The typical standard guitar, and the one you’re most likely to own, will have six strings. A six-string guitar is the easiest to find, and it’s often a more affordable option.
However, just because it’s the standard doesn’t mean every guitar has the same number of strings.
The question, “How many strings does a guitar have?” is a bit more complicated. Today, we’re looking closer at conventional guitar strings, as well as the instruments that are a bit more unique.
The Customary Guitar
As we mentioned, your customary guitar is a six-stringed instrument. Each string varies in thickness and corresponds to a different note on your guitar. When lined up on your device, the cords range from thickest to thinnest.
The thickest string is the low E-string. When you’re holding the guitar in your hand, the low E-string is the topmost wire on the fretboard.
The next lowest, and next-thickest string, is the A string. As you continue moving down the fretboard, the strings get thinner and thinner. When all of the string notes are lined up together on a six-string guitar, they resemble an E, A, D, G, B, and then a high E note on your thinnest string.
The bass is its own stand-alone, unique instrument. It strongly resembles guitars but has its own unique sound and playing techniques.
The standard bass has four-strings. However, it’s possible to find five or six-string basses if you’re looking for a higher, lower, or fuller range of notes. The more strings you have, the more variation your bass could offer in tone and pitch.
You can find bass guitars with even more lines, but the most common are four, five, and six-strings.
Guitars are pretty remarkable devices. They can be modified and adjusted to create wild and unusual sounds. There are many guitars available today that are unconventional but still extremely fun to play.
A Brief History
How many strings a guitar has can often depend on who made the instrument and when. Historically, the first guitars only had four string lines. In the 1500s, musicians added the fifth string, and then sometime before the 1800s, they tacked on a sixth wire.
As time continued, five-string and 12-string guitars became highly popular around the world. Today, instruments are relatively customizable. If you dream it, you could probably make it; some manufacturers have modified the device enough to create 20-string guitars.
The Seven-String Electric
One of the most common “unconventional” guitars is the seven-string electric. The extra string brings a lower sound to your guitar’s range by adding a B-note under your low-E line.
The Eight-String Electric
With an eight-string electric guitar, we begin to border on the “custom-made” guitar area.
Sometimes an eighth string is added to create a fuller range of notes. You can tune it to an F sharp, B, E, A, D, G, B, and E. However, some musicians create instruments with a combination of bass and guitar strings. It eliminates having to switch frequently between bass and electric guitars.
There are also nine and ten-string electric guitars on the market today. Manufacturers typically create them to play like combination bass and electric guitars, similar to the eight-string.
The 12-String Electric
The 12-string electric guitar is an exciting and pretty straightforward instrument. It’s essentially two six-strings connected into one guitar. The strings are stacked on top of one another and tuned to the same note, just often in different octaves.
The notes still follow an E, A, D, G, B, and E pattern. However, the second set of strings are tuned to a higher octave, E, A, D, and G. The final two lines in the second set of strings are tuned to the same B and E as the regular lines.
The music from this guitar comes across as thicker and with a bit of an echoing sound. It creates a full, ringing song as if a single musician was multiple guitarists playing at once.
These notes are played as pairs of strings; it’s not too complicated to learn how to play a 12-string if you’ve already learned how to play a conventional guitar.
The 12-String Acoustic
The 12-string acoustic is a fuller-sounding guitar choice for practiced acoustic musicians. It functions very similarly to the 12-string electric, and you tune the 12 string guitar in almost the same way.
To play a 12-string acoustic, a guitarist would have to press down on at least two strings with one finger simultaneously.
As we mentioned, it’s possible to create extremely unusual and rare guitars if you’re determined enough. Some musicians have famously used 18 or 20-string guitars. Because of these custom instruments, answering “how many strings does a guitar have” totally varies.
Frankly, what these added strings do is create a broader sound for your instrument, but they also just look cool. Your chord and pitch possibilities exponentially increase as you add cords. However, these larger instruments are often significantly more difficult to manage, and it could be challenging to maneuver them quickly.
Guitars With Several Necks
If musicians want to opt for a guitar that does not resemble the standard guitar in the slightest, consider one with a double, triple, or quad neck.
The double-neck guitar is idealized, but it isn’t used very often. If you haven’t seen it in person, you’ve likely seen one online or on television. It looks like two guitars smashed into one body.
Most multi-neck guitars are the combination of multiple instruments in just one single device. For example, a double-neck device may feature both a six-string guitar and a bass guitar. It makes switching between guitars significantly easier and instantly adds a broader range to your music.
It can be difficult for even the most-practiced musicians to master these unusual guitars. They’re ridiculously fun to play, but there will be a learning curve to get used to the more extensive ranges of notes.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.