What guitar strings did the Beatles use? Investigating the flatwound vs roundwound debate

The Beatles
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Many guitar nerds note that perhaps the most important detail of replicating the Beatles’ tones after their guitars and amps is the type of strings that they used. It is generally believed that Harrison and Lennon used flatwound electric guitar strings in the early years up until late 1965, just after the release of Rubber Soul. After that, from Revolver and beyond, they apparently switched to roundwound strings.

This argument seems to make sense from both sonic and historical perspectives. The more balanced and less brilliant tone of flatwounds certainly explains why some critical listeners today are under the mistaken impression that George didn’t play an electric 12-string on Ticket to Ride (George Martin’s handwritten notes indicate that Harrison did indeed use his Rickenbacker 360/12) since most guitarists today are used to the sound of electric 12-strings with roundwounds. 

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.