Guitar String Order: How are The Strings Arranged in Standard Tuning?

Guitar String Names

When learning guitar, it’s vitally important to learn and remember the note names, or pitches, of each string.

As your understanding of music theory increases, knowing the open pitch of each string will allow you to figure out what note you’re playing up and down the neck.

The guitar is arranged as follows, from top to bottom:

EADGBE

Since there are two E‘s, we typically differentiate between these two by calling the bass string Low E and the higher one High E.

guitar string order
The guitar strings are ordered, from left to right, EADGBE

How to remember the guitar strings’ names

If you don’t yet know the name of every guitar string, don’t worry. There are a multitude of acronyms to help you remember the order. Here are a few of them:

  • Eat A Dog, Get Big Ears
  • Every Apple Does Get Bitten Eventually
  • Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears
  • Eat A Darn Good Breakfast Early
  • Even Average Dogs Get Bones Eventually

Between those five mnemonics, you should be able to find one you like. Alternatively, you can come up with your own and memorize it.

Regardless of how you learn it, we recommend doing so.

Where did standard tuning come from?

Standard tuning developed over many years. Nobody knows who originally developed it, but it’s likely that a variety of different musicians came up with it on their own at different times.

Standard tuning was the obvious solution for musicians to arrive to; it seems like its popularity was almost inevitable. It’s beneficial for a myriad of reasons.

Since standard tuning primarily uses perfect fourths (an interval of five semitones) between strings, the entire chromatic scale can be played within a range of five frets. This allows you to play scales within a relatively small portion of the guitar neck.

Since standard tuning includes E in both the top and bottom strings, barre chords are also far easier. If the bottom string was instead tuned to D, D#, F, F#, or any other note, major and minor barre chords would be nearly impossible.

If the bottom string was instead tuned to G# or B (notes that would at least allow barre chords), you would have to shift your hand awkwardly down the neck when using the bottom string for scales.

In short, standard tuning is one of the only possible solutions that allows for fluid scales, accessible chords, and barring capability. It’s the perfect solution for the well-rounded guitarist.

Why should you learn the guitar strings’ order?

Knowing the strings’ names and order in standard tuning will help you understand guitar and music theory in general at a much deeper level.

Here’s an example:

You’re reading the Little Wing guitar tab and trying to learn the song. You’re playing along and notice that includes a section based around a fifth-fret E minor-shaped barre chord.

little wing guitar tab
An Em7-shaped barre chord that appears in Little Wing by Stevie Ray Vaughan

You want to know what the chord is, but how can you find out?

Well, the easiest way is to know your strings. If you know the bass string is E, you can simply work your way down the neck.

In open an E minor 7 shape is, of course, an E minor seventh chord.

Barring the first fret, it’s an F minor 7

On the second fret, it’s an F# minor 7.

Then comes G minor 7, G# minor 7, and finally the fifth-fret A minor 7.

By knowing what pitch each string has when played open, you can figure out what chords and notes you’re playing by working your way down the neck.

As you continue to practice and think situations like these through, you’ll begin to learn the notes of different frets and strings on the neck without thinking about it.

Effectively, learning the notes of the guitar is the first step to becoming an excellent guitarist.

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