The Fender Telecaster was the World’s first mass-produced, solid-body electric guitar and has been continuously produced ever since. Given that it’s been available for over 70 years, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Tele has found its way onto records in almost every genre.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, part of our electric guitar strings series, we took a look at 5 of the best string sets for Telecasters on the market today. To fairly review each string set, we played them clean through a Bugera V22 Infinium tube amp on a Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster.
This test was designed to look for:
- Tuning stability – Did they stretch quickly and hold tune well?
- Playability – How comfortable were the strings over an extended period?
- Overall tone – Did the strings have an impact on the Telecaster’s overall tone?
Features: Nanoweb coating, Nickel plated steel, Steel core
Benefits: Ultra long life, Great feel, Bright tone
|Click For Best Price|
Features: Color coded ends, Hexagonal core, Round wound
Benefits: Tight tones, Excellent clarity, Easy installation
|Click For Best Price|
Features: Tin plated steel hex core, Nickel plated steel wrap, Bal ends
Benefits: Well balanced tone, Widely available, Great twang
|Click For Best Price|
Our Top Three Picks
Our Top Pick in this test was the Fender 250L Super 250s. These are the stock strings on most US-made Telecaster models, and they really do pair well. They’re a great all-round string that will sound good in any application.
If you’re sticking to a Budget, the Ernie Ball Super Slinkies are a solid choice. With these strings you’re getting quality, consistency and great tone at an unbeatable price.
If money isn’t an object and you’re looking to string up with the very best, you should absolutely consider a set of Elixir Nanoweb Nickel-Plated Steel strings. These coated strings have incredible feel, they outlast almost everything on the market, and they sound sweet on a Tele. An easy pick for our Editor’s Choice.
Fender’s OEM Telecaster string proves why it’s the standard equipment.
These strings are the standard equipment for the vast majority of Telecasters leaving Fender's US and Mexican plants, and even their overseas Squier production lines. They pair brilliantly with the Telecaster's bright, twangy sound, and offer great feel and comfort, too.
If you’ve read our recent post about What strings come on a Fender guitar, you’d have seen that for the vast majority of Telecasters, the Fender USA 250L Super 250s are the string that these guitars ship from the factory with.
For many players, keeping things to OEM spec does help them maintain the tone that made them buy the guitar in the first place. So for many people, these strings make a lot of sense.
Telecasters have always been known for their responsiveness to a gentle touch, which is why light strings like these work so well. The 250L set is .009-.042, which kept things comfortable across the board. We found that they played fast, and huge bends were effortless.
One we loaded these strings onto the guitar, we were pleasantly surprised by just how quickly they settled. They were brought to pitch and stayed there without much of any intervention during a marathon 3-hour jam.
Tonally, these strings were bright with a lot of emphasis on the mids and upper-mids, and this really accentuated the Telecaster twang (in a good way). Sustain was solid, and that isn’t easily achieved on a Telecaster. They held up well for the duration of the test and no breaks were experienced.
Verdict: While it’s nice to branch out and experiment, it’s also nice to give some credit to the fact that Fender’s R&D team put significant effort into pairing these particular strings with their instruments! The Fender USA 250L Super 250s sounded excellent, they threaded through the body without issue, and once they were tuned up, they remained rock solid. A great overall string if you loved how your Tele sounded out of the box.
The choice of beginners and rock stars alike.
Sometimes it's the simplest approach that yields the best results, and with Ernie Ball Super Slinkys on a Telecaster, it's hard to argue with that logic. For very little money you're getting reliable, great sounding strings with good longevity and excellent stability.
There’s a good reason why the Ernie Ball Super Slinky shows up time and time again in reviews of the best electric guitar strings. First and most importantly, they sound great. They’re also comfortable, an especially important consideration for newer players, plus they cost very little.
Super Slinkies are a light custom gauge, measuring from .009 – .042, which is a great range for a Telecaster. They offered enough playability to make large bends comfortable, and the response to vibrato was great. Lead players will be happy with the comfort and speed, while rhythm players will be pleased to know they still offer enough presence to fill up the mix.
These strings had a strong punch in the mid range, which when paired with our clean tube amp resulted in some beautiful breakup. Construction is nickel-plated steel, which we found contributed to the bell-like clarity and bright overtones.
Tuning stability was incredible from the get-go. Hardtail guitars like Telecasters have an inherent advantage over models with tremolo arms like Strats in terms of stability, but this becomes even more apparent when you’re playing with a quality string like the Super Slinky.
Verdict: Ernie Ball Super Slinkies can be put up against any string, no matter the price, and they’ll hold their own. That’s why they’re the undisputed Best Budget option. For an absurdly low price, you’re getting strings with wonderful tone and great comfort. Best of all, they’re sold pretty much everywhere, so you can be sure that no matter where you go, you’ll always be able to find a set of Super Slinkies.
Great tones with a super long lifespan.
If you prefer a coated string, they do't get any better for Teles than these Elixirs. The coating results in a smooth feel with almost zero string squeak, and the longevity is unbeatable.
Elixir is almost certainly the first name on most players’ minds when they think of coated strings. After all, Elixir were one of the early pioneers of coated string technology in the ’90s, and they’ve been popular ever since.
Their Nanoweb product is one of their best-sellers. These strings have an ultra-thin layer of Nanoweb polymer coating the outside, just 5 microns thick. If you’ve tried other coated strings before and you haven’t liked the feel, please try these Elixir Nanowebs!
We noted that the coating is almost undetectable to the touch, but the benefits are definitely tangible. We observed little-to-no string squeak, and this is a big win. Our test Tele’s pickups are notoriously microphonic (though obviously you can always swap out pickups), so reducing that unwanted noise was wonderful. As well as the lack of squeak, the strings played fast under all conditions.
Of all the strings on test, these Elixir Nanowebs stood out in that they lost none of their Day 1 brightness. In fact, there was no tone loss whatsoever. Of course, as a coated string, they aren’t quite as bright as say, a pure nickel string, but this actually works out beautifully. The slightly more mellow sound worked well with the Tele’s hot pickups, giving us a much more balanced tone than we expected.
Once we had them tuned and off the bench, they stayed pitch perfect, despite the almost abusive amount of bends we put on them. We once again chose a light gauge (.009 – .042) and we experienced no breaks or near-misses.
Verdict: Don’t let the initial cost of purchase put you off. The Elixir Nanoweb strings will outlast several sets of uncoated strings, meaning they cost pretty much the same in the end (plus you don’t have to change them out so often!). We loved the tones we could squeeze out of the Telecaster with these strings, a definite standout. These are absolutely the very best strings you can put on a Tele!
Perfect for fat tones and huge presence.
These Billy Gibbons signature strings go a long way to helping you get that fat tone that the ZZ top guitarist was so well known for. They're punchy, and also happen to be fantastic for slide guitar.
The ol’ Rev himself, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, developed the Dunlop Billy Gibbons String Lab Series strings in conjunction with Jim Dunlop in order to bring out the huge “Texas tone” he’s known for, while still retaining enough note separation and articulation to hit the pinch harmonics.
As advertised, these strings are bright and bold. While this might be because they were the only pack of medium strings tested among a field of lights, this doesn’t detract from their great tone. They measure in at .010 – .046, which we found to be a comfortable enough gauge to get in the big bends without excessive force being required.
It stood out to us that the packaging was devoid of information besides the gauge. This obviously didn’t impact how they play, but if you just happened to be shopping around for strings, this can make it difficult to know you’ve got the right set. In case you were wondering, these strings are made in a nickel-plated steel with a steel core.
By the end of the test, the fat tones we were hit in the face with when we first strung up had started to fade. They certainly weren’t “dead,” but the drop in brightness was much more apparent than the other strings we looked at.
These strings did require a fair amount of stretching before they gained stability. Once they had settled, though, they performed well and held pitch for extended sessions.
Verdict: If you’re trying to fatten up how your Tele sounds, or maybe trying to play some slide, these Reverend Willy’s Lottery Brand strings are a good choice. They provide a nice balance of midrange punch and single-string clarity, which ultimately sounds great on a Tele.
Dependability and consistency with classic Telecaster twang.
With these strings you're getting premium construction, and fantastic attention to detail. They're some of the freshest strings you'll ever find out of the packet thanks to the nitrogen sealing technology, and they offer crystal clear tones that beautifully compliment the spanky tones of the Telecaster.
GHS Boomers aren’t on as many guitars as the likes of the Ernie Ball Super Slinky, but it doesn’t make them any less worthy of a slot in this top 5 Telecaster strings list.
As we’ve come to expect from all of the GHS strings we’ve tested on the KGR bench, the quality was fantastic. They’re made from nickel-plated steel with a steel core, which is pretty standard for electric guitar strings.
Every string gets an individual nitrogen-sealed package to ensure there’s no pitting or corrosion between the factory floor and being strung onto your guitar. Giving each string its own packaging also ensures the nickel coating doesn’t get ground off due to friction with the other strings.
We loved their tone on the Telecaster. e’ve criticized this particular set for maybe sounding a little bland on other guitars, but we found they work well if you happen to be aiming for a classic Telecaster sound.
They are crystal clear and have plenty of spank. We found they sounded great for upbeat genres like funk, however they weren’t as well-suited to fingerstyle or other mellower genres, and came across a little too brash. The tone was starting to fade a little by the end of the trial, but not as much as the Reverend Willy’s.
The consistent build quality translated into a great-feeling set of strings. This particular set was a custom light gauge in .009 – .046 (light top, medium bottom), which worked really well with our Tele. Bends were easy and the heavier bass side lets us dig in for a sharp attack.
Tuning stability was definitely satisfactory. It didn’t take us too long to stretch out, and pitch correction was only required after some borderline excessive funk strumming and choke-out bends.
Verdict: The GHS Roundwound Guitar Boomers are a great everyday type of string for a Telecaster. They offer quality construction and they’re comfortable for most players. Lifespan isn’t the longest, but if that’s important to you, check out the Elixir Nanowebs. In all, these strings complement the Telecaster’s iconic tones well, which is definitely important if you’re trying to preserve this sound.
How to Choose the Right Strings for You
The Telecaster’s beauty lies in its simplicity. It doesn’t need a million pickups, coil-tapping, or even ergonomic body sculpting. This simplicity makes string selection for the Telecaster such an interesting proposition. To get the best sound from these classic guitars, you don’t need to venture too far outside the box.
Telecasters are typically chosen by players looking for the unique tones that they bring. To help keep the distinctive sound that has become synonymous with T-Style guitars, keep the gauge either light or medium. That is .009 and .010 at the treble side and between .042 and .046 at the bass end.
The single-coil pickups equipped in Telecasters will never sound as fat as a humbucker in a Les Paul, so there’s no sense in fighting physics. Lighter gauges keep Teles sounding bright and spanky, which really helps them to cut through any mix.
Alloy and Coating
To keep the classic Telecaster sound, there’s no better choice than nickel-plated steel. Nickel-plated steel strings are bright and they register well with Telecaster pickups, ensuring you get clarity and good note separation.
If opting for a coated string, look at something with an ultra-thin polymer layer like the Elixir Nanowebs. The thinner the coating, the less impact it has on the pickups’ ability to detect the string movement. This keeps them sounding more like an uncoated string, while still providing the benefits of reduced noise and improved feel.
We’d recommend steering clear of pure steel and pure nickel strings on a Telecaster. They have a tendency to go beyond spanky and end up sounding honky, which is not a desirable sound at all.
While the Telecaster has been popular during its entire production run, it was for a long time overshadowed somewhat by the Stratocaster (by the way, we also have a rundown of best strings for Strats). Now that this classic axe is getting the love it deserves once again, we’re being asked all the time, “What are the best strings for a Telecaster?” We’re glad to have been able to answer that definitively for you in this post!
To recap – For Tele players looking for quality strings that can do a bit of everything, the Fender 250L Super 250s are a good starting point. They’ll keep your Telecaster sounding like it did when you first bought it.
If you want strings that are cheap enough to buy in bulk, sound great, and offer superb consistency, look no further than the Ernie Ball Super Slinkies. Finally, if you want to equip your Telecaster with the best strings possible, we don’t think you can do better than the Elixir Nanowebs in nickel-plated steel. These strings sound brilliant paired with a Tele. And because of the long life, you’ll spend more time playing and less time changing strings.