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, their order and labels.
On a guitar tuned to standard tuning, the string order and 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 is your thinnest. From there we work up numerically until we reach the thickest which is your 6th.
Table of Contents
- Guitar String Names and Labels
- Guitar String Names Are Notes
- Guitar String Names In Order By Number
- Open String Names On Guitar
- Memorizing Guitar Notes, Labels And Strings
- Additional Mnemonics
- Guitar String Names
- Guitar Strings In Order From Top To Bottom
- Alternate String Names
- Tools To Help With String Names
- Memorize The Guitar Notes
Guitar String Names and Labels
Before we can really look into the notes, it is important to understand why each one has this name in the first place. This will also help you understand why the guitar strings have been assigned this order.
Standard Tuning Labels
The first thing to understand is that we are looking at an instrument in standard tuning.
This is the typical way to tune a guitar and was decided upon a few hundred years ago.
The aim was to find a scale 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 B which makes it easier to play, 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, or labels, are notes!
Each string, when tuned correctly 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 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 names, labels, 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, 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 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 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 scales.
When you decide on playing in a certain tuning, whether it be standard 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 number is important, the note is far more so, 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 String Names 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 it and not pressing a fret.
So when you read, “play an open A” and your in standard tuning, simply pluck the 5th (A) and you nailed it.
Because each string has been given a name, or note, this simply means it is being played without pressing on it. This results in the note being played.
That’s it! You played an open “A” with no effort at all.
Now, if you are in an alternate and not in standard, this will not apply. But for the sake of this guide, we will focus on this tuning!
Memorizing Guitar Notes, Labels 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 notes!
Its helped many players, including me, remember the guitar strings in order 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 notes, starting with the thickest “E” 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 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!
If one of the Mnemonics above don’t do it for you, there are a ton more that may help you! Simply select the one that resonates with you and work with it. Below we have gathered them all up for you to look over.
- Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie
- Every Apple Does Good Being Eaten
- Eat Apples Daily Grow Big Ears
- Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually
- Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears
- Even Average Dogs Get Bones Eventually
- Eat All Dead Gophers Before Easter
- Eat All Day Get Big Easy
- Elvis Always Dug Good Banana Eating
- Every Amp Deserves Guitars/Basses Everyday
- Eric And Dave’s Guitars Beat Everyone
- Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually
- Eat A Dog, Get Big Ears
- Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually
Guitar String Names
You may have at some point wondered why the instrument is tuned this way. What is it that has created this tuning configuration in the first place? And who decides such a thing?
Well the guitar is tuned to a series of fourths and one major third. This is quite different from other stringed instruments that have been tuned in fifths.
There are a few reasons for this. The main consideration is the amount of notes available across all strings with the guitar tuned in fourths. Chords are easier to play and include more, making them more musical as well.
Another reason is the longer scale length on the guitar (25 inches) as compared to the violin (17 inches). It would be harder for your fretting hand to connect all the notes in many chords if the strings were tuned farther apart.
And while you can tune the instrument anyway which way you like, this configuration also makes it much easier on your wrist. Especially with the way we hold the instrument in our lap or hang it from our shoulder.
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 as the one that is physically closest to the floor on your guitar. Others will call it 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.
The bottom one will be the one that makes the lowest sound or is more bass heavy. That is the thicker string. It should be based on the pitch and not the actual location.
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.
Alternate String Names
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 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 from standard will change what you are capable of musically.
Most players like to use whats called “Drop D” 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 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 and are comfortable with it, you can explore others. Some of your favorite music might just be using a popular alternative. And this will give you even more musical options!
Tools To Help With String Names
As a beginner, tuning the guitar is a skill that will come with time.
Being unable to tune it can be discouraging. You don’t want to loose your drive to improve because of an instrument 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 also include 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!
For those players who want to fast track their way to learning, there are also great software options available.
One of the best ways to get familiar with the notes, labels and names is to have a software program that is well designed. The software program we have found to be incredibly helpful is Guitar Notes Master.
This software will get you familiar with the fret board faster than you can imagine. It was designed by guitar players that recognize a need for beginners. While there are many courses and tutorials that are free online and very helpful, the fret board remains a challenge.
In order to truly progress as a guitarist, getting familiar with the notes on the fret board as well as string names and labels is more than half the battle. And best of all, its more than affordable!
The goal here is becoming the player we have all imagined we could be. So take advantage of great tools when you can!
Memorize The Guitar Notes
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 all at once.
Find some phrases that will help your techniques.
In the end, each person simply needs to find the best approach for their learning that can help memorize guitar strings in order.
Also make sure you know how to tune your guitar. There are great tuners online. But having a good physical tuner is best.
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.