8 Best Strings for Telecaster (Squier / Fender) that Sing!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Since it was first developed by Leo Fender in 1950, the Telecaster has had an influence that very few electric guitars come close to. Regardless of the particular incarnation you own, choosing the best strings for your Telecaster is essential.

Telecasters are renowned for their flat asymmetric single-cutaway body design, and their warm, jangly tone. In this article, I’ll point you in the direction of the best guitar strings to enhance the performance of your Tele.

8 Best Strings for Telecaster Guitars

1. Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

One of the most recognizable string brands, Ernie Ball strings are known for their high-quality construction and sound. The 2221 Regular Slinkies can even be seen as the industry standard.

The Regular Slinkies are very well-balanced strings. They have a great balance between tension and looseness.

These strings are easy enough to bend while quickly snapping back into place to avoid fret noise. Their tension also makes them stay in tune for much longer than many other strings.

That balance is also present in the tone of these strings. The Regular Slinkies don’t really emphasize a specific frequency range, but rather offer a more rounded tone.

The mid-range is boosted a bit, but I wouldn’t say that it stands out above the highs or lows. The boosted mids are more there to give the strings some more attack and sustain.

This balance makes these strings an excellent choice for both rhythm and lead playing. They are punchy enough for riffs and power chords, while being smooth and loose enough for fast solos.

I think this is what makes these strings a fantastic match for Telecaster guitars. Since Teles are great as both rhythm and lead guitars, having strings to compliment that is a welcome addition.

And since these strings don’t really change much in terms of a guitar’s tone, they are also ideal. The Telecaster’s tone is iconic and I am sure a lot of players are going to want to preserve that sound.

The Regular Slinkies are perfect for that while rounding out the sound a bit and giving it a nice boost. The only minor issue, with most Ernie Ball strings, really, is that they have a somewhat tinny sound at first. Luckily it goes away quite quickly and the strings are usually fully set and broken in after about a day.

PROS

  • Well-balanced construction and tone
  • Will easily last for a month or two
  • A fantastic pairing for Telecaster guitars

CONS

  • Slight tinny sound at first

2. D’Addario NYXL

Another well-known brand of strings, D’Addario has been around for a long time. It is also one of the most favored brands out there for many different types of guitarists.

Their NYXL series of strings is perhaps their best. Offering a high-quality construction and tone suitable for practically any style of playing.

The NYXL1046s strike an excellent balance between tension and stretch. They are quite easy to set up and bend, while having enough tension to stay in tune for longer.

Their nickel plating also means that they are fairly soft to the touch. And they are also smooth enough to make sliding a breeze.

Instead of the more traditional steel core, D’Addario has gone with a carbon steel core in the 1046s. These strings won’t budge under heavy picking or extended bends.

Tonally they are also very well-balanced. There isn’t any real emphasis on either the highs or lows, and instead, the mids are just boosted a bit.

These are some of the punchiest strings I have ever played. They have a great attack and sustain, making power chords and riffs stand out.

They also have great clarity, perfect for soloing. These strings are ideal for both rhythm and lead playing and switching between the two is no problem.

I am actually quite impressed by just how weighty these strings sound. Not in the sense that they have a lot of low end, there is just a sense of weight to them.

They add a new dimension to any guitar, especially something like a Telecaster. A Squier Telecaster will benefit the most from these strings. I have found that Squier Teles can sometimes sound a bit flat and the NYXLs really help to fill up and round out their sound quite a lot.

All of these benefits do come at a cost, though, quite literally. These strings are some of the more expensive around. But I do think that the price is worth the high-quality strings you are getting.

PROS

  • Well-balanced tone with punchy mids
  • Some of the toughest strings around
  • Can make flat sounding guitars fuller and more rounded

CONS

  • More expensive than most other strings

3. Fender Super 250s

If you are looking for a great set of strings for your Telecaster, then look no further than Fender’s own Super 250s. These strings were designed by Fender for Fenders.

I was initially a bit skeptical about these strings. Fender guitars come with Fender brand strings stock, so these are just the same, right?

Well, the Super 250s aren’t the same stock strings Fender guitars ship with. They have quite a bit that not only sets them apart, but above the stock strings.

The first thing you will notice with these strings is their improved brightness and clarity. There is definitely much more emphasis on the top end of these strings.

Teles are already fairly bright, so if you want to add some more chime and twang, the Super 250s are fantastic. Combined with their excellent clarity makes for some great country strings.

Every note rings out wonderfully and is clearly audible. Open chords sound especially great and I never noticed any real bleed between the notes.

The strings do sound a bit thin, though. Open chords don’t have that fullness to them and power chords are lacking a bit in terms of punch.

I was impressed by how well these strings handle distortion, though. Brighter strings tend to become a bit noisy when pushing the gain, but these stayed clear. Distortion also helps to add some much-needed punchiness to the strings.

The Super 250s do fall short quite a bit in terms of construction, though. They don’t feel especially tough and go out of tune quite easily.

This isn’t too unexpected, though. These are the cheapest strings on this list, so their quality is about what you should expect.

Overall, I would say these are affordable strings if you just want an upgrade from the stock Fender strings that don’t change much in terms of your guitar’s sound.

PROS

  • A great upgrade for the stock Fender strings
  • Add some nice brightness and clarity

CONS

  • Not very durable or tough
  • Can easily go out of tune

4. DR Strings Pure Blues

DR Strings have been around for a while and are renowned for their excellent quality and tone.

Their Pure Blues are probably their most popular strings and for good reason. The Pure Blues are a vintage player’s dream.

These pure nickel strings have a nice warm and mellow tone. They are ideal if you want a Tele with a warmer, fuller, and even more rounded tone.

The Pure Blues are also quite boomy. They add some great bottom end to a Telecaster giving it quite a bit of extra punch.

Chords especially are full and boomy. These strings are ideal for playing clean rhythm parts. They are also still fairly clear when playing chords, and I didn’t notice any muddiness.

The pure nickel construction of these strings also offers a few other advantages. Since nickel is much softer than steel, the Pure Blues aren’t as tough on your fingers.

If you have sensitive fingers or you’re a beginner, these strings are perfect for you. They also have less tension than steel strings. This makes them much easier to bend as well as set up.

There are, of course, downsides to having strings made from a softer metal. The big downside is that these strings aren’t as durable as steel or nickel-plated strings.

They do tend to wear out a bit faster than other strings which means you might need to replace them more often. You also need to be a bit more careful when bending. I wouldn’t recommend doing more than a full, full and a half bend.

The DR Strings Pure Blues are really the perfect strings for blues players or if you are just looking to give your Tele a fuller and warmer tone.

PROS

  • Perfect for a vintage blues tone
  • Soft to the touch and easy to bend
  • Gives Teles a warmer, fuller tone

CONS

  • Can wear out quicker than other strings

5. Ernie Ball Cobalt Slinky

The second set of Ernie Ball strings on this list, the Slinky Cobalts are quite a bit different from the Regular Slinkies.

The obvious difference is right there in the name. Unlike Regular Slinkies that are steel and nickel-plated, these are made from an iron/cobalt alloy. This is quite a unique approach to how strings are made and come with a few advantages.

The first advantage is the strength and durability of the strings. Cobalt is fairly strong and resistant to oxidation. That means that these strings are going to last quite a while. I would compare their lifespan to Elixir strings, maybe even a little bit more.

They also have great tension while still having enough stretch. Their stretch makes them easy to set up and bends aren’t too hard to do.

While their tension means that they stay in tune for much longer than many other strings. This is, for me, very important, especially when gigging.

Fender guitars, like the Telecaster, tend to go out of tune quicker than other guitars. These strings are perfect for guitars like Teles and help to keep them in tune for much longer.

The other advantage cobalt offers is in terms of tone. Cobalt strings have a very full and rich sound. These strings really push a Telecaster’s sound further.

These strings also sound great with distortion. They remain clear, so there is no muddiness, and have excellent sustain. If you play a lot of heavier music or want to turn your Tele into a hard rock or metal guitar, then I would definitely go with a set of these.

The Cobalt Slinkies are a bit rougher than other strings. I wouldn’t say they are tougher on your fingers, though. The extra roughness just gives them some extra grip.

That extra grip does make sliding a bit less smooth, but after a few minutes, you should be used to sliding again.

PROS

  • High strength and durability
  • Extra tension to stay in tune longer
  • Very full and rich sound

CONS

  • One of the more expensive string sets

6. Elixir Strings Optiweb

Elixir Strings offer some of the highest quality strings available today. Not only are they well-made, but Elixir has also pioneered coated strings over the last few years.

Elixir actually offers a number of different types of coated strings. But their Optiweb strings are supposedly their most natural feeling and sounding.

As someone who regularly plays and prefers Elixirs, I think they have really nailed it with the Optiwebs. They don’t have that overly smooth feel and they actually sound like new strings out of the pack.

That is actually what puts most people off from playing coated strings. Most guitarists avoid coated strings at all costs because most of them don’t feel or sound great.

Elixir has somehow managed to eliminate both of those issues. The Optiwebs don’t feel like coated strings at all. I doubt you would even be able to feel the difference between these and uncoated strings, even side by side.

Their tone is the same situation. Coated strings tend to sound a bit dull and flat compared to uncoated strings. The Optiwebs don’t have that at all and they have the same brightness you would expect from something like Ernie Ball Regular Slinkies.

They actually share quite a bit of similarities with Ernie Ball strings. Their tension and stretch are very similar. The Optiwebs are easy to set up and they settle quite quickly. Their tension also means that they will stay in tune for much longer.

Their tone is also quite similar to Regular Slinkies. It is quite well-balanced with nice and punchy mids. They are great if you just want to give your Tele a fuller more rounded tone.

Their coating is what really sets them apart. This makes them much more resistant to temperature and moisture. And if the oils from your hands seem to wear your strings out more than they probably should, I would recommend getting a set of Elixir strings.

PROS

  • Full and rounded tone
  • Natural feeling and sounding coating
  • Coating makes them last much longer than other strings

CONS

  • Coated strings aren’t for everyone

7. Stringjoy Signatures Nickel-wound

Stringjoy’s nickel wound light gauge set (.010-.046) claims to offer a playing experience designed especially for electric guitar. What does it even mean? The difference mainly lies in reinforced second and sixth strings (B and E in standard tuning) and nickel winding around a steel core.

You do notice a slight difference in playing these strings on your Telecaster. Some players find that their B string can be a little extra malleable compared to the tension on the high E string, and switching from one to the other with this set is remarkably easy. I’ve never had much issue with “balancing” string tension, as I find that any professionally set up guitar will play very easily regardless.

I did appreciate the slight extra girth on the E string, however. I often find the .046 E to lack the fight and pull I want from the guitar’s thickest string, so .048 is a nice touch. It did feel very bendy when I tried Drop D tuning, but that’s to be expected of light-gauge strings.

As always with nickel-coated steel strings, these have a balanced tone. Telecasters can be very trebly guitars, but the nickel offers a pleasant amount of warmth to offset this. There’s enough snap and twang in the tone for country pickers, and enough bottom end to satisfy open-chord-happy rhythm players, too.

PROS

  • Balanced feel across the neck
  • Crisp, balanced tone

CONS

  • Players used to non-custom string gauges may find the strengthened 2nd and 6th strings uncomfortable
  • Not as durable as some coated strings

8. D’Addario Pro Steels

The classic Pro Steels .010-.046 set from D’Addario has adorned many guitars over the years. They’re reliable, sound great with overdrive, and they’re made in the USA.

When it comes to guitar strings, I’m of the opinion that reliability and stability are the most valuable features. Fancy coatings and alloys are all good and well, but what matters to me is my guitar feeling and sounding good.

D’Addario claims that these all-steel strings are made from a particular magnetic alloy which offers additional bite and treble. Maybe that’s why they sound great with an overdriven amplifier. If you want that classic overdriven Tele sound, with all your Tele twang intact, these strings do a great job.

They stay in tune very well, but they do require a little stretching out when you put them on the guitar in order to keep tune. They also feel a little tight under your fingers, which I appreciate, but may not suit all players.

Some guitarists want an extra light feeling with minimal fight from the instrument, which is not what you’ll get from these strings.

Overall, these are reliable, nice-sounding strings and I’d happily play all my gigs with them.

PROS

  • Bright tone, great for overdriven crunch
  • Durable

CONS

  • Taut feeling may not suit players who prefer a lighter touch
  • Slightly “dry” feeling takes getting used to

Which Strings are Right for Your Tele?

When a guitarist wants to improve their tone, often the first thing they consider changing is the amplifier and guitar combination that they use. These are undeniably important aspects, but the impact that strings have on both sound and playability shouldn’t be underestimated.

The standout quality of a Fender or Squier Telecaster is its ability to sound great across a wide selection of styles and genres. However, without choosing the right strings, the iconic guitar will fail to maximize its potential.

When it comes to strings, there isn’t really a right or wrong answer. Everyone will feel differently about different strings and have their own wants and needs.

Even so, it is still important to take into consideration what strings you use. Strings can have a big impact on not only your sound, but also your playing.

There are a few things I believe to be the most important when choosing a set of strings, Starting with:

String Gauge

When choosing strings for your Tele, there is one main consideration that needs to be made. You need to decide on the right gauge for your playing style. Gauge essentially describes the thickness of the strings, and range from extra light to extra heavy.

If you predominantly play chord patterns and melodies on your Telecaster, then you should probably opt for lighter-gauged strings. This will reduce the tension on your fretting hand, and produce a brighter tone.

If, on the other hand, you like to crank up the gain and shred out riffs and solos, then thicker-gauged strings are likely to be your best option.

If you fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and perhaps don’t strictly stick to one style of playing, medium or regular strings will provide you with a good balance.

This tends to have the biggest impact on your playing, at least in my experience. Getting the string gauge that is the most comfortable for you is very important.

If you have more sensitive fingers or haven’t built up enough strength yet, then a lighter gauge is a much better option. I think a .008 or .009 gauge should be perfect for most people.

These gauges aren’t too tough on your fingers and bend quite easily. After a few months, you should be able to move up to .010 or even .011 gauge.

For a Telecaster, I probably wouldn’t go much higher than a .013 gauge. String gauge also has an effect on your guitar’s neck.

Higher gauges have higher tension, meaning they put more strain on the neck. Telecaster necks aren’t really made with a wood or truss rod strong enough to handle very high tension.

So, to avoid bending, warping, or even breaking your Teles neck, stick to string gauges on the lighter side.

String Material

The material the strings are made from can have a noticeable impact on the tone of your guitar. There are a few different materials and combinations out there and they will all affect your tone differently.

Some materials will highlight certain parts of the guitar’s range like the highs or the lows. Other materials won’t emphasize one part as much, but rather round out your tone more, adding depth and character.

Steel

Steel strings are the standard for many electric guitar strings. They provide great attack and sustain, while adding quite a bit of brightness to the tone.

They are ideal for brightening up warmer or darker-sounding guitars. Many country and western guitarists also prefer steel strings to get a really twangy sound, especially on Telecasters.

Nickel-Plated

Perhaps the most common type of string around today, nickel-plated strings are steel with a thin layer of nickel on the outside.

This provides a few benefits. Firstly, you are still getting a fairly bright string, but the nickel helps to mellow out the sound a bit. This creates a more rounded and fuller tone than steel.

Secondly, nickel is more resistant to rusting. This means that nickel-plated strings tend to last much longer than steel.

And lastly, nickel is softer than steel. This helps to make the strings less harsh on your fingers.

Pure Nickel

Pure nickel strings are almost the exact opposite of steel. They are quite warm, with much more bottom end.

They are also much softer, since they don’t have a steel core. This makes them much easier to play for beginners.

Their softness does give them a fairly big drawback: their strength. Because they don’t have a steel core, they are losing the durability and tension that come with it.

This makes them much more susceptible to breaking. So be cautious when going for those big bends.

Cobalt

A fairly new type of string compared to the others, they are made with an iron/cobalt alloy.

Cobalt strings have a few advantages over both steel and nickel-plated. They are much stronger than steel, have great tension and stretch, while also being soft on your fingers.

Their tone is also about as balanced as nickel-plated, but with more punch, sustain, and volume. They also have a great added bonus.

Some people have a nickel allergy. This means that even though they prefer nickel-plated strings, they can still be uncomfortable to play.

Cobalt strings don’t have that issue. So, if you have a nickel allergy, cobalt strings offer the same level of comfort and tone without the risk of irritating your fingers.

There are a bunch of other types of strings out there, but these are just the most common ones.

Coated or Uncoated

This is actually something that causes quite a bit of debate amongst guitarists. Many will swear that coated strings aren’t worth losing tone.

Their main arguments are that coated strings feel unnatural and sound dull compared to uncoated. And having strings that last longer just isn’t worth it if they sound and feel worse.

While this was true for a long time, and still is for a lot of coated strings, companies like Elixir have made great advancements.

Elixir offers a few different types of coated strings. They all feel natural and sound great, though.

I feel like Elixir has put an end to the coated versus uncoated debate, but I know some will still argue. But they are worth trying out for yourself, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Brand

This might not actually seem like that big of a deal. What is the difference between D’Addario nickel-plated and Ernie Ball nickel-plated?

The truth is that even identical strings from two different companies can be worlds apart. They can feel and sound completely different. One brand might be brighter and one brand might feel smoother.

And it all comes down to the fact that each company has a different method for making their strings. They use metals from different parts of the world, they might use different machines.

Many companies even use different shape cores and winding methods. Even the packaging they use can have a difference in how long the strings last.

The point is, even though they might be called the same thing on the pack and they look the same, that doesn’t mean they are the same. The best option is to test out strings from different companies until you find the one that is right for you.

Final Thoughts

Telecasters are beautiful instruments, so ensuring that you choose the best possible strings to install on the guitar is essential if you want to enjoy its full capabilities. All of the options in this article will enhance the tone and playability of your axe.

When you replace the strings on your Telecaster, it also provides a good opportunity to clean the fretboard using lemon oil or another product designed for that purpose.

There’s nothing better than a polished guitar with a new set of strings installed!

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About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

1 thought on “8 Best Strings for Telecaster (Squier / Fender) that Sing!”

  1. Thanks, for great article! 🙂
    This helped me a lot, deciding string purchase, after smaller original string break few days ago.. They lasted 7 years and I loved the sound of my Tele..

    Best regards, Arturs.

    Reply

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