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 distinguish 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 stringsWound 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-squeek' 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
- reduced finger or string noise when moving along the fretboard or changing chords
- 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
|String||Ultra Light||Extra Light||Light||Medium||Heavy|
|1 - e||.008||.010||.011||.013||.014|
|2 - B||.010||.014||.015||.017||.018|
|3 - G||.014||.020W||.022W||.026W||.028W|
|4 - D||.022||.0328||.030||.034||.040|
|5 - A||.030||.040||.042||.046||.050|
|6 - E||.038||.050||.052||.056||.060|
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.
- produce a warmer, mellower sound, which is well-suited to classical, flamenco, bossa nova and folk music - also used to good effect by jazz and country artists
- ideal for beginners as they are much easier on the fingers compared to steel string guitars
- strings are made of nylon with strings 4 - 6 wound in metal - usually silver plated copper thread
- only used on acoustic guitars.
The fretboard on these guitars is wider as nylon strings when plucked have a large vibrational range needing more space between strings so that adjacent strings are not hit. This allows more space to play each string without contacting other strings especially when playing a quick succession of notes. Generally there is approximately a 1cm difference between the fretboard width of a nylon vs steel string acoustic guitar.
Nylon String Gauges: typical sets
|1 - e||.028||.028||.020||.028|
|2 - B||.032||.032||.033||.032|
|3 - G||.040||.040||.041||.040|
|4 - D||.031||.030||.030||.029|
|5 - A||.037||.035||.036||.035|
|6 - E||.045||.043||.044||.043|
While steel string guitars are selected in gauges, nylon strings are selected in different tensions, commonly being low, normal and high.Low Tension
- Low (light) - quieter volume
- easier on the guitar resulting in extended health - ideal for older / vintage guitars
- easier to play especially if your guitar has a high action (distance between the fretboard and the string)
- emphasis on the body of the note rather than the attack into the note
- more susceptible to fret buzz.
- Normal (medium)
- excellent starting point for most players as you may want to go for lower or higher tension strings depending on your playing preference.
- High (strong) - more volume
- better for strumming
- more emphasis on the attack into the note compared to lower tensions
- guitar needs to be set up or designed to take a stronger tension otherwise your guitar will be susceptible to bridge and neck damage
- loosen strings after each practice or session