We have reviewed a lot of guitar strings on Boles Blues — all in the search for just the right tone and ringing sound.  Today, I am delighted to share with you a gargantuan find in my quest for strings satisfaction:  Classic Ernie Ball Rock N Roll Super Slinky custom gauge strings with a pure nickel wrap.

These Ernie Ball Rock N Roll classic strings can be hard to find — but
find them you must.  These strings are special because the wrap on the
lower three strings is pure nickel — not just plated with nickel — and
that gives you a warm, thumpy sound with a glistening top end.

Yes, I’ve moved from 10s to 9s on all my guitars and I will tell you why.  I have an excellent ear and I can’t tell the difference between 9s and 10s.  If I want more volume or a thicker sound, I’ll up my amp volume.

There is no doubt 9s are easier to play than 10s, and for me that means I can bend my Blues easier and I can practice longer because my fingers don’t get as worn out bending 9s as they did bending 10s.

Moving down from 10s to 9s required no setup changes on any of my Stratocasters, Telecasters or Gibson Les Pauls.  Intonation was just fine after the change.

I am reminded of a classic scene from many years ago now variously reported on the internet between a young Billy Gibbons and a wizened B.B. King.

B.B. was watching Billy struggle while practicing one day and he asked, “Billy, what gauge are you using?”

Billy told him, “11s.”

B.B. laughed, “Billy, why struggle so much?  Drop to 9s and turn up the volume on your guitar.”

A music manager friend of mine told me all the session musicians in Nashville use 9s.

Forget the machismo involved in using high gauge strings on an electric guitar.  Nobody cares.  Nobody notices.  Nobody can tell the difference.  If Jimmy Page plays 8s, and sounds like THAT, then there’s no reason to think anyone would ever need a higher gauge than that.

When you cut open a pack of the Classic Ernie Ball Rock N Roll Super Slinky strings, the strings sort of flurp out of the envelopes into your hand — they are slinky and bouncy and rubbery all at the same time. Ernie Ball does the best preservation and string packaging on the market. No rust on any strings. Ever.

The sound of the Rock N Roll Pure Nickel strings strung up is incredibly pleasing.  You feel as if you’re being propelled back in time to the great guitar music of the 1970’s.

The Ernie Ball Super Slinkys also stay in tune forever.  Tune ’em up and you don’t really need to check your tuning for a few days — even after three days of heavy playing.

If you decide to move down from 10s to 9s — give your guitar a day or two to adjust to the new strings.  I put the pure nickel Ernie Ball strings on my Gilmour Black Strat and the sound was terrible the first day.  Everything sounded off.  There was lots of new fret buzzing.  I was disappointed.

Then, after sulking a couple of days, I picked up the Gilmour guitar again and started to strum — and I was shocked by the fantastic sound coming from the Black Beauty and the pure nickel Ernie Balls!  Everything was humming and ringing in a totally new realm.  No buzzing.  No tone trouble.  Wild!

I was glad I let the new Ernie Ball 2253s stay on the Gilmour a bit because the guitar needed some time to acclimate to the new string gauge and tension.  The wait was certainly worth it.

I encourage you to throw a set of Classic Ernie Ball Rock N Roll Super Slinky on your electric guitar — and leave them on for at least a week before you decide if you like them or not.  I’m in my second week of infatuation with these pure nickel wonders, and I’m in the methodical process of re-stringing every guitar I have with them because I love the sound so much.


  1. How many guitars do you have 🙂
    These strings sound great, David. (How would I know if I haven’t heard them?) I’m looking forward to try them out when I get my hands on a guitar one of these days.

  2. I have too many guitars, Gordon, and that is never enough! I have less than 10, but my GAS list has at least five “must-haves” so it’s a neverending expansion of taste, acquisition syndrome and the chase for just the right sound.
    You do need to get a good electric guitar so you can dive in and write some of these fun reviews of guitar gear. You can get a really great Strat or Tele for under a $1,000.00 and buying used will get you an even cheaper version.
    For my money, you can’t beat the Nashville Power Telecaster because you get a Telecaster sound, a Stratocaster sound and an acoustic guitar sound:
    You can also go cheaper or more expensive:
    The Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster is brand new and looks really good:

  3. I think I’m going to have to go in a couple of weeks to a couple of brick & mortar places to get my hands on some of these and see how they feel.

  4. That’s smart, Gordon, to play with some guitars first. I’m really loving my Les Paul Standard a lot right now. It’s shorter scale makes the 9s even more buttery and simpler to play.
    Stay out of the big chain stores like Sam Ash and Guitar Center and Best Buy.
    You have a World Class guitar shop two stops away from you on the LIRR:
    The Music Zoo
    They’re the Wildwood of NY.

    1. Hi tohokuben, and welcome to Boles Blues!

      Thanks for the link to that excellent resource site. I think there will be tons of interesting experiences to share, and then, search. Can’t wait to see it live. I hope they offer lots of options end users can provide in their analytic experiences.

  5. If you like the sound of pure nickel strings, you owe it to yourself to try and review a set of GHS Burnished Nickel strings. I do not like GHS strings much [play Ernie Ball phosoper bronze and nickel plated] but this set is an exception to the rule. The best set of pure nickel strings on the planet earth. They bend like crazy. They growl rather than scream [a la nickel plated] and the they have a warm, rich sound that is just like a knife thru butter. The sustain on these thing just goes on and on. Just a great, great set of strings.

  6. Hi,

    I went and tried some Ernie Ball pure nickel strings–and I have to say that I like them as well as the GHS burnished nickel–in fact, maybe even a tad more.

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