Name the Open Strings

Naming the Open Guitar Strings

As we prepare to discuss tuning the guitar, (see "Tuning the Guitar") we must first cover the names of the open strings.

The ability to name your open notes, as well as identify some of the notes up the neck of the guitar, will take you a long way in your learning process and make things much easier for you to progress on the guitar.

Don’t worry too much about getting this all under your belt immediately but you will soon discover that this is all fairly easy to get a grasp on.

In terms of general music notation there are only 8 notes to be concerned with. They are – A, B, C, D, E, F & G. In between those are what are known as sharps and flats. We will get into more detail on this later but for now just remember that the letters A through G represent the 8 notes in musical notation and that musically there is no H, I, J, K and so on.

In terms of the guitar itself, there are six strings, and each one corresponds with, and can be referred to, a musical note. They are E, A, D, G, B, & E.

As you are seated with the guitar in your lap, the string closest to you is the low “E” string. This is the thickest string and the one that produces the lowest note on the guitar.

Starting on this low E string you can name the notes in order as so:

E, A, D, G, B, E (from top to bottom)
guitar string chart 01
You will notice that the 2 outside strings – the thickest and the thinnest – are both E, one is just an octave of the other.

Quite often guitar strings are referred to by a number. In that case it is important to note that the 1st string is the high E string and then in order up from there. In other words, as you are seated with the guitar in your lap the 1st string would be the one that is farthest away from you or closest to the floor – and the 6th string is the one closest to you, or the low E string.

Example: If someone says “play your 3rd string” you now know they are referring to your G string. (See above diagram)


The main thing to keep in mind is that, when referring to the names of the strings by "letter" (note) name, you will most often hear them referred to in ascending order starting on the "low" E string. (the one closest to you).

However, when referring to the strings by "number", it is just to opposite. The 1st string (high E) is the one that is the farthest away from you, as you sit holding the guitar, and the numbers go from bottom to top.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!


Keith Dean

keith01 lowKeith Dean is founder of and a 30 year veteran of stage and studio. He toured extensively as a road musician throughout the US and Europe, was a former lead guitarist for Jason Aldean, and has shared stages with Little Big Town, Wild Rose, Winger, Confederate Railroad and more. He is a published songwriter, owned and operated a successful music store, and has instructed numerous students in guitar.

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