Learning to play the guitar can be overwhelming at first. The strings and all the frets combined together can produce beautiful sound!
But in order to do so, first we need to start with the basics. And that is to learn the guitar string names in order..
On a guitar tuned to standard tuning, the string order and the string names are as follows:
E – 1st string (thinnest)
B – 2nd string
G – 3rd string
D – 4th string
A – 5th string
E – 6th string (thickest)
The First string is your thinnest string, and from there we work up numerically until we reach the thickest string which is your 6th string.
Guitar String Names
Before we can really look into the guitar string names, it is important to understand why each string has this name in the first place. This will also help under stand why the guitar strings in order are assigned this way.
The first thing to understand is that we are looking at a guitar in standard tuning.
Standard tuning is the typical way to tune a guitar and was decided upon a few hundred years ago.
The aim was to find a tuning that was musically convenient, and physically comfortable.
Because the guitar neck is diagonal to the player when sitting in the lap, it becomes more difficult to spread out your fingers when you bend your wrist to play.
So a comfortable tuning was needed. For the guitar, we have standard guitar tuning which makes it easier to play the guitar and is where the string names come from.
Guitar String Names Are Notes
Now that we have covered standard tuning, its important to now realize that the guitar string names are notes!
Each string, when tuned correctly in standard tuning will have a certain pitch. The pitch of a note is measured in Hertz (Hz), which is a measurement of frequency.
So when you pluck a string on your guitar, the sound you hear is a result of the string vibration and a frequency is produced.
In music, a frequency has been given an identifier which is a note. So if we were to look at the frequencies of the string names, or notes, we would find:
- E – 1st string (thinnest) – 330 Hz
- B – 2nd string – 247 Hz
- G – 3rd string – 196 Hz
- D – 4th string – 147 Hz
- A – 5th string – 110 Hz
- E – 6th string (thickest) – 82 Hz
And so what we see here, is when you pluck the “A” or 5th string, a 110 Hertz frequency is produced. And in music, we call this frequency an “A” note.
You may be wondering how there are 2 “E” notes but each one has a different frequency.
Yes its true, the 1st and 6th string are both “E” notes but are different frequencies. This is because one string is an Octave higher than the other.
But we won’t go too deep into this, for now don’t worry too much about it, you will learn about octaves as you progress in your learning journey!
For now, lets work on understanding the guitar strings in order by their designated number along the neck.
Guitar String Names In Order By Number
While each string on the guitar has in fact been numbered, this will only really be relevant for you when you begin to experiment with different tuning.
When you decide on playing in a certain tuning, whether it be standard tuning or another, the strings should be referred to as notes and not their numbers.
This will really help get your mind focused on memorizing the notes instead of the numbers.
While the string number is important, the note is far more important and starting with this mentality will help with memorization.
And lets face it, the number of the string is in fact easier to remember then the note.
Open Strings On Guitar
This one we will spend a bit of time on as its something that beginners normally struggle with for a second. What does an open string mean when playing guitar?
If this is you, then we can help and it is quite easy to understand.
When you play an open string on the guitar, you are just plucking the string and not pressing a fret.
Yes, that is it. So if you read, play an open “A” and your in standard tuning, simply pluck the 5th string (A) and you nailed it.
Because each string has been given a name, or note, this simply means the string being played without pressing on it results in the note being played.
That’s it! You played an open “A” with no effort at all.
Now, if your in an alternate tuning and not in standard tuning, this will not apply. But for the sake of this guide, we will focus on standard tuning!
Memorizing Guitar Notes And Strings
While memorizing the string numbers is quite easy, the notes on the other hand are not.
This will require another method, and one that has helped many other players get started,
I recommend coming up with a phrase that will remind you of the string notes!
Its helped many players, including me, remember the guitar strings in order of notes and its highly effective.
Now it doesn’t have to be the phrases I recommend, but try and put together something that you will remember.
A couple of my favorite rhymes or phrases that have helped to remember the string notes, starting with the thickest “E” string are:
- E – Eddie (Thickest String)
- A – Ate
- D – Dynamite
- G – Good
- B – Bye
- E – Eddie (Thinnest String)
- E – Eventually (Thickest String)
- A – All
- D – Diligent
- G – Guitarists
- B – Become
- E – Experts (Thinnest String)
And that will be you! So keep practicing!
If you prefer to start with the thinnest string and work your way to the thickest, then this phrase can be helpful:
- E – Easter (Thinnest String)
- B – Bunnies
- G – Get
- D – Dizzy
- A – After
- E – Easter (Thickest String)
- E – Every(Thinnest String)
- B – Boy
- G – Gets
- D – Donuts
- A – After
- E – Eatting (Thickest String)
Or create your own, something that will help you remember the string notes!
Guitar Strings In Order From Top To Bottom
As you learn how to play the guitar, there is one thing that usually confused beginners when top and bottom strings are mentioned.
Some people will describe the bottom string as the one that is physically closest to the floor on your guitar.
Others will call the bottom string the one that is thicker which produced the lowest sound.
The correct way to look at this is to call the top string the one that makes the higher sound which is the thinnest string.
The bottom string will be the one that makes the lowest sound or bassier sound, and that is the thicker string.
It should be based on the pitch and not the actual position of the string.
Most teachers will address the strings this way which is correct, while some others do not.
So when you are dealing with this topic you will have to verify what they actually mean.
But for your own knowledge, you are best to start referring to the strings in this manner as it is correct and should be universal.
The guitar is a very powerful tool and can stretch us as musicians more than we ever thought!
While we use standard tuning as our go to tuning for comfort and ease of use, there are many others.
Now I don’t want to go too far into this as I want you to focus on standard tuning, but it does deserve a mention.
The guitar strings can be tuned in many other ways.
In fact just lowering the entire pitch of standard tuning will change what you are capable of musically.
Most players like to use whats called “Drop D” tuning which simply lowers the 6th string from E to D.
This is a popular tuning for heavier music like metal and hard rock and is quite common.
It would look like this on the guitar:
- E – 1st string (thinnest)
- B – 2nd string
- G – 3rd string
- D – 4th string
- A – 5th string
- D – 6th string (thickest)
This allows you to bar the 4th, 5th and 6th strings to form a chord and is very powerful.
It also opens up some other great sounding chords for many music types and is quite fun to play.
So once you have mastered standard tuning to a degree and are comfortable with it, you can explore some of your favorite music that might just be using a popular alternative tuning which will give you even more musical options!
Get A Good Tuner
As a beginner, tuning the guitar is a skill that will come with time.
Being unable to have a guitar that is well tuned can be discouraging. You don’t want to loose your drive to improve because of a guitar that is not in tune.
Luckily there are some great tuners on the market that can get you going!
Some of the more popular tuners are both tuners and metronomes which can be handy.
The Korg TM60BK is a popular tuner that is both affordable and accurate. It is a stand alone unit that is easy to use and easy to carry around.
There are also clip on guitar tuners that simply sit on your head stock nicely out of the way.
The D’addario NS Micro clip on tuner is highly accurate and super affordable.
If you are going to play around with different tunings, a tuner is an important part of your gear.
Even the professional players use them! So make sure to have one ready to go to keep your guitar playing experience the best it can be!
The bottom line here when working on memorizing the guitar string names in order by numbers and notes is to make it a priority!
This is a fundamental in learning the guitar. But keep it simple, focus on standard tuning and keep at that for as long as you need before moving on.
You don’t want to get overwhelmed by taking on too much too soon.
Find some phrases that will help you and work on some techniques that might just benefit you.
In the end, each person simply needs to find the best approach for their learning that can help memorize the guitar strings in order.
Also make sure you know how to tune your guitar. There are great tuners online, as well as apps and actual physical tuners that can help you stay in tune as mentioned above.
But work on learning how to do so if you are not quite there yet. This is another fundamental that will be better learned in the beginning.
Another thing that can help in the beginning is learning what the different parts of the guitar are called and their functions.