The guitar is an ever-evolving instrument that changes each decade to meet the needs of musicians. Today, guitars come with many string configurations to allow for different playing styles and sounds. But there must be a standard number of strings on a guitar, right?
Six strings are the most common for electric and acoustic guitars. That’s because it allows for a good range of chords and melodies while being relatively easy to learn compared to any other variation.
In this article, we will look at the standard six-string guitar, explore its beginnings and touch on some of the newest variations and designs available today with more strings.
Brief History Of The Guitar
The first six-string guitar was likely made in the 16th century and was called a Spanish vihuela. It had 6 double, or paired strings and was tuned like a lute. The vihuela was used primarily in Spain and Italy.
The modern 6-string acoustic guitar likely evolved from the Spanish vihuela and first appeared in the 18th century. It quickly became popular with composers and performers who appreciated its versatility.
The electric guitar was invented in the 1930s and quickly rose to popularity in the 1940s and 1950s with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll. It, too, had 6 strings and any models made through the decades have always been designed with this as the standard.
The Standard Six-String Guitar
The six-string guitar is the most popular and commonly found type. It usually has steel strings that are plucked or picked with the right hand while the left-hand presses down on the fingerboard to create different notes.
The standard tuning for a six-string guitar is EADGBE, which allows for a good range of chords and notes that can be played without having to jump up and down the neck between points or frets. It’s also very comfortable for your hand and arm, which makes playing the instrument enjoyable.
You will find that acoustic and electric six-string guitars are the easiest to find, as they are the standard when it comes to all models. Other models have been made with more strings, but a beginner should always start with the 6-string.
Number Of Strings on Acoustic Guitars
The six-string acoustic guitar is the most popular. It’s also the most versatile, as it can be used for a variety of genres, including country, folk, rock, and pop.
If you are a beginner, we recommend starting with a standard six-string acoustic guitar. Once you have mastered the basics, you can move on to an acoustic guitar with more strings.
There are a few different types of acoustic guitars that have more than six strings.
The most common is the 12-string acoustic guitar, which has 6 pairs of strings. Each pair is placed close together and is picked or plucked as a single string would be. The sound produced is something like a chorus effect.
A portion of the string pairs is tuned an octave apart. The others are tuned to be identical in pitch. This type of guitar is often used for folk and country music and is a brilliant sound.
Another type of acoustic guitar is the 9-string. This guitar is less common and is usually only found in specialty stores. It has 3 pairs of strings that are tuned in octaves, plus 3 that are solely individual.
You could almost consider this guitar to be a hybrid of a 12 and a 6-string. You can find a 9-string guitar here at Furch.
The number of strings on an acoustic guitar is usually dependent on the type of music you want to play. So if you’re looking for an acoustic, you have a few options.
Number Of Strings on Electric Guitars
As we have touched on, the 6-string guitar is the most common, and this also applies to the electric. The standard tuning for an electric guitar is the same as an acoustic, which is EADGBE. This is standard tuning across most guitar types.
The 6-string electric guitar is most popular among rock, blues, punk, and metal musicians to name just a few. It allows you to amplify and even change the sound to get your desired tone.
A 7-string electric guitar has become more common and is used by a lot of guitarists. The 7th string is added to the bass side and is usually tuned to a low B. This opens up a whole new range of notes for you to play with.
This is considered to be an extended-range guitar, which is the first of a few options, as we will see.
An 8-string electric guitar is less common than the 7-string, but is slowly gaining popularity. It has 2 extra strings, which we find next to the low E. These are usually tuned to a low F# and a low B.
The 8-string guitar gives you a wider range of notes to play with, and also allows for some interesting chords that would not be possible on a 6 or 7-string. Some popular metal music players also use different tuning arrangements for even more versatility.
The 9-string electric guitar is even less common than the 8-string and is more of a signature series novelty instrument. It has 3 extra strings, which are also added to the bass side.
The 9-string electric guitar gives you an even wider range of notes to play with and also allows for some very interesting chords. But the addition of this new thicker string gauge can add buzz and noise and can almost be considered a bass guitar.
The 10-string electric guitar is the rarest version. It has 4 extra strings, which really increase the possibilities of sound.
The 10-string electric guitar gives you a massive range of notes to play with and also allows for some very unusual chords. It’s not easy to play, but at any rate, it’s an option.
The 12-string electric guitar is set up the same way the acoustic version is, using 6 pairs of strings. This guitar is more commonly found in semi-hollow body models like the Rickenbacker 220/12.
Other designs take it over the top and consist of 18 or even 20 or more strings. In these cases, the guitars are far too difficult to play and even tune and are more of a novelty item.
As you can see in this video, they can be played, but you will need to get creative!
Multi Neck Guitars
These types of guitars have 2 or more necks and give the player more options. These can be any number of strings per neck that the player chooses for their musical style.
The most popular model is the Gibson EDS-1275, which has become iconic due to its use by many famous guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Slash, and Alex Lifeson.
Is There A Right Number Of Strings?
How many strings should a guitar have, is there a right number? The answer to this question is no, there is no right number of strings. It all comes down to what you want to play and what feels comfortable for you.
If you are a beginner, then it’s probably best to start with a 6-string guitar. Once you develop more experience, you can then move on to a 7 or 8-string.
The bottom line is that it’s up to you to decide what feels right for your style. Many players only use 6-strings, while others use extended-range guitars.