter strings. In other words, knowing the factory standard gives us a baseline and we can experiment from there.

Best Strings For A Gibson Les Paul

Now that we have all the background information out of the way, let’s get into the details with the best string options for a Gibson Les Paul.

Best Overall: D’Addario XL Guitar Strings (10-46)

Best Overall
D’Addario XL Guitar Strings (10-46)
  • Easy on the budget but still sound amazing on the Les Paul
  • Multiple gauge options for guitarists that want to experiment
  • More than 27,000 five star reviews on Amazon

I’m not aware of any string maker with D’Addario’s pedigree.

This company has its roots in an Italian family that has been making lute and mandolin strings for hundreds of years, and since coming to New York has developed into one of the premier modern string brands. The strings are well-made, well priced, offer loads of choices, and rightfully have a loyal following. That means you have a lot of choices when it comes to finding the best fit for a Les Paul.

But if I had to narrow it down (which I do), I’d have to go with their EXL110 nickel-wound steel strings. Not only are they a great choice for the Gibson Les Paul but they’re a compelling candidate for the World’s Standard Electric Strings.

I’m specifically recommending the light (10-46) gauge strings and not only do these feel great on the Les Paul they’re also the same gauge that the rig would come out of the factory with. But it’s not exactly a hot take to say that the D’Addario strings are going to hold your tone for much longer than the factory strings.

Even though I think the lighter gauges are good for most players, if you’re playing in hard genres there’s nothing wrong with sticking with the same brand but using a heavier gauge. For leads (especially in metal) you can go for even lighter gauges.

It also helps that I’m definitely not the only one who’s happy with these strings and at the time of writing there are more than 27,000 five-star reviews for XL line from D’Addario. That means these strings can do a lot more than just upgrade your Les Paul.

All that and you’re still getting a budget price. Yeah, that’s why I had to pick these for the best overall. You can read some of those reviews, see all the gauge options and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Most Durable: D’Addario NYXL Electric Guitar Strings (9-42)

Most Durable
D’Addario NYXL Electric Guitar Strings (9-42)
  • Objectively strong strings based on custom "string torture tests"
  • Lighter gauge is great for leads or Les Paul players that want to go fast
  • More than 7,000 five star reviews on Amazon

Also from D’Addario, the NYXL guitar strings have a high-carbon steel core that offers greater strength and longer last strings. While it’s not always true, when it comes to guitar strings I have found that you really do get what you pay for, and spending extra on quality guitar strings is usually worth it in terms of avoiding broken strings and not having to retune or outright replace strings.

But I know that you’ve also heard plenty of marketing mumbo jumbo over the years so I present to you the official abuse of the NYXL guitar string:


Yes, there’s a guy whose official job is to torture guitar strings although I think there are a lot of people who are doing that work for free. But these tests do give us a more objective look at what “premium” really means and according to their testing, these strings are 131% more stable than the standard guitar strings. It might not be a perfect test, but it does go to show these strings are tough.

When it comes to the Les Paul, lighter strings can sound amazing (especially for a lead guitar) and can also be easier to play. But the downside is that you’re more likely to lose tone or deal with a broken string. That’s why I’m such a fan of the NYXL strings. You can get a string that’s even lighter than the factor standard without having to deal with most of the downside of light gauges.

As is the case with many D’Addario strings, there are a ton of positive reviews across the internet and Amazon alone has more than 7,000 five-star reviews that are raving about the NYXL (including from many Gibson Les Paul players). You can read some of those reviews, check out all your gauge options and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Premium Pick: Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt Guitar String (10-46)

Premium Pick
Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt Guitar String (10-46)
  • Unique cobalt design gives these strings a unique tone and feel
  • My personal favorite setup for my own Les Paul
  • More than 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon

Relative to D’Addario, Ernie Ball came from nowhere.

But this brand has become extremely popular with guitarists over the years. Ernie Ball’s strings are known for excellence in quality and great prices, and their packaging enthusiastically brags about the well-known players who rock them. Ernie Ball’s answer to the EXL110 line from D’Addario is their Slinky line.

Many hardcore genre players love Ernie Ball’s heavier options, such as “Power Slinky” and the evocatively-named “Not Even Slinky.”

But my absolute favorite is their cobalt alloy strings which also happen to be the first strings made from such material. I bought two packs of these for my electric guitars (an Epiphone Les Paul and vintage Japanese Teisco Tulip.) Dear reader, I am an instant convert, and I expect to buy these again.

They do come with premium pricing, but the alloy offers a uniquely rich tone. My personal favorite combination- Les Paul, Ernie Ball cobalts, and vintage Fender amp- just generates an ocean of tone. Check out the graph visible on the back of the packaging. That huge bump in frequency response in the mid-to high-frequencies does wonders with the Les Paul’s humbuckers.

You can see the legendary Slash using this setup (minus the Fender amp) and flexing his skill using the Slinky cobalts in this video:


If it’s good enough Slash, it’s good enough for me, and even though I wouldn’t consider myself a major Slash fan he’s very well known for playing Gibson Les Paul guitars so his vote for the Erine Ball strings definitely carries some weight.

You can read more reviews, check out all the gauge options, and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Coated Strings: Elixir Nanoweb Electric Strings (.011-.049)

Best Coated Strings
Elixir Nanoweb Electric Strings (.011-.049)
  • Coated strings can take a beating
  • A slightly higher gauge than the factor standard also increases durablity
  • More than 8,000 five star reviews onn Amazon

Elixir is another newcomer making waves in the world of guitar strings.

For Gibson Les Paul players who like to play rough, their coated strings could be a revelation and a major improvement. They are not the only coated strings on the market, but Elixir’s seem to be a favorite amongst every Les Paul player that I know.

These are premium guitar strings, which come with premium pricing, but that also means that the strings can take a beating as you pull your best Zakk Wylde. Besides being durable, coated strings are also a good option for cross-country gigs or other major climate changes since they’re more resistant to corrosion. Even if you aren’t traveling anywhere, if you’re sweating a lot then the coated string could be a nice bonus.

I’m also recommending strings that are slightly heavier gauge than you’d find on the standard Gibson Les Paul. These strings will hold up even longer but also give you more of a focused sound that’s perfect for metal guitar. And in all honesty, if you’re not working at least a little metal with your Les Paul then you need to be asking yourself why. But I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

In the meantime, you can check out the massive amount of five-star reviews, see all the gauge options and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Round Core: DR Strings Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-50

Best Round Core
DR Strings Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-50
  • Round core strings for that classic feel Les Paul feel
  • Slightly heavier gauge and round core means these strings have a long life
  • Easy on the budget

DR’s strings have ended up on other lists I’ve written. Both the Telecaster and the Stratocaster can sound great with DR’s Pure Blues strings. Like those strings, their Tite-Fit line has round cores.

Most electric guitar strings have hexagonal cores, but players attest that Tite-Fits have a unique tone that’s difficult to describe. Furthermore, they are known to have the strength of heavier gauges, but the give and flexibility of lighter gauges. They are particularly popular for players who want to do drop tunings without going to heavier strings.

I’m also a big fan of switching up the type of string you use from time to time and there’s a good chance that many Les Paul players have only used hex core strings. Heck, there’s a good chance that most electric guitar players have only used hex core strings. The differences are subtle, but they’re worth exploring and this video does a great job quickly breaking down the differences:

There aren’t going to be everyone and if exploring isn’t your thing then check any of the other strings on this list. But with an easy-on-the-budget price, it’s worth at least checking out and you can click here to see today’s price on Amazon.

Conclusion

No matter what road has led you to your Les Paul, the right set of strings can really complement your tone and playing style.

Ultimately, string choice is as personal and subjective as clothing style, and strings aren’t expensive- experiment with different sets until you find one that speaks to you. And carry on the proud and ever-adaptive Les Paul tradition of rocking the heck out!

What do you think? Which set of strings did you decide to go with?