Can I use acoustic guitar strings on electric guitar? This is a very interesting question that hit my mind yesterday. I got excited and brought two acoustic guitar strings set to try this amazing experiment.
Here I will tell you, why you may, or may not want to put that set of strings on your electric guitar? and what happens if you did? Stay tuned:
Can you use acoustic strings on electric guitar?
You could use acoustic strings on electric guitar although only the first two strings will sound similar to electric strings. The other four strings are partially active towards the magnet due to the bronze coating/winding on them, thus generate a lower signal and uneven sounding tone.
What is the Difference Between Electric and Acoustic Strings?
When things came down to the guitar strings, there are only 5 major types: Steel and Nickel strings for Electric guitar, Brass and Bronze for acoustic guitars, and nylon strings for classical guitars.
Generally, Acoustic guitar strings are made with alloys like bronze and brass which are most resonating whereas electric guitar strings are made with steel, nickel, and chromium alloy due to their magnetic properties.
Electric guitar generates sound through its pickups which are unable to detect the vibration of the strings. That’s why electric guitar string material is always magnetically reactive. On the flip side, In an acoustic guitar, we don’t have to worry about the magnetic properties of the material, and just their vibrations matter.
With that said, lets check out some of the important factors that creates the major difference between two strings.
1. String Gauge
String gauge is one of the main factor that directly has its impact on the playability. Gauge basically refers to the thickness of the strings.
Thinner the string, brighter sounding tone it is going to emit while making it easy for you to bend and play with. On the other hand, strings with higher gauge (thicker strings) sounds more warmer and emit more louder sounding tone.
I’m not going into all those things, how gauge is measured, why, etc. Just remember gauge of the entire set of strings depends on the higher E string. That means if you’re looking at an 11’s set, i.e gauge of the higher E string is 0.011 Inch.
Generally, acoustic strings are thicker, and its gauge ranges from 0.010 to 0.013 on high E string. whereas electric guitar strings are relatively lighter than acoustic ones.
Due to the lower gauge of electric strings, they produce less volume and less sustain. They also tend to break easily and can cause fret buzzing too. but offers excellent playability, easily allow to bend the notes without applying high pressure.
Overall, Thicker strings will generate louder sound but relatively difficult to play whereas thinner strings offers ease in playability but lack a little in volume and sustain.
2. Core of the Strings
As the name explaining all, it is the core of the wire, found under the outer winding of the string. Usually, there are two types of string core: round core wire and hex core wire. Both of these shapes have their own pros and cons and affect differently on the guitar tone.
The round core strings are known for being more flexible, emit a kind of warmer sounding vintage tone, produce a great sustain, and having a gentler attack. On the other hand, hex-core strings are relatively stiffer, emit brighter sound, show less sustain, and produce a modern and consistent tone with stronger attacks.
Rounded core strings are being used for a very long time, but hex-core just entered and captured almost all markets. All brands are started producing strings with hex-core, as its sharp edges allow the outer winding to grip easily and thus deliver a more accurate and consistent tone.
3. String Winding
As you can see in this image, guitar strings comes with a wire wrapped around the core of the strings. When it comes to the winding, there are mainly three types that are popular among string manufactures – roundwound, flatwound, and halfwound.
Although there is not any hard-n-fast rule to follow, personally I love the strings with round-wound and there is a reason for that. Firstly this is the cheapest winding type, (leads to affordable string sets) and we get a wide range of strings to choose from.
Although this kind of string produces more string noise but gives you a brighter sounding tone, higher sustain, and less tension on your fingers. Flatwound string winding creates a more smooth surface on the string. They generally last longer and produce less string noise as compare to the string with round wound winding.
As I already told you, electric guitars sound due to their pickups and only react towards the magnetically active strings. That’s why electric strings are usually made with nickel or steel strings without any kind of winding on them. Winding material (generally bronze) generates lower signals and thus leads to uneven sounding tone.
On the other hand, acoustic guitar works on the basis of the vibration of the strings. So, whether there is a winding present or not, if the string vibrates, the guitar is going to make a sound.
4. Coating on the Strings
Coating strings are becoming very common nowadays. Basically, they are normal strings coated with an ultra-thin plastic polymer layer. Although coated strings usually cost high, last significantly more as compare to the non-coated string and also offer a great high-end response.
Again, this ultra-thin plastic polymer layer is not magnetically active at all. That’s why in a coated strings, there is only a core wire which is contributing towards the sound, as compared to the non-coated string where the whole string is putting its contribution.
When you’re playing with an acoustic guitar, the coating gives you ease in playability and also improves the durability without affecting the sound quality much. But that’s not the case with electric guitar strings, Coating improves your playability but also differs you in magnetism and thus lowers the sound quality.
5. Tension in the Strings
The thicker the string, the more tension is going to be there, and this is valid for both acoustic and electric guitar strings. As acoustic strings are producing sound through their vibration, thus tension will help them. i.e more tension means more clear sound quality.
But in case of electric strings, there is no relation between tension of the strings and its volume. To increase the volume, all you have to do is, turn that volume knob 🙂
Thus, electric strings don’t need to thick to hold that amount of tension. As electric strings are not much thick in gauge, that’s why provide you more ease in playability as compare to the acoustic strings.
What Happens when you Put Acoustic Strings on Electric Guitar?
Here is the Video How Acoustic Strings Sound on Electric Guitar:
Can you Use Nylon Strings on an Electric Guitar?
My straight-forward answer is, You can’t use the Nylon Strings on an Electric Guitar. Nylon doesn’t possess magnetic properties and thus won’t work on electric guitar at all.
I already discuss how electric guitar strings produces sound from the magnetic signals due to their steel or nickel core. But, nylon strings or you can say classical strings are unable to produce these signals. And we know, For Electric guitar Pickup If there are no signals, there is no sound.
Also, Unlike steel-acoustic strings, or electric guitar strings, nylon strings doesn’t come with ball ends. So, there is a issue in setting these strings on guitar too.
What if I have Piezo-Electric Pickup?
Piezo-Electric pickup works on the vibrations of strings, unlike our normal electric guitar pickups which create sound from magnetic signals. As these pickups don’t require any magnetic signals, that means you can use acoustic guitar strings on your electric guitar.
Final Words for Acoustic Guitar Strings on Electric:
Using Acoustic guitar Strings on an Electric guitar is sure a great and fun experiment. I hope you get a clear idea of whether or not you should use your acoustic guitar strings on your electric guitar.
I try to clarify the statements from both acoustic and electric strings sides and explain why you may or may not want to put acoustic strings on an electric guitar.
If you tried something crazy experiments on your guitar just like this one, please share with us in the comment section.
Hii, My name is Vishal Dorge and I am from India. I am the Creator of this site and want to help people just like you and me who enjoy music through the heart and want to learn it, especially about the guitar. Read More About Vishal Dorge Here