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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.