June 16, 2020

Beginner’s Guide to Guitar String Names

When it comes to learning how to play, and even tune, the guitar, guitar string names make life easier.

Whether you are a new guitarist or an established player, you need to learn the names of the strings; therefore, be sure to read this entire guide. 

Each guitar string is referred to by a name or letter. However, you can also use the numbering system when referring to guitar strings.

  • E is the name of the sixth guitar string, which is also the thickest
  • A is the fifth guitar string
  • D is the fourth string
  • G is the third string
  • B is the second string
  • E is the first string

Numbering the Guitar Strings

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that you could use guitar string names or the numbering system to refer to different strings. The thinnest guitar string is the first, or number one, while the thickest guitar string is the sixth, or number six.

To summarize the guitar string names, let us relate each guitar string to the standard guitar tuning system.

  • The 6th and thickest guitar string is tuned to E, which is where it gets the name E string
  • The 5th guitar string is tuned to A, hence the name A string
  • The 4th string is tuned D and so has the name D string
  • The 3rd string is tuned G and its name is the G string
  •  The 2nd string is tuned B and referred to as the B string
  • The 1st guitar string is tuned to E, and it is the thinnest of all the guitar strings. It is often referred to as the high E string

To help remember the guitar string names, you can compose a mnemonic that resonates well with you. For instance, going from the thickest string to the thinnest, we could have:

EAT

ALL

DAY

GO-TO

BED

EARLY

E

A

D

G

B

E

6

5

4

3

2

1

That is how easy understanding the guitar string names can be! So, whether you are an instructor or a learner, stop struggling when it comes to naming the guitar strings; you can use the mnemonic above as a helpful reminder. 

Remember, the guitar string names also help when it comes to tuning the guitar. The standard tuning for a guitar matches the names of the strings, as indicated above.

Understanding the Top and Bottom Criteria When Naming Guitar Strings

When it comes to naming the guitar strings, some players will use the top and bottom criteria. Using this method, the thinnest string, which is the 1st guitar string, is described as the top string, and the thickest guitar string, the 6th string, is called the bottom string. However, to avoid any doubts, it is best to use the pitch of the notes rather than the string’s physical location.

With this criteria, we could have:

  • The lowest open note, or the 6th guitar string, as the bottom string
  • The highest open note, or the 1st string, as the top string

Will Guitar String Names Apply Across all Different Types of Guitars?

The string names are the same on acoustic, electric and the electro-acoustic guitars; however, for bass guitars, there are only four strings instead of the six strings on the other guitars. These are the lowest four strings on the standard guitar, and appear as follows:

  • E - the thickest guitar string
  • A
  • D
  • G - the thinnest guitar string

Key Takeaways 

When it comes to understanding guitar string names, it is easier if you use the universal or the standard tuning approach, as explained above. This approach involves using the letters EADGBE, from the thickest guitar string to the thinnest, as names for each string. When it comes to the numbering system, you can use the numbers 654321 to label each string from the thickest to the thinnest. These methods make it easier to understand the different guitar string names and to tune the guitar. To help you remember these names, you can always design your preferred mnemonic, like the example Eat All Day Go-to Bed Early used up above. 

These names are universal for all types of guitars, except for the bass guitar. Bass guitars only have four strings, which are named EADG, the same as the lowest four strings on the standard guitar.

Patrick