Electric and acoustic guitars are two of the most popular instruments in modern music. Both usually have 6 strings and the first is derived from the latter, but there is a lot of confusion regarding the strings of these instruments. Many artists are not sure what are the differences between acoustic and electric guitar strings.
One of the main differences is the material with which they are made with. While with an acoustic guitar you mainly need a material that will project your sound in the best way, with electric guitars you need a material that vibrates in a way so that the vibrations can be easily captured by your pickups and electronic circuit.
A few more details also stand between acoustic and electric strings. For example, acoustic strings are thicker due to their need to sound louder. Electric strings can be found in lighter gauges and don’t need to be as thick, since there is usually a pickup system instead of a resonator box, like with an acoustic guitar.
In this article, we are going to explain the difference between acoustic and electric guitar strings, as well as review some of the best strings of each type.
Table of Contents
- Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar Strings Comparison
- Similarities between Acoustic & Electric Guitar Strings
- Can Electric Guitar Strings Be Used on an Acoustic Guitar?
- Best Acoustic Guitar Strings
- Best Electric Guitar Strings
- Frequently Asked Questions
Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar Strings Comparison
Both acoustic and electric guitar strings are made with different materials.
Acoustic guitar strings are made from either nylon or steel core with bronze or phosphor bronze wound. Nylon core acoustic guitar strings have a larger diameter than steel strings.
The main difference between these two types of strings is that the steel core ones are more durable and able to withstand higher tension and they are brighter than nylon ones.
On the other hand, nylon core acoustic guitar strings tend to be more flexible and softer. They also have greater durability and they do not need much maintenance.
Electric Guitar Strings are usually made of nickel-plated steel, though there are some exceptions such as pure nickel. The main advantage of electric guitar strings is that they project a lot of sound due to their larger diameter, something that makes them suitable for rock, country, and similar styles of music where you need fuller sound.
You can usually find electric string guitars with a gauge as light as 08 while acoustic guitars will usually start at 10. However, both types of strings are available in a variety of gauges, it is just that acoustic guitar strings tend to be thicker due to their need to project the sound further and louder.
It is important to mention that you should choose the right gauge for your particular use case. We recommend trying strings from different gauges in order to understand which will fit your playing style the best. If you are buying your strings online and can’t try it in person, we recommend sticking to medium strings as they will most likely please most.
Both electric and acoustic guitar strings are wound similarly. On acoustic guitars, however, it is common for the G string to be wound (as opposed to most electric guitar string sets where it is plain). The material used on the wounding of the strings is generally different: in electric sets, you will most commonly find nickel and in acoustic sets, bronze or phosphor bronze.
Of course, the tone of acoustic and electric guitar strings are vastly different. With acoustic guitars, the strings need to help the sound project further since most of the time there is no amplification. With electric guitar, the strings must create a strong electromagnetic field that will be captured by the pickups and then sent through the electrical parts of the guitar.
Acoustic strings have a warmer sound and tend to stay in tune longer than electric guitar strings since they are thicker. Electric guitar strings, on the other hand, have a bright sound.
Similarities between Acoustic & Electric Guitar Strings
As you can see, both are made from similar materials. Both have the lower strings wound and the higher strings in plain steel. Both are made of metal and have the same tuning. The only difference is that electric strings need to be wound with a different material, and they produce a different tone.
Can Electric Guitar Strings Be Used on an Acoustic Guitar?
Electric guitar strings are not ideal for acoustic guitars, even though some people like to use electric strings on acoustic instruments. The reason is that the electric guitar strings don’t have the same sound projection and thickness as acoustic guitar strings. You will also need to take your instrument to a luthier to be adjusted more often if you do that.
Best Acoustic Guitar Strings
These strings from Ernie Ball are coated with a special material that extends their durability significantly. The material used is phosphor bronze, which gives your acoustic guitar a warm and mellow tone. Other than that, it is available in a wide range of gauges for every guitarist’s personal taste.
- Gauges: 12-54
- Everlast Treatment Is Applied to Both the Inner Hex Core and Outer Wrap Wire to Provide Ultimate Protection without Compromising Tone or Feel
- Rich, Warm Tone Played by Acoustic Greats around the World
- Material: Coated Phosphor Bronze
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One of the most durable set of strings in the market, these Elixir strings are coated with the NANOWEB coating: a special treatment that helps it repel humidity and oil. The strings also have a bright and focused smooth sound and incredible playability and feel. Definitely a great choice for beginners, intermediate and advanced players.
- Gauges: 10-47
- Played for a Crisp, Bright Tone with an Expressive, Vibrant Presence
- Ultra-Thin Nanoweb Coating Provides a More Traditionally Textured, “Uncoated” Feel
- Material: Bronze
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Martin Lifespan strings create an excellent tone and feel, but they are also very durable. They’re constructed from the finest materials like light-gauge steel and coated with protective material. The phosphor bronze used in these strings is made with an excellent balance between sound and playability so it will be good for any kind of player!
- Gauges: 12-54
- Martin Authentic Acoustic Strings Provide Excellent Tuning Stability and Playability with Bright and Rich Tones
- Treated with a Special Coating that Protects it Against Oils and Humidity
- Material: Phosphor Bronze
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These strings have a deep and projecting tone that will suit any playing style. The D’Addario EJ11 80/20 is made from a combination of metals that guarantees bright tones and warm lows. Even though these strings are uncoated, it still offers a great deal of durability since it is made with high-quality materials.
- Gauge: 12-53
- D’Addario’s Most Popular Acoustic Gauge, Ideal Balance of Tone and Playability
- Extra-Bright Tone Mixed with Deep and Projecting Bottom End
- Material: Bronze
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Related: If you wanna see the best acoustic strings for your instrument, make sure to check our Best Acoustic Guitar Strings article.
Best Electric Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball strings are one of the most popular among guitarists. This is because they’re affordable and offer a great deal between price and quality. These strings are made out of nickel, which provides a bright and shiny tone. It is also available in most gauges: 09’s, 10’s, 11’s, 12’s, etc.
- Gauge: 10-46
- Bright and Balanced Tone
- Element Shield Packaging for Extra Durability
- Material: Nickel Wound
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Dunlop is famous in the music world. These strings are simple and straight to the point: made out of nickel, they deliver excellent performance for a great price. This particular set has a gauge of 09-42, but you can find this same model of strings in any gauge that you prefer to play with.
- Gauges: 09-42
- Warm and Aggressive Midrange
- Defined Low End with Smooth Feel
- Material: Nickel-Plated Steel
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Elixir is one of the most popular guitar string brands, and that’s because their sets are among the longer-lasting strings in the market. The NANOWEB coating treatment provides great tone and unmatched durability. These strings sound bright and smooth and they’re very comfortable to play for prolonged periods of time.
- Coated with Nanoweb Technology
- More Durable than Most Other Strings
- Bright and Smooth Sound
- Available in Different Gauges
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Ernie Ball Paradigm Power Slinky is a set of strings from Ernie Ball made with durability in mind. The Paradigm strings will last much longer than most other sets on the market due to the special coating they receive. Not only that, but these strings are much less prone to breakage and other problems.
- Roundwound Strings
- Gauges: 11-48
- Patented RPS
- Everlast Nanotreatment and Revolutionary Plasma-Enhanced Wrap Wire
- Material: Coated Nickel Steel
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are the Strings of Acoustic Guitars and Electric Guitars the Same?
The strings on an acoustic guitar are different from the strings on an electric guitar. The strings on an acoustic guitar are made of nylon, steel, copper, or bronze. On an electric guitar, the strings are made of steel or nickel. Strings for acoustic guitars are usually much thicker than the strings for electric guitars.
Are Electric Guitar Strings Easier to Play than Acoustic?
It depends. Electric guitar strings usually have a thinner gauge so in that sense, yes, it is easier to play electric guitar than acoustic guitar, particularly because the first has less tension. But this will depend on the particular instrument, how it is set up and if it is well adjusted. A well-adjusted acoustic guitar will be just as easy to play like an electric guitar.
Are Electric Guitar Strings Thinner than Acoustic?
Electric guitar strings are usually thinner than acoustic ones. This is because acoustic guitar strings need larger gauge strings so that they give the proper sound projection for your instrument.
Can You Put Acoustic Guitar Strings in an Electric Guitar?
Putting acoustic guitar strings in an electric guitar is generally a bad idea because the acoustic strings don’t produce the same vibrations needed for the pickups to capture the sound of the strings. There is no benefit in using acoustics instead of electric strings on your electric guitar, so it is not recommended.
Can an Electric Guitar Sound like an Acoustic?
Your electric guitar will hardly sound exactly like an acoustic guitar, but you can get pretty close with the usage of some tools. Some pedals, such as the Acoustic Simulator claim to turn your electric into an acoustic. You can also use EQ tricks or specialized plugins to help you achieve that acoustic particular effect.
What is the Difference Between Uncoated and Coated Strings?
Coated strings receive a special coating treatment that repels oil and dirt, therefore, making them last longer. They cost a bit more than uncoated ones, however. Uncoated strings don’t receive that treatment and they have different playability and tone to them, usually described as more natural.
Which One Lasts Longer: Acoustic or Electric Strings?
There isn’t an exact answer since the durability of both types of strings will highly depend on their material, gauge, whether they received treatment, and how frequently you play. Generally, acoustic guitars tend to last a bit longer than electric strings because they are thicker and less prone to breakage or damage.
Can You Plug an Acoustic Guitar into an Amp like an Electric Instrument?
Of course, if your acoustic guitar has a pickup system. If not, you can easily install one. They are usually not that expensive and you can install them by yourself.
Acoustic and electric guitars have lots of differences, as you can see. It is important to choose the right type of strings for your instrument so as not to damage it and to achieve the best tone possible. Also keep in mind that there are a few factors you should keep in mind when shopping for new strings, such as string gauges, material, durability, and tone.
To sum it up, the main differences between acoustic and electric guitar strings are in the materials they are made: acoustic guitar strings are usually made out of bronze or phosphor bronze (and nylon in some cases), while electric guitar strings are usually made out of nickel and materials such as stainless steel.
You can also find a difference in the number of wound strings between the two: on acoustic guitars, you usually have 4 wound strings and 2 plain strings. On electric guitars, you usually have 3 wound strings and 3 plain strings. This makes a difference in the playability of the instrument and in the tone as well.We hope that this article was useful. Now that you know the difference between acoustic and electric guitar strings, make sure to check our related posts for guitarists. Research extensively before buying your new set of strings: we have tons of articles reviewing different sets. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!