There are many aspects of learning an instrument that might traditionally be deemed rather nerdy or in depth, but which, if approached with an enthusiastic mind and heart can come to benefit the person involved to previously unknown extents.
One such field is that of guitar string spacing, the pertinent and diligent study of which can not only have each of your notes and chords sounding as full and clear as they should, but could also leave you feeling far more comfortable with the axe that lies in your very hands.
This is a comfort that spans not only the feeling of the guitar in your hands, itself feeling more ‘right’ than ever, but also how comfortable certain chord shapes are rendered when you find the string spacing that’s right for you, enabling you to reach new heights than you might otherwise ever have conceived.
Here in this article we will elucidate what exactly guitar string spacing is, what forms it can take out there in the big wide world, and how you might go about measuring your own guitar string spacing so as to render your guitar learning experience more comfortable, leaving you having to think less of discomfort and ‘wrong’ feeling, and more able simply to shred to your heart’s content.
What is Guitar String Spacing?
At its most simple, guitar string spacing, the spacing of the strings of the guitar between one another on the fretboard and elsewhere, is simply the measurement of these gaps. For simplicity’s sake this is usually simplified even further, so as to be measured as the gap between the two strings on the outer most, usually the two strings both tuned to E at both poles.
This measurement is more often than not taken from the very centre of the length of the strings, likely for the sake of continuity across different brands, models, styles, sounds, eras etc. The guitar string spacing of any given guitar will likely be listed in either millimetres or inches, depending entirely on the preference of the manufacture. String spacing will vary depending on where it is measured on the guitar. On electric guitars, it is usually measured at either the guitar’s nut or bridge.
However, this isn’t even always the case. Some manufacturers don’t even list or otherwise elucidate the guitar string spacing for their models, or else do so to a different and otherwise undisclosed scale, for when one typically tries to measure it themselves they come out with a completely different measurement entirely.
This is yet another indicator that’s easy to miss, of just how much of a grey area guitar string spacing is in the world of guitar commerce. Often, prospective guitarists and thus prospective guitar purchasers are likely to not even consider such a thing when purchasing their instrument, despite how much of an effect it can have on the inherent feeling of this very instrument in their hands.
It seems a little ludicrous to me, hence why we are here today trying to shed some light on what can otherwise be a rather murky area of the guitar world, an area which can so often lead those interested to buying an instrument that might not suit them, might subsequently feel uncomfortable, and could even lead them to drop the guitar altogether!
How to Measure Guitar String Spacing
This is in essence a very simple and quick activity which, when measured against how much of a benefit it can have to your playing, doesn’t even bear thinking too much on.
Simply grab a ruler or other measuring tool, preferably metal for want of something not too flimsy, and place its lowest common measuring denominator against the very centre of either the lowest or the highest E string on the guitar. Then, simply measure how far is between the centre point of this one string and the other E string at the opposite end of the gathering of strings.
This act of measuring will be slightly different for each and every variety of guitar. There are, for example, guitars that are manufactured with seven strings instead of the usual six, in which case you would simply want to place the base measurement point of your ruler on either of the poles (in this case the low B string or the high E string) and measure to the other side, just like with the six string method. The same goes for an eight string guitar too, following the same method (from low F# string to high E string), or even for a bass, whether electric or acoustic (simply going from either low E string to high G string or vice versa).
Try to be as accurate as possible in your measurements, for it could have devastating future consequences. Measuring in inches is all well and good, though can prove a little murky in terms of getting the most accurate measurements possible. I would recommend for more accurate acts of measurement to use millimetres as your go to scale, round all of your measurements to the closest millimetre as possible.
Guitar String Spacing vs Nut Width
Though this is an article entirely dedicated to the phenomenon of guitar string spacing, it is also useful to focus on nut width for at least a second, to focus on how this can have a very real effect on guitar string spacing. Many people use the terms guitar string spacing and nut width interchangeably, but they are two different things and should be treated as such, related as they are.
So, if guitar string spacing is measured from the veritable centre of the poles of each string, one to the other, as we have just learned, then what exactly is nut width if not exactly the same? Well, it’s actually the measurement from one end of the guitar’s nut to the other. Simple, eh? Now can you see how this might be related to the guitar string spacing we have been discussing?
Many guitar manufacturers and retailers, instead of listing the guitar string spacing in the instrument’s manual, will provide the information regarding the nut width. This is typically agreed to be a decent indication of the guitar string spacing, though shouldn’t be taken as gospel at all. The two measurements, the guitar string spacing vs nut width, can vary considerably despite often being so similar. It is always worth measuring each separately wherever possible.
It’s a minor detail but still something you should bear in mind when shopping for or building a guitar, something that could have dire consequences if not properly considered.
So, there you have it! You ought by now to have sussed out just exactly what guitar string spacing is and how you might go about measuring your own as well as using it to your advantage. If not, then head right on back to the start. The beauty of writing as a format to impart information is that it lacks the linearity of a conversation or video or audio demonstration, meaning you can go back and forth and think and feel freely.
FAQs Guitar String Spacing
Not even slightly. There will certainly be a lot of guitars out there which will measure the exact same, though from the point of origin there isn’t one holistic and all encompassing template which all guitars of all kinds, shapes, brands, models, and varieties are moulded from. The guitar string spacing of each instrument will vary wildly depending on where you are looking and which you are comparing, different types requiring wildly different spacing between strings.
With a 12 string guitar, the typical 6 strings that are found on most normal guitars are each doubled, leaving you with 12 strings in total. This is, of course, an awful lot of strings to fit in a normal sized fretboard and amongst the normal expanse of guitar string spacing. Thus, the fretboard is usually thicker in girth to accommodate for this added expanse and added amount of space between the strings, the pairs of which will obviously occupy a larger space than their single string brethren. The space between strings will be different from guitar to guitar, however: most 12 strings are about 1-7/8 at the nut (fretboard width) – depending on how you play the outer most strings will be spaced in somewhere between 0.100 to maybe 0.125.
As with most other guitars and instances of them, this will vary massively from issue to issue, model to model, type to type etc. Being one of the very first electric guitars of its kind to see the light of day in the 1950’s, as well as one of the first to be so idolised and captured by popular culture icons like Hank Marvin and Buddy Holly, there have been countless different versions and permutations of this guitar, so it would be utterly impossible to give a standard and authoritative definition on what the guitar string spacing is for a Fender Strat. Generalizing, we can say that a string spacing and a 2 7/32″ (56mm) mounting spacing are typical of the vintage style Stratocasters. The 2 1/16″ (52mm) string spacing is typical of the Mexican Standards and of the modern Stratocasters with 2-pivot bridge.