Today I am going to address four frequently asked questions regarding the thickness of guitar strings.
As a professional guitarist, I have learned a lot about guitar strings, including how the thickness of each string is significant, and what order they should go in.
Let’s take a closer look at this subject so you will know how string sizes work.
1. What’s the Order of Guitar Strings by Thickness?
The order of guitar strings from thinnest to thickest is: e, B, G, D, A, E. The thinnest string should be closest to the ground, and the thickest should be closest to your face. The order is sequential, meaning that each string is thicker than the last. This is not the case with an instrument such as the ukulele.
Here’s a simple diagram that shows the string names, and the thickness order visually:
Now let’s look at some real string thicknesses, to really make this concept clear.
Guitar String Thickness Chart
Below, you will see a table showing the thicknesses of the strings contained in four packages of guitar strings. All of these figures represent thousandths of an inch. The inch is commonly used in this case. Even in countries that use the metric system.
|String Set||e (thinnest)||B||G||D||A||E (thickest)|
|D’addario (Acoustic) 12’s||.012||.016||.024 (wound)||.032||.042||0.53|
|D’addario (flatwound) 12’s||.012||.016||.024 (wound)||.032||.042||.052|
As a note on the numbers above: sets are commonly referred to by their thinnest string. So, a set with a .009 high E string is called a set of “9s” and a set with a .010 high E string is called a set of 10s.
9s are a common choice for those who like the comfort and flexibility of thinner strings. 10s are a good standard choice, a great middle of the road string that is comfortable for many genres. I also included an acoustic set and a flatwound set for variety.
Keep in mind that most styles of guitar strings can be found in various sizes – generally anywhere between .009 and .014. Plus, there are a wide variety of single strings available if you want to build a custom set, but the above should give you a good idea of how string gauges typically work.
Which Guitar String is Thickest?
The thickest guitar string is the string that is closest to your face when playing the instrument. This is an E string (one of 2 E strings on guitar). I have often heard this string referred to as the “Low E String” which can be confusing.
The word low, here, refers to the pitch of the string, not its physical position on the guitar.
So, if you ever hear “Low E String”, just remember that it is the thickest string and also the string closest to your face.
On the other hand, the “High E String” is the least thick string, and it’s farthest away from your face on the guitar (i.e. it’s the one closest to the ground).
You may have noticed that I differentiated the two E strings by using a lowercase e for the “high e string” and an uppercase E for the “low E string.” That makes it easier to keep track of.
2. Are Guitar Strings All Different Thicknesses?
In almost all string sets, each string thickness is unique, and no two are the same. The only exception I know of are sets designed for twelve string guitars, which use two identical high e strings and two identical B strings.
For a standard guitar, each string should be thicker than the last (starting from the string closest to the floor, and going upwards). So that the B string is thicker than the “high e string”, the G string is thicker than the B string, so on and so forth.
It’s also worth mentioning, that when you compare electric and acoustic guitar strings, they can be approximately the same size, but acoustic strings generally run a bit thicker than electric guitar strings.
Remember that a thicker string will require more tension to reach the same pitch. Thicker strings and the resulting higher tension is desirable on acoustic guitar for the purposes of increased volume and projection.
3. Why are Guitar Strings Different Thicknesses?
Guitar strings are different thicknesses because the thickness influences the pitch of the string. A thicker string will sound lower (vibrate slower) than a thinner string at the same tension.
This is why sets of guitar strings are designed to get thicker as the desired pitch goes down.
And one of the things that makes the thickest guitar strings larger, is that the 3 thickest strings on a guitar are typically wound. While the 3 thinnest strings are usually plain (or not wound).
If you’re not already familiar with wound strings: a wound string is made by winding one wire around another wire. This makes the strings thicker, which gives them a lower pitch, and it also gives the strings more texture than a plain string.
One more thing to consider is whether the G string is wound or not. Most rock and blues players use a plain G string, while some acoustic and jazz guitarists prefer a wound G string. This is probably because rock and blues players like to bend the G string, while other guitarists avoid doing so.
4. Which Guitar String to Restring First?
If you’re getting ready to change your strings, you might also wonder which string to start with.
I’ve got good news for you:
It does not matter which guitar string you restring first.
Many professionals and guitar technicians remove all of the strings anyway, in order to easily clean the fretboard and body of the guitar, so it’s not necessary to follow any specific sequence when changing strings.
With that said, if your guitar is especially old or fragile, feel free to change this strings one at a time to be safe. You can also bring your guitar to a professional who can change your strings if you prefer.