Guitar String Names

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.

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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  Learn beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

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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…

A ninja tip for beginners!

This is one of my best tips for beginners and it will make an instant impact:

You must put new strings on your guitar and they should be “extra light gauge” strings.

These strings are thinner than normal strings, which means they are gentler on your fingers and it’s easier to make chords and to press down on the strings.

exclamation mark (60x60)Putting these strings on your guitar makes things EASIER and makes you SOUND BETTER. It’s an absolute no-brainer.

easy guitar string names

‘How do I re-string my guitar?’

Your local guitar shop with re-string the guitar for you. It will cost around $15 / £10.

If you buy your guitar from a guitar shop they will usually restring it for you for free.

As a general rule, the strings that music shops put on their guitars tend to be thicker as this makes the instrument’s volume louder and more full-bodied which makes it sound better in a busy shop environment.

That’s great for them to sell more guitars, but not ideal for your soft beginner fingertips trying to learn to play on thick and unyielding strings!

guitar string names

‘How Do I Know If I Need To Change My Strings?’

Guitar strings should be bright and shiny. If you inherited the guitar from somewhere, the strings will almost definitely be dull and old. They may have turned a browny/orange colour and they’ll sound terrible. The guitar string names may not change, but the tone of the strings definitely does!

Change your strings and you’ll sound better and make life easier. Win win.

You will be amazed at the difference new strings make to the sound of your guitar. You will instantly sound 10% better and that will make you want to play more.

Do it! 🙂

‘How Often Should I Change My Guitar Strings?’

As a beginner, you should change your strings every 2-3 months.

It’s not a major procedure, it’s a quick and simple piece of essential maintenance that needs to happen on an ongoing basis.

It’s like taking out the trash, putting fuel in your car or going to the supermarket. It’s just one of those things that has to be done regularly.

(I change my strings every week. As a touring musician I used to change them every day.)

I’m telling you this because most beginner guitarists play on nasty dull strings and then wonder why they sound bad.

Change your strings dude! 🙂

guitar string names

The secret to learning chords quickly…

Once you have the guitar string names memorised you should move on to learning chords.

The easiest and fastest path to learn chords is to follow Mike’s ‘stepping-stone’ method.

There is an easy version of every chord. Start off with the easy version!

Learning guitar is all about momentum and reducing barriers to progress.

Using easy stepping-stone chords is a cornerstone of our teaching philosophy which is proven to work. Ignore this point at your peril! 🙂

Example stepping-stone chords

Let’s look at some real examples:

guitar string names

If you don’t understand these diagrams read this: How To Read Chordboxes In 60 Seconds.

Download a free beginner chord guide and learn easy versions of every chord

 Say goodbye to frustration and twisted fingers. Say hello to MAKING MUSIC.

  Learn beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is one of our most popular guides and will improve your chord ability quickly. Click here to download the guide.

guitar string names

Learn how to strum

We’ve covered the guitar string names and looked at chords. Now we’ll look at how to add rhythm.

From the guitar player’s perspective, this is what good strumming looks like:

  • Notice that the wrist is running parallel to the guitar.
  • Also, note how the pick is being held.

This is probably the most influential pillar in all guitar playing. In many ways it is guitar playing because all all rhythm is here, in your strumming. Once you’ve learned the guitar string names and have some chords memorised, you should focus everything on improving your strumming.

To learn how to strum with rhythm and musicality read this: How To Strum A Guitar: The Ultimate Guide

guitar string names

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

I made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. I hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

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