So you've got the action on your guitar adjusted, and it's playing like butter!! You love the way it feels, but you just can't quite get the tone you are looking for, or you want a bit more flexibility in your thinner strings so you can bend like Stevie Ray Vaughan! Which strings are the right ones for you? It's confusing to see all those numbers, and descriptions like "light", "super Light", and "medium" and not understand how this will afect your guitar's sound and playability. There are as many different types of strings as there are players, but let me try to give you a simple road map to help you get started on finding the strings for you. We'll start with string gauge.
String gauge refers to how thick or thin a string is. Extra light guage strings are thinner, (for electric guitars usually starting at .09 inches and ending at around .42 inches), and light strings are a bit thicker (.10 to .46 inches). This may seem like a slight difference but it can have a profound impact on the tone and fleixibility of your strings.
Lighter strings are easier to press down. Most new guitars are strung with a lighter gauge string so they will play more easily. These strings are more flexible for doing pitch bends to give your guitar that good slurred sound. Light gauge strings do suffer a bit because they will break more easily, and the thinner strings do sacrifice some tone in the high and the low end, tending to sound more bright and tinny.
Heavier gauge strings do tax your fingers a bit more. THey will not bend as easily, and they are harder to press down, but the lows and highs are more round and full, and less bright. Heavier gauge strings are better used by players who have good callouses from some time playing who are looking for the deeper bottom end and less shrill top end from their instrument.
Whatever gauge string you choose, it's a good idea to have a guitar tech check out your instrument and make sure the neck can handle the guage of strings you want to put on. Sometimes a neck adjustment will need to be made so you strings don't buzz, or so your action is comfortable enough to play your guitar easily.
Come back next time, and we'll talk a bit about different types of strings and how they can affect playability, tone, and the time between string changes.