If you’re new to the guitar, it can be quite daunting trying to figure out how to navigate the fretboard. Because the guitar has numerous strings, beginners often find themselves confused as to which string is which.
In the event that you find yourself in these shoes, this article should help to clear up any confusion. Let’s take a closer look at what each of the strings on a guitar is called:
The 1st string on a guitar is called E
The 2nd string on a guitar is called B
The 3rd string on a guitar is called G
The 4th string on a guitar is called D
The 5th string on a guitar is called A
The 6th string on a guitar is called E
Now you know what the strings on a guitar are called, but sometimes this can change. Read on below to get the full details, as well as some easy ways to remember the order of the strings.
How Do You Know Which String Is Which On Guitar?
Whether you’re learning a song from a tab or learning barre chords, you’ll inevitably have to know your strings. This is actually a fairly simple concept, but it is one that many beginners struggle with.
Before we get to naming the strings, it can help to understand the layout of the strings on the guitar. The reason for this is that you can name the strings in a few different ways.
However, once you know the layout, it doesn’t really matter what title you give each string. When somebody references a particular string, you’ll understand the string being mentioned.
Where Does The Thickest String Go On A Guitar?
You’ve probably noticed that the guitar strings cascade from thickest to thinnest. If you haven’t noticed this, please take a moment to refer to the picture above.
As you’ll see, the thickest string is always on one side, with the thinnest on the other side. The picture above refers specifically to a right-handed guitar, so what about the left-handed varieties?
There’s actually a good rule of thumb you can use, especially when you go to change your strings. When the guitar is in playing position, the thickest string should be on top with the thinnest on the bottom.
In other words, when playing the guitar, the thickest string should be closer to your face. Conversely, the thinnest gauge string will be the closest to the floor.
If you make sure to restring your guitar in this manner, you can be sure that you’ll have done it correctly. Do pay special attention to the middle strings as some of the string gauges can be hard to discern.
This all seems simple enough, right? You’re probably thinking that there must be a catch.
In all actuality, it really is this simple. Let’s take a deeper dive into understanding the purpose of this layout.
Why Are The Guitar Strings In That Order?
Most musical instruments work in a linear fashion, and the guitar is no different. To help you understand why strings are placed in this order, it can help to visualize a piano.
Why the piano? It is the instrument that allows for the most visual observation regarding the scroll of linear notes.
If you play more on the left side of the piano, the notes will be much lower in pitch. Conversely, notes played on the right side of the piano will be higher in pitch.
In a way, the guitar’s open strings (played without fretting a note) work much in the same way. Strings played to the left side will be much lower, with strings on the right side being higher in pitch.
This all probably seems simple enough, but there is actually a more scientific reason behind why this is. The way the strings vibrate depends solely on the gauge of the string.
For instance, strings with a thinner gauge will have a tighter vibration, causing a higher note to ring out. The thick strings produce larger vibrations under the same tension, producing a lower pitch.
You can perform an experiment of your own with the use of rubber bands. Find a rubber band with a thin band and one with a thicker band.
If you were to stretch each out between your fingers, you’ll notice that the thicker band is lower in pitch.
In fact, this same concept is what makes bass guitars so much lower in pitch. Those instruments use much larger gauges of strings to produce very low pitches beyond what a guitar could produce.
What Is Each String Called On The Guitar?
Now that you have an understanding of the reasoning behind the string placement, let’s get to naming them. As mentioned previously, these strings can go by a variety of different names.
The first way to name the strings is to use the numbering system. Whether you’re on a 6-string guitar or an 8-string guitar, this method will work for you.
Because we’re sticking with the basics here, we will use the 6-string guitar as an example. To use the number method, you’ll want to number in descending order from the thinnest string to the thickest.
In other words, the thickest string would be called the 6th string, with the thinnest called the 1st string. As you might guess, these numbers follow in order, with the 2nd string being next to the 1st string.
You’ll often see this with guitar tabs, as tabs are generally oriented in the same way. The 1st string will always be at the top of the tab, with the 6th string at the bottom.
Of course, it’s not always ideal to name strings in this manner, especially in musical contexts. In these cases, you’ll want to refer to the strings by the pitch they are tuned to.
There are many different tunings to employ on a guitar, but we’ll stick with E standard for the example. To help, the string number will also be included:
- 1st string – E
- 2nd string – B
- 3rd string – G
- 4th string – D
- 5th string – A
- 6th string – E
As you can see, both the 1st and 6th string share a pitch of E an octave apart. For this reason, saying “high E” refers to the 1st string, and “low E” refers to the 6th.
How Do I Remember Guitar Strings?
As you tune your guitar, you’ll become quite familiar with what each string should be tuned to. Some tuners actually tell you which notes are required for specific tunings, which helps immensely.
However, you can’t always rely on this luxury, and you’ll need to remember these string pitches on your own. One way to remember these string names is to force yourself to memorize the pitches.
After a few days of making it a point to remember the pitches, you’ll have them stored in your memory. If, for some reason, this doesn’t work for you, feel free to assign a mnemonic to the pitch names.
You can certainly create your own phrase using these letters, and you probably should to help you remember. But, for the sake of setting an example, we will make one up on the fly:
- 1st string – Every
- 2nd string – Bird
- 3rd string – Goes
- 4th string – Down
- 5th string – And
- 6th string – Eats
Most people tune from the lowest to the highest pitch. You might want to create a mnemonic in that order, for instance:
- 6th string – Eating
- 5th string – All
- 4th string – Day
- 3rd string – Gives
- 2nd string – Bad
- 1st string – Excrement
Okay, as you can see, you can really get creative and silly with your mnemonics. But, this creativity will help to ensure that you remember the string names much easier.
After all, the guitar is supposed to be fun, so give yourself something to laugh about every once in a while.
What Are The Strings On A Guitar Called, Final Thoughts
Learning the names of the strings is an important step in learning the guitar. Going through this process helps to build a framework you’ll use for the rest of your life.
This is definitely something you are not going to want to skip over. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to grasp and you can get creative in the way you remember the names.
Once you learn the string names, you’ll be well on your way to learning much more difficult things! Every step is progress, no matter how small.
Last Updated on September 6, 2022.
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