Do Electric Guitar Strings Work On Acoustic Guitar (And Vice Versa?)

Do Electric Guitar Strings Work On Acoustic Guitar And Do Acoustic Guitar Strings Work On Electric Guitar?

Different types of strings are made for acoustic and electric guitars.

But that raises a question. Can you use electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar? What about the other way around?

The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and it might even surprise you.

Here’s what you need to know about using different strings on different guitars.

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Do Electric Guitar Strings Work On Acoustic Guitar?

Can you put electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar? Yes, you can, and there generally isn’t any issue with it.

There have been times when I was in desperate need of a string and didn’t have any suitable replacements. It just so happened that I had electric strings on hand, though, so I selected the closest thing I could find to the right gauge and put it on my acoustic guitar.

That string saved my butt. And at times, whatever you have on hand will be enough for the show to go on.

What if you’re looking to replace all your acoustic guitar strings with electric guitar strings?

It just so happens that I have experience with this too. And no, it isn’t much of an issue. Electric strings can work fine on acoustic guitars.

Electric guitar strings are generally thinner, so that will affect the tone and playability of your instrument. It might take some getting used to. But of course, your acoustic guitar will play a little more like an electric guitar, and some people like that.

If you have any issues with buzz, your guitar will probably need a quick setup. You can either take it to an experienced tech or look for tutorials on how to do this online.

If you’re concerned about tone or action with electric strings, then you might prefer looking for a different pack of acoustic guitar strings. Or you might look at bringing your guitar in for a tune up.

But generally, electric strings work great on acoustic guitars.

Do Acoustic Guitar Strings Work On Electric Guitar?

Can you put acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar? Yes, you can, but it isn’t always the best idea.

Putting acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar is something to try for fun. Or, if you simply don’t have any electric guitar strings, and you’re desperately in need of strings, acoustic strings will (sort of) work.

Otherwise, there are some side effects to putting acoustic strings on your electric – mostly unwanted.

For starters, the bronze coating makes acoustic guitars strings sound more like acoustic strings. So, the only strings on your electric that will sound like electric strings are the first and second strings, which bear similarities to how electric strings are made.

As well, the other four strings (G, D, A, E) won’t generate much of a sound on your electric guitar due to their bronze coating. Your electric guitar pickups are basically magnets, so they respond better to steel strings.

Bronze coated strings usually have a steel core, so you will still get a sound out of these strings. It just won’t be as prominent as the first two strings.

Another unintended side effect would be the string weight and tension. This is certainly going to affect your action, and while less likely, it could even affect your neck and bridge negatively.

Those who say putting a heavier gauge of strings on your electric guitar makes no difference have obviously never had a bridge spring pop out on them, and those are a pain to put back.

If you have nylon strings, forget about it. The only way these will work on an electric is if you have a piezo pickup, and even then, it doesn’t sound magnificent.

For electric guitars, your best bet is to stick with electric strings.

What Is The Standard Gauge Of Strings For Acoustic Guitar?

The standard gauge of strings for acoustic guitar is 12 (light gauge).

A light gauge of acoustic strings would measure as follows:

  • High E – 0.12
  • B – 0.16
  • G – 0.24
  • D – 0.32
  • A – 0.42
  • Low E – 0.53

“Medium gauge” or 13-gauge strings are a little less common, but not unpopular. They could offer a little more “boom” to your guitar and could be great for alternate tunings too.

They measure as follows:

  • High E – 0.13
  • B – 0.17
  • G – 0.26
  • D – 0.35
  • A – 0.45
  • Low E – 0.56

Of course, there are plenty of other options depending on what you’re looking for.

What Is The Standard Gauge Of Strings For Electric Guitar?

Most electric guitars come out of the box equipped with 9-gauge strings.

They measure as follows:

  • High E – 0.09
  • B – 0.11
  • G – 0.16
  • D – 0.24
  • A – 0.32
  • Low E – 0.42

That said, 10-gauge strings are probably just as popular since they are great for alternate tunings.

They measure as follows:

  • High E – 0.10
  • B – 0.13
  • G – 0.17
  • D – 0.26
  • A – 0.36
  • Low E – 0.46

Of course, there are both heavier and lighter gauges, and even custom gauges depending on what you’re looking for.

What Types Of Strings Are Commonly Used For Acoustic Guitar?

Guitar string types and gauges

Some of the most common string types for acoustic guitar include bronze, bronze coated, phosphor bronze, silk and steel, NanoWeb coated, nylon, and so on.

Nylon strings are generally for classical, flamenco, and some folk guitars too.

All other types of acoustic guitars usually come with one of the other types of strings mentioned, with bronze (or one of its variations) being the most common.

Of course, there are some unique string types too, like flat top strings, though they are generally made with the same materials.

What Types Of Strings Are Commonly Used For Electric Guitar?

Some of the most common types of electric guitar strings include nickel plated or nickel wound steel, pure nickel, chrome, stainless steel, NanoWeb coated, and so on.

Each string type can sound and play a little differently. It’s mostly a matter of preference.

As with acoustic guitar strings, electric guitar strings are available in a variety of gauges, and there is also flat wound, half round, and other models too.

Under What Circumstances Would I Use Electric Guitar Strings On An Acoustic Guitar (And Vice Versa)?

Here are several situations in which you might use electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar:

  • You like electric guitar strings more than acoustic guitar strings. You just like them more, plain and simple. Maybe they’re easier on your fingers, maybe you like the action, maybe you like how they sound. Whatever the case, your preference is electric strings.
  • You want to play your acoustic guitar like an electric. Maybe you’d like to transfer over some of your electric licks over to acoustic and find them a little tough to pull off with a heavier gauge of string. Should be easier with electric strings for sure.
  • When nothing else is available. You might find yourself at a rehearsal, open mic, gig, studio, or even overseas situation where you don’t have an extra set of acoustic guitar strings, and you need to come up with something fast. If you have electric guitar strings on hand, the show can go on.
  • When you’re experimenting. Most guitarists go through a phase of experimenting with different strings, as they all feel, sound, and play a little differently. At some point, you might try electric guitar strings on an acoustic, and end up liking the results.

Guitar String Best Practices

Since we are already talking about guitar string best practices, it would be instructive to further elaborate on the topic.

Here’s what you should know about your guitar strings.

You Should Replace Your Guitar Strings Periodically

How often depends a lot on how much you play your instrument.

If you’re a beginner and only play your guitar here and there, then you might not need to replace your strings for two to three months. In some situations, you might be able to get away with replacing your strings every six to 12 months.

If you play a few hours every day, then it’s always good to think about replacing your strings every one to three months, if not more often.

Pro guitarists often get their axes restrung before every show, as they don’t want to break a string on stage.

But regardless of what level you’re at, your strings will degrade over time, and they will even break. It’s good to replace your strings periodically to improve your guitar’s tone, minimize breakage, and ensure more tuning stability overall.

Some of the tools that can help with replacing your strings include:

  • Fresh pack of strings
  • Tuner
  • String winder
  • String cutter

When Restringing Your Guitar, Use The Same Gauge Of String

Assuming the pack of strings you’ve bought is designed for the type of guitar you’re using you can use any brand/model.

That said, we do recommend keeping to the same gauge of strings. The gauge of strings generally appears right on the product, and it will even tell you whether you’re buying a “standard” or “custom” gauge.

Unless you’re already set up with a custom gauge, you should be using a standard one.

The most common gauge of strings for an electric guitar is 9, and the most common for acoustic is 12.

If You’re Thinking About Changing String Gauge, Bring Your Axe In For A Setup

Moving up or down a gauge isn’t that big of a deal, at least not to the extent that it will damage or ruin your guitar.

That said, you will probably notice a significant difference in action and playability. And the difference will be even more drastic if you move up or down more gauges.

If you go down a gauge, then you will probably find that the strings are a little slinky. You might even notice some fret buzz.

If you go up a gauge, you will likely find the strings are a little tight, the action a little higher, and overall, a little harder to play.

Moving up a gauge always takes some getting used to regardless, because of the added heaviness of the strings.

Whenever switching to a new gauge of strings it is recommended that you take your guitar to a professional to have it set up. That way, you’ll avoid major issues with tension and action.

That said, if you want, you can do a setup yourself, and there are a lot of great articles and videos online that explain the process.

Be Mindful Of String Type

As you learned earlier, just about any type of string can work on an acoustic guitar. So long as the string can be secured with a bridge pin (some nylons come without ball ends, so those won’t work), you can do whatever you like. If it works for you and sounds good to you, more power to you!

Generally, it’s good to stick to the same string type when restringing your guitar, but there are no rules saying you can’t swap out one for another. There are generally no issues with going from a phosphor bronze to a coated string, for example.

On electric guitars, it’s common sense to use a string type that react to magnets. If you don’t, your electric guitar may not produce any sound whatsoever. Nylon strings do not work at all on electrics unless you have a piezo pickup, and acoustic strings can be less effective because of their bronze coating.

Some of this will be obvious to you, I’m sure, but there are always those that try something they think should work and end up finding it doesn’t. And it would be better to save a pack of innocent strings for later than to use them on a guitar or in a situation that doesn’t work.

Can I Mix String Brands?

We’ve covered this topic in depth in another guide.

The short answer is that yes, you can mix different string brands.

If one string broke, and you’re just replacing it, then it might be time to consider replacing the entire set.

If you want to try three D’Addario and three Fender strings on your guitar, that’s your prerogative, and you might even have your reasons.

But as we’ve cautioned you throughout, watch for the gauge and type of string for optimal performance. Getting this wrong can lead to happy accidents, but oftentimes it just leads to frustration.

Do Acoustic Guitar Strings Work On Electric Guitar? Final Thoughts

As you’re probably starting to see, there’s plenty to know about guitar strings.

They make a big difference to your guitar’s sound, action, and playability.

And different strings produce different results.

Much of it comes down to personal preference, but there are also situations where some strings are workable, and others are not.

Make sure you know the limitations of your guitars so you can always be ready with the right equipment.

We hope you enjoyed this guide, and happy playing!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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