Guitar String Names: Tricks To Get Around The Fretboard Quickly

Guitar string names are important; if you want to tune your guitar (or learn guitar at all) you’re going to need to know the names of the strings.

This is pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of things that can catch you out (and also that can make life easier) so be sure to read this guide to the end.

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Guitar string names

Each string on the guitar has a name but can also be referred to by a number:

guitar string names

In standard tuning these are the ‘open string’ notes:

guitar string names

  • The thickest string is called the 6th string. In standard guitar tuning, this is tuned to E. We often refer to this as the ‘low E string‘. This is the deepest/lowest guitar note you can play.
  • The 5th string is tuned to A, so it’s usually referred to as the A string.
  • The 4th string is tuned to D, so it’s usually referred to as the D string.
  • The 3rd string is tuned to G, so it’s usually referred to as the G string.
  • The 2nd string is tuned to B, so it’s usually referred to as the B string.
  • The 1st string is tuned to E. This is the thinnest of all the strings. We often refer to this as the ‘high E string’.

How to remember the guitar string names

The easiest way to remember the guitar string names is to use a mnemonic. The sillier the better!

Here’s a couple of fun ways to remember this:

(Going from the thickest string to the thinnest…)

  • Eddie
  • Ate
  • Dynamite
  • Good
  • Bye
  • Eddie

Or you could use…

  • Elephants
  • And
  • Donkeys
  • Grow
  • Big
  • Ears

Or you could use this one…

(Going from the thinnest string to the thickest string…)

  • Easter
  • Bunny
  • Gets
  • Drunk
  • After
  • Easter

Pick whichever one resonates or seems most memorable to you.

Or make up your own. Remember, the more ridiculous it is the better! 🙂

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What are the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ strings?

Weirdly, the thinnest string (the 1st string) is described as being at the ‘top’ of the guitar. When you’re sat with the guitar across your body it will actually be at the bottom!

Conversely, the thickest string (the 6th string) is correctly described as being the ‘bottom string’ even though it’s the topmost string when you’re sat strumming!

The best way to think of ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, in guitar terms, is based on the pitch of the notes rather than the strings’ physical position.

  • The lowest open note you can play is the 6th string. Hence, this is the bottom string.
  • The highest open note you can play is the 1st string. Hence, this is the top string.

guitar string names

What is an ‘open string’?

We describe a string as being ‘open’ when you’re not pressing on it. So it you pluck any of the strings without pressing down on any of the frets you are playing an ‘open string’.

(Weirdly, we don’t call them ‘closed’ strings when you do the opposite. The guitar world, like any other hobby niche, has plenty of idiosyncrasies like this. I don’t know why it’s this way, it just is!)

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Are the guitar string names the same on acoustic, electric and electro-acoustic guitars?

Yes the guitar string names are exactly the same across all types of guitar.

What about classical guitar?

Yup, they have the same guitar string names as a standard acoustic.

guitar string names

What about bass guitar string names?

Bass guitars usually have just 4 strings and these mirror the lowest 4 strings on a standard guitar.

The bass guitar string names are the same, but lower, relatively. So they look like this:

  • E (The thickest string)
  • A
  • D
  • G (The thinnest string)

guitar string names

What are the guitar string names across the full fretboard?

The full fretboard looks like this:

guitar string names

To learn a lot more about the notes of the fretboard and the musical alphabet read this article of ours: Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

It’s very important you don’t bite off more than you can chew as a beginner. Learn the open guitar string names, but don’t worry about memorising the full neck.

As I say to my new students again and again: “Start with chords. Start with chords. Start with chords.”

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Ok, so the standard guitar string names are E, A, D, G, B, E. (But are there any other ways we can tune a guitar?)

Yes, lots. The guitar string names we’ve covered here are in standard tuning, but there are around a dozen different tunings that are used in different genres.

For example, metal music uses ‘Drop D’ and ‘Drop C’ tunings and folk genres favour DADGAD tunings. You can also tune the guitar down a whole-step (or a half step) to make it easier to sing.

So there are other ways to a tune a guitar that alter the standard guitar string names, but it’s best to avoid alternate tunings while you’re a beginner.

Stick with standard tuning for at least the first 6 months of your guitar journey. If you switch to an exotic alternate guitar tuning, the chord shapes all change. That’s not much fun for a beginner. Let’s keep things nice and simple! 🙂

guitar string names for beginners

Why do people use different tunings?

Usually it’s one of two reasons:

  • To make things easier. So you can use easier chord shapes or change the key so it’s easier to sing (or match with other musicans’ preferred keys).
  • To make things sound better. If the guitar is tuned different that alters the global character and all your chord voicings. Playing around with weird tunings can result in some really unique sounds. Bands like Coldplay, Radiohead and Pink Floyd all exploit alternate tunings.

Make sure you buy a decent guitar tuner so you can experiment but always come back to your standard guitar string names.

remembering guitar string names

Getting ready for sore fingers

Once you’ve learned the guitar string names you need to get stuck in and play some chords. You have to press quite hard on the strings for the notes to ring clearly. To begin with, you’ll get dents in your finger tips and it may hurt a little.

This is normal, so don’t worry. The skin on your fingertips will toughen after a couple of months and it will stop hurting.

Are all guitar strings the same?

Absolutely not and this is a key point. If you’re a total beginner you can make life a lot easier for yourself by changing the strings on your guitar…

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