Guitar Strings - 6 and 12 string guitars
String types and gauges
There are 6 guitar strings on most acoustic, classical and electric guitars. 12 string guitars are also available for acoustic, acoutic-electric, and some electric guitars, with acoustic and acoustic/electric guitars the most common.
6 string guitar
Top E (highest sounding open string), is sometimes written as a lower-case 'e' to distingush it from Bottom E (lowest sounding string), which is written as 'E'.
12 string guitar
Top E's (strings 1 & 2) are both the same pitch. The B's (strings 3 & 4) are also the same pitch. The bottom 4 string are all 1 octave apart. The lower-case letters indicate the string is 1 octave higher than its pair... notice the string thickness on the chart above - the higher sounding strings are thinner.
Just remember: Strings 1,3,5,7,9,11 are all the normal guitar strings, with strings 2 and 4 exactly the same pitch as their pairs (1,3). Strings 6,8,10,12 are all 1 octave higher in pitch than their pairs.
Please Note: The Top E's have been written as E/E and the Bottom E's as E/e. This is to prevent confusion with the 6-string chart. The octave above bottom E on the 12 string chart (e), is actually 1 octave below the Top E's... (there is a 2 octave range between bottom E and Top E with 'e' right in the middle)... online 12 string guitar tuner.
Wound Guitar Strings: The bass or lower strings of a guitar, are made thicker by wrapping wire around the central core. These are called 'wound strings'. The central core is either round or hexagonal - nylon strings have a nylon core while steel strings have a steel core.
Material used for wire-winding: This varies, with different types of metal, namely white (silver) and gold (yellow) metals. White metals include stainless steel, silver-plated copper, and nickel alloy, while gold metals include brass, bronze, and other related alloys.
Electric Guitars with magnetic pick-ups: Only white metal strings can be used on these guitars as they are magnetically responsive. Nylon strings and yellow metal strings will not work with magnetic pick-up. Guitars with non-magnetic pick-ups, e.g., piezoelectric pickups etc., can be used with any type of string.
Different types of wound strings
- by far the most commonly used and the least expensive
- long length of wire is wrapped around a nylon or steel core which is either round or hexagonal (hexcore - less slippage of the windings around the core)
- produce good volume and tone
- excellent clarity when new
- susceptible to 'guitar-sqeek' and harder-wearing on the frets and fingerboard due to the bumpy surface profile
- preferred by rock guitarists due to the bright percussive tone
- suitable for acoustic and electric guitars
- much smoother surface than the roundwound strings, as the winding is made from flat metal tape or ribbon - the core is either round or hexagonal (hexcore)
- less 'guitar-squeek' which occurs as your hand moves up and down the fretboard when it is in contact with the strings
- a more mellow sound than roundwound strings although a little harder to bend
- preferred by jazz players
Groundwound / Half-wound / Pressure-wound Strings:
- combination of roundwound and flatwound strings
- round wire is wrapped round the core which is either round or hexagonal, and then the winding is ground-down to remove any protrusions in the string, leaving a more flattened surface
- different brands are ground down to different degrees
- results in some of the brighter sound of a roundwound with a smoother feel of the flatwound
Silk & Steel Strings:
- inner core is a combination of steel and silk
- strings 1 & 2 (treble strings) - plain unwound steel
- strings 3 - 6 (bass strings) - the steel core is firstly wrapped with a fine silk layer followed with regular metal winding
- only used on acoustic guitars
- the sound and feel of the guitar string is somewhere between a nylon and steel string guitar.
Guitar String Gauges: typical sets
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These are typical gauges with manufacturers offering a variety of in-between gauges. You can also buy strings separately and mix and match your strings to suit your playing style. Gauges are usually calculated as fractions of an inch.