Guitar String Names EXPLAINED

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If you’ve been reading or watching guitar tutorials, you probably have heard guitar string names and numbers being discussed. So as you can guess, making it a priority to learn guitar string names and numbers will make a major difference in your progress as a guitarist. So without further delay, let’s jump into some guitar string names!

What Are Guitar String Names?

Every guitarist needs to start somewhere. And before you start mastering different guitar scales and the art of improvisation, you need to know the names of the strings on your instrument. But first, we need to clear up a common misconception about string numbers.

Guitar String Numbers

The guitar 1st string can be a little confusing. If you had to guess which string of the guitar was the first one, you’d probably guess the thickest string, or the one closest to you.

However, the high E string (the closest to the floor when you play) is known as the first string. This might be because older versions of the guitar had fewer strings. When new strings were added, they were lower in pitch.

Knowing the string numbers is important, especially for using the fretboard diagrams. Almost always, the string at the top of the diagram is the first string (the high E), and the string on the bottom is the sixth string (the low E). It can definitely seem counterintuitive.

But, over time, reading fretboard diagrams will be second nature. Some show different thicknesses in the strings. That can help you read them more effectively if you get confused!

Guitar String Names

For the beginner, guitar strings names are one of the first things to learn. Knowing the string names is more important than knowing numbers. After all, if you know what guitar string notes you’re playing, it doesn’t really matter what numbers you use to refer to the strings.

Guitar String Names_Six String Acoustic

So what are the names of the strings on a guitar? Here they are, from first string to sixth string:

First string: E string

Second string: B string

Third string: G string

Fourth string: D string

Fifth string: A string

Sixth string: E string (it is two octaves lower than the first string)

In practical uses and conversations between musicians, the sixth string is commonly referred to as the “low E” and the first string is called the “high E.”

More confusingly, the high E can be called the “top” string while the low E can be called the “bottom” string. These names refer to pitch rather than location, but they are ambiguous enough that most guitarists prefer to use clearer names.

But wait! There’s another twist! We already know that the strings are numbered from highest pitch to lowest pitch. But when tunings are discussed, the note values of the strings are written from lowest string to highest string. So if a guitar is tuned to the notes above, you could say that it is in EADGBE tuning.

This tuning is called “standard tuning,” and most players keep their guitars tuned this way. A lot of that is for the sake of comfort and playability. In standard tuning, you play a wide range of chords relatively simply. You can also do so without a whole lot of fret hand movement.

As you become more experienced, you may find that you want to try out some other tunings. Here are a few common ones:

– Drop D (DADGBE). This one is very easy — all you do is tune the low E down to D!

– DADGAD. This is a common tuning for fingerstyle players. It makes it easier to play a melody on higher strings while creating drones with lower strings.

– Open D (DADF#AD). This one is great for slide guitarists, as you can play plenty of chords with just one finger. The name comes from the fact that strumming all strings open gives you a D major chord.

– Open G (DGDGBD). Like other open tunings, this one lets you play many chords with a single-finger barre. As is the case with open D, this one is named for the chord you hear when you strum all strings open.

How to Remember Guitar String Names

In order to make tuning up quick and easy, you’ll need to be able to remember guitar string names in order. Knowing your basic guitar strings will help you better understand chord structure and how to play interesting and effective lead guitar.

But especially when you’re first starting out, remembering how the strings are tuned can be surprisingly challenging. That’s why many guitar teachers suggest using a few mnemonic devices.

One common one is Edgar Ate Dynamite Good Bye Edgar. Each word corresponds to one string,from the sixth (thickest) to the first (thinnest) string.

Here are a few other suggestions to help you remember the strings:

Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears

Eat All Day Get Big Easy

Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually

You probably won’t need to use a mnemonic device forever. As you get more experience playing guitar, you’ll almost certainly remember the name of each string without even thinking. But in the beginning, having a silly way to remember each string can really help!

Guitar String Names_Six String Acoustic

Final Thoughts

If you’re a newer guitarist, you may be looking forward to the days where you can know how to play seemingly anything in any guitar keys. But working on learning string names is the first step forward. And once you’re comfortable, playing around with alternate tunings can be a lot of fun!

FAQs

Now you know the name of guitar strings (not to be confused with guitar names!). But what if you have more questions? Here are some common questions and answers:

Is this the only way I can tune guitar strings?

Often, each guitar string name comes from the note value it has in standard tuning. But this is not the only way you can tune a guitar. A lot of acoustic folk artists use DADGAD tuning (also called “Celtic tuning”). Metal artists sometimes use “drop tuning,” where strings are tuned lower to provide a deeper, growling tone.

What about bass strings?

Knowing the strings on guitar names is one thing, but what if you play bass (or want to)? Bass guitar string names are the same as the last four string names on a guitar. That means that the four thickest strings (the ones closest to you) are E, A, D, and G from lowest pitch to highest pitch. It’s important to realize that a bass is tuned a full octave lower than a guitar.

Why is EADGBE considered standard tuning?

The common name of strings on guitar refers to the note values they have in standard tuning. But why is EADGBE standard? The notes in this tuning are each separated by a perfect fourth (except for G and B, which are separated by a major third). Those intervals make it easy to play a wide variety of chords fairly easily.

Are acoustic and electric strings tuned the same?

Yes — the acoustic guitar string names and numbers are the same as those on an electric guitar. Both are usually tuned to EADGBE tuning, although they can of course be tuned in various alternate tunings.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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