Guitar strings are one of the most important guitar components; without them, there is no music. They are the vocal cords of the guitar.
But what strings should you use? Our article “How to identify the gauge strings of your guitar” provides an overview of the different string thicknesses available. This article discusses the different types of strings. It also indicates if using acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar is possible or even recommended.
As a whole, yes, an electric guitar can use acoustic guitar strings, but it is not recommended as it leads to an unbalanced sound. The reason is that the pickups in the electric guitar work on magnetic output, and acoustic strings are not magnetically active.
For an electric guitar to produce the bright and light sound we love so much, the strings’ vibration is transformed into electric currents by the pickups.
However, this is only possible when the strings have metal components, such as steel, nickel, and chromium. Their magnetic properties interact with the pickup creating an electric current that will be amplified through the amp to create awesome melodies.
In contrast, acoustic guitar strings depend on acoustic resonance properties for production.
Is There A Difference Between Electric Guitar Strings And Acoustic Guitar Strings
Yes, there is a difference between acoustic guitar strings and electric guitar strings. Electric guitar strings are thinner, with brighter and lighter sound, and are made of steel or nickel. Acoustic strings are thicker, produce a warmer and fuller sound, and are made of brass or bronze.
The most crucial difference between the two types of strings is the materials used to make them and coat them.
Each material used to make a guitar string has distinct sound qualities, impacting tone, durability, and overall feel.
Electric guitar strings are made of steel, nickel, and chromium alloys, as these materials are magnetically active. Is this magnetism that allows the pickup to transform the string vibrations into electricity.
Electric guitar strings are coated with nickel, steel, titanium, chrome, cobalt, or polymer. It is the coating on the string that impacts the sound.
Strings coated with nickel, steel, and chrome, produce a warmer tone.
Whereas strings coated with titanium, cobalt, and polymer produce a brighter tone.
Compared to electric guitar strings, acoustic guitar strings are made of bronze and brass. These materials are more acoustically resonant alloys.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Electric And Acoustic Guitar Strings?
There are several ways to tell the difference between electric and acoustic guitar strings. These ways include:
1.String Materials Differ Between Guitar Types
The winding materials used for electric strings are materials with good magnetic properties, while materials with good acoustic resonance are for acoustic guitar strings.
Since electric guitar strings have different specifications than acoustic guitar strings, acoustic guitar strings use other winding materials.
The electric guitar strings are steel, nickel, and chromium alloys because of their respective magnetic composites. In contrast, acoustic guitar strings are bronze and brass alloys due to their acoustic resonance effect.
Electric guitar strings require to be wound in materials with good magnetic properties such as nickel-plated because electric guitars work on the principle of electromagnetic induction. Because of their magnetic elements, nickel-plated, pure nickel, stainless steel, or chromium windings are on electric guitar strings.
On the contrary, acoustic guitar strings, as stated above, require more acoustically resonant materials such as bronze and brass. Brass-plated and bronze-plated strings are the two most common types of acoustic guitar strings. Because both of these strings have some steel, they are also known as “steel acoustic guitar strings.”
2.String Gauge Differs Between Guitar Types
The string gauge determines the tone of a guitar, and this makes it very important. A string gauge is known as string thickness. Thicker strings produce warmer sound and volume.
The electric guitar gauge can range from 0.008 to 0.38, whereas an acoustic guitar string gauge can range from 0.10 to 0.47. As you can see, the gauge of the electric guitars is thinner than those of the acoustic guitar.
For more information on string gauges, check our article “How to identify the gauge of strings on your guitar.”
3.Wound Strings Differ Between Guitar Types
There are four wound strings and two unwound strings in an acoustic guitar, whereas an electric guitar has three wound strings and three unwound strings.
Wound guitar strings have a steel core and wire windings that loop around them.
Individual strings on your guitar have various thicknesses, or gauges, as stated above.
Since the additional weight of your heavy strings affects their ability to vibrate, each string has a different pitch or is better suited to tuning to a particular pitch.
The shape of the individual windings determines whether the string is a round wound or a flat wound. For example, a flat wound string has a flatter string surface due to the shape of the windings.
Standard guitar strings are round wound, whereas flat wound strings are less standard but still used by many guitarists in varying styles.
However, they are most commonly associated with jazz guitar because the flatter surface of the strings is smoother and produces less string noise when played.
4.Coating On The Strings Differ Between Guitar Types
Nickel-Plated Steel NANO and Nickel Plated Steel POLY are coated Electric guitar strings.
80/20 Bronze NANO, 80/20 Bronze POLY, and Phosphor Bronze NANO are coated acoustic guitar strings.
Coated strings are standard guitar strings that come with a micro-thin plastic polymer coating.
Coated strings typically last much longer and cost considerably more than uncoated strings, but they appear to reduce high-end response.
For example, these elixir strings have a coating and last longer than those without. They are also a good option if you find that your fingers end up with a lot of discoloring after playing guitar.
Alternatively, it could be that your fingers carry a high level of acidity. If so, it is worth reading our article on how to control and manage this here.
5.Tone Differs Between Guitar Strings
Electric guitar strings produce light tones and volume when the guitar is not connected to an amp. On the other hand, acoustic guitar strings have warmer tones.
The strings can significantly influence the sound and tone of your guitar.
What Kind Of Strings Does An Acoustic-Electric Guitar Use
An acoustic-electric guitar mainly uses under-saddle piezo pickups and a few nylon-string versions.
Due to the non-magnetic nature of piezo-based systems, string materials have a negligible effect on the sound, and regular acoustic or classical guitar strings will suffice.
Under-saddle piezo pickups work on the principle of piezoelectric technology.
Like the magnetic pickups in an electric guitar, under-saddle pickups sense only the strings and are suitable for an acoustic-electric guitar.
Nylon-string versions are suitable for fingerstyle playing because, with time, guitar picks weaken nylon.
Therefore, follow the string instructions of the guitar to choose the kind of strings for your acoustic-electric guitar.
Can You Mix and Match Guitar Strings?
Yes, you can mix and match guitar strings as long as they have standard tuning and the string sets have a consistent tone for all six strings.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
- Standard tuning across all six strings
String sets have the same string tension for all six strings.
The string tension would be irregular if you combine string sets and tuning them to standard pitch, which will trigger neck twisting. If you down-tune the heavier strings, this isn’t a problem
2. String sets have a relatively consistent tone for all six strings.
When mixing and matching string sets, the heavier strings would sound fatter and louder than the lighter strings. You may prefer this, and if so, that’s fantastic.
How Often Should You Change Guitar Strings?
I recommend changing your guitar strings once every month, or after 300 hours of practice, or after buying a brand new guitar.
Our article “should you change the strings on a brand new guitar” will address why we recommend changing the strings in a new guitar.
Storing your guitar strings properly is imperative to preserve their live shelf.
I once bought 4 packs to take me through the year, but I didn’t know that strings can expire if not properly stored.
It wasn’t until I came to use them that I saw them oxidated and could not use them.
That was a waste of money!
However, this does not have to be your experience. There are some excellent ways to preserve the life of stored guitar strings. Check out my article here on the top 5 ways to store them.
You may choose to use your strings as long as they don’t break, but that will only take you so far.
There are times that the strings must be changed, whether they are broken or not.
Here are some signs to help you determine if you must change them or you can wait before you change them:
- Fading brightness
- Strings can’t stay in pitch
- Unwinding of the string on close inspection
So, should you ever use acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar?
No. It won’t provide any significant benefit, and it is not necessary.
Maybe if you’re mainly using a hollow body or semi-hollow body electric as an acoustic instrument, it might be worth it.
However, I believe you’re wasting strings by not using the type of strings designed for a specific guitar.