How Many Strings Does a Guitar Have?

Guitars are perhaps the world’s most famous musical instrument. But not everyone knows how many strings are on a guitar. How many strings does a guitar have?

There are 6 strings on a typical acoustic or electric guitar. These strings have different thicknesses. They have their own number designations from string no. 1 up to string no. 6. Their positions on the guitar are arranged from the thinnest to the thickest. The no. 1 string is the thinnest and the no. 6 string is the thickest.

Standard tuning defines the string pitches as E, A, D, G, B, and E, from the thickest string being low E (low E2) and the thinnest string being high E (high E4).

The origin of modern guitars can be traced to stringed instruments such as the lute. The tuning system of low E, A, D, G, B, and high E, was developed during the 16th century and is the same tuning system used by modern guitars.

There is also a 12-string guitar – double the number of strings as the standard 6-string guitar. Bass guitars typically have 4 strings. Some bass guitars have 5 strings.

Read on to learn more about how many strings modern guitars have, what these strings are, history, and the variations in the number of strings of other types of guitars. 

How Many Strings Does a Guitar Have?

Most modern guitars have 6 strings with varying thicknesses. These strings are designated as string number 1 all the way up to string number 6. They are arranged in the guitar fretboard from the thinnest to the thickest.

The thinnest string is the no. 1 string, and the thickest string is no. 6. As you are playing the guitar, the no. 6 string is the nearest you, and the no. 1 string is the farthest.

There are other guitars with a different number of strings. One is the bass guitar, which only has 4 strings. Some bass guitars have 5 strings. Their strings are much thicker than the strings of standard acoustic and electric guitars.

The pitches of the strings of four-stringed bass guitars match the four lowest or thickest strings of standard guitars. But the strings of bass guitars are an octave lower than the strings of a regular guitar.

And then there are guitars with 12 strings set in six courses. These guitars can produce much thicker sounds with more ringing tones than regular six-stringed guitars. Usually, a 12-string guitar has strings in its lower four courses tuned in octaves, with the strings of the upper two courses tuned in unison.

how many strings does a guitar have

Why 6 Strings Became the Standard

The guitar had evolved many hundreds of years and has undergone many modifications before it acquired its modern form. Its current 6-string standard tuning configuration was established because it allows all the possible pitch ranges. Moreover, 6-string guitars allow guitarists to play hundreds of chords on its fretboard comfortably well.

While the modern guitar has a mixed heritage, its origin goes back to Spain. The guitar is actually taken from the Spanish word guitarra. However, early string instruments appeared around 4,000 B.C. with the hunting bow‘s sound while shooting. By about 2,000 B.C., the Babylonians were already making stringed instruments.

Fast forward to 20 A.D. when the Romans entered Spain, they brought along with them a musical instrument they called cithara. It was like a lyre made of two wooden tablets held by ribs. They were played by musicians.

Above the sounding box was a tuning gear where strings were stretched to the tailpiece at the end of the box. Notes were produced by strumming the selected strings with one hand while the other hand presses the other strings to deaden their sounds.

The very first six-string guitar appeared in 1779. Many believe that it was the Italian Gaetano Vinaccia who made this guitar. He was a member of a family of luthiers or guitar makers. By the middle of the 1800s, guitars were already acquiring its modern shape. Its evolution continued for the next 100 years, which included the development of the electric guitar.

The six-string standard tuning of guitars is preferred by folk guitarists, jazz guitarists, rock guitarists, and classical guitarists.

What Are Guitar Strings?

The six strings on a regular guitar are called by their numbers, e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Each string has its own thickness. The thinnest string is the no. 1 string, and the thickest is the no. 6 string. Acoustic guitars typically have steel strings. The topmost string is string no. 6, and the string at the bottom is string no. 1.

Some of them are bare strings, and some are wound strings. The bare or unwound strings are strings no. 1 and no. 2. Another term used is plain strings. The wound strings are strings no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, and no. 6.

The thinner the string, the higher its pitch and vice versa. Therefore, string no. 1 has the highest pitch, and no. 6 has the lowest pitch. Moreover, the standard tuning of a regular guitar is E A D G B E. That means the 6th string should be in the E pitch, the 5th on A, the 4th on D, the 3rd on G, the 2nd on B, and the 1st on E (octave of the E of the 6th string).

The strings produce different pitches or notes when pressed on the fretboard at varying distances from the nut to the guitar’s bridge. As this distance is shortened, the pitch goes higher, whatever string you pluck or strum.

The fretboard is the top part of the neck. Frets are the metal strips on the fretboard. There are 20 to 22 frets in most guitars. Some electric guitars have 24 frets. If you have a 20 fretted guitar, you will be able to produce 20 pitches or notes for each string.

How many strings does a guitar have? The standard acoustic or electric guitar has 6 strings with varying thicknesses. These strings are designated as string number 1 all the way up to string number 6. The string pitches are E, A, D, G, B, and E, from the thickest string being low E (low E2) and the thinnest string being high E (high E4).

Different Guitars with Different Number of Strings

Acoustic, electric, and bass are the three main types of guitars. However, many variations in between them make them entirely different from each other. Most of these variations are in the number of strings they contain.

how many strings modern guitars have

1. Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars are hollow-body guitars. They acoustically amplify the sound of the strings. Most of them have six strings built with high-quality wood. Some of them have metal strings, while others have nylon strings, such as the classical acoustic guitars.

Acoustic guitars with metal strings are good for playing folk, pop, and rock music. Those with nylon strings are best for playing flamenco-type of music and classical music pieces.

How many strings does a typical acoustic guitar have? The typical acoustic guitar has 6 strings. These strings are pitched as E-A-D-G-B-E. The thickest string is low E, the thinnest string is high E.

2. Acoustic-electro Guitars

Acoustic-electro guitars are actually acoustic guitars with a small pickup for sound amplification. Moreover, you can play these guitars without any amplification, just like any regular guitar. However, you can also plug them into an amplifier to make the sound louder. You can also modify and embellish the sound it produces through the knobs on the amplifier.

3. 12-string Acoustic Guitars

A 12-string acoustic guitar generally has the same body size as a regular acoustic guitar. The big difference is that instead of just six strings, they have 12 strings in all. These strings are tuned the same way as standard guitars, except that every string is doubled. This arrangement enables this guitar to produce harp-like sounds.

Wood is the main material for the majority of 12-string guitars. However, there are a few made of metal. Most of them are also acoustic guitars, but some are acoustic-electro, and some are entirely electric guitars.

3. Semi-acoustic Guitars

‘Hollow-bodied electric guitars’ is another term for semi-acoustic guitars. Examples of these guitars are those made by Gibson and Gretsch. They are somewhat in the middle of acoustic and electric guitars. Watch and hear how a Gretsch guitar looks and sounds.

These guitars are compact and thin, just like electric guitars. However, their bodies are hollow, just like acoustic guitars. They can produce sounds just like acoustics when unplugged but not as loud. But when you plug them into an amplifier, they sound just like electric guitars.

4. Electric Guitars

Solid-bodied electric guitars produce sounds when plugged into an amplifier. You can strum or pick them unplugged, but you will only hear shades of the sound that they produce.

These guitars are available in different shapes and styles. The most famous solid-bodied electric guitars are those made by Fender, such as the Fender Strat and the Fender Tele. Wood is the main material of most electric guitars, but most modern electric guitars already use carbon fiber.

how many strings are on a guitar

How many strings does an electric guitar have? Like the typical acoustic guitar, the typical electric guitar has 6 strings. The strings range from thickest (low E) to thinnest (high E).

5. Bass Guitars

All bass guitars are solid-bodied electric guitars. A traditional bass guitar has only four strings. But more modern bass guitars have 5 strings. A few even have 6 strings. Moreover, you can’t produce a sound from this guitar unless you plug it into a bass amplifier.

The modern bass has practically replaced the acoustic double-bass, which is huge and bulky. Some classical jazz artists still prefer acoustic bass guitars. Here is a video of a Fender bass guitar and how it sounds.

The strings of electric bass guitars are much thicker than the strings of a regular electric guitar. They have to be thicker to produce notes at the lowest end of the scale. Bass guitars are also heavier than regular electric guitars because of their bigger and heavier bodies, not to mention their thicker strings and tuning mechanisms.

6. Weird Guitars

A few weird guitars have an out-of-this-world shape and number of strings they contain.

One of these guitars is the seven-string guitar played by Steve Vai, a speed metal guitarist. Jimmy Page also popularized a guitar with two necks. He used this guitar in his solo of Stairway to Heaven. You can see him play the guitar in this video.

The double-neck guitar has one neck with twelve strings and the other neck with 6 strings. Most of these double-neck guitars are electric. Imagine the weight of the guitar if it has two necks. That will be very heavy to carry, making it difficult to play standing up.

Some weird guitars are even weirder than the others. Take the ten-string bass, for example. Actually, bass players are in a quandary on how this bass guitar should be tuned. And then there’s the harp guitar played by Andy McKee, an acoustic guitar icon. It produces deep, resonant bass-filled sounds.

There is also a guitar with two necks that is very different from the one played by Jimmy Page. This one has its necks not aligned with each other. In fact, the headstocks of this guitar face away from each other. How weirder can a guitar get? You don’t believe it? Watch this video:

How many strings on a guitar? There are 6 strings on a typical guitar. The strings range from thickest (low E) to thinnest (high E). Some guitars have 12 strings. Bass guitars typically have 4 strings.

Different Types of Guitar Strings

Guitar strings have different kinds of materials. Some are made of steel, while some are made of nylon. Moreover, some are bare, and some are wound. It depends on the type of musician as to what type of strings he requires for his instrument.

1. Steel and Nickel

Steel wires make the majority of the strings for acoustic and electric guitars. The three thickest strings are usually nickel-plated. Some are made of pure steel and pure nickel. Strings made of steel usually produce brighter and livelier sounds than those made of nickel.

Steel strings have a higher presence and can cut through a mix of instruments better than nickel strings.

2. Brass and Bronze

Steel-stringed acoustic guitars mainly use brass and bronze-plated strings. Steel plated with brass or bronze is actually the main material of these strings. There are great differences between these two types of strings in terms of feel and response.

3. Nylon Strings

Classical acoustic guitars typically use nylon strings. These guitars’ braces are not as strong as those of the steel acoustic guitars, so you cannot put steel strings on them. Nylon strings produce warmer and smoother sounds than steel strings too.

Conclusion – How Many Strings Are on a Guitar?

How many strings does an electric guitar have? How many strings does a typical acoustic guitar have? The majority of modern guitars have 6 strings. These strings have varying thicknesses. Every string on a guitar has its own number designation. They are called string no. 1 to string no. 6.

Their positions on the guitar fretboard are also arranged from the thinnest to the thickest. The no. 1 string is the thinnest, while the no. 6 string is the thickest.

Standard tuning defines the string pitches as E, A, D, G, B, and E, from the thickest string being low E (low E2) and the thinnest string being high E (high E4).

As you hold your guitar while you are playing it, the no. 6 string is nearest you, while the no. 1 string is the one farthest from you.