When you start to play the guitar, there are certain skills that you need to acquire. Some demand dexterity; others require memory and using some mental capacity. Now, unfortunately, we are not all blessed with a great memory about everything we come into contact with.
There will be some that, like yours truly, just couldn’t figure out how to remember the names of guitar strings. You do eventually, of course. But a little help at the time wouldn’t have gone amiss. But we need to know How to Remember Guitar String Order & Names, so let’s find the easiest options…
The Evolution of the Guitar
The modern-day guitar as we know it evolved directly from the Lute. This is an instrument that has been around for a while. Its exact development is hard to be certain about. It probably arrived in Europe from Arab countries in or around the 13th Century by way of Spain.
However, it could have arrived as early as the 8th Century when the Moors invaded Spain. A variation of it is still played in those Arab countries that created it.
Medieval to Renaissance to Baroque
What we know as the Medieval period lasted for around ten centuries. The Lute arrived towards the end of it and by the 14th Century was used by wandering minstrels. It gained more prominence with the arrival of the Renaissance period in music (c.1400–1600).
By the time of the Baroque period (1600 to 1750) of Bach and others, they were commonly known.
The original tuning
Over centuries there have been many different string tunings. But by the 16th and into the 17th Century, a five-string A-D-G-B-E standard was being applied. A five-string version of what we have now. Just without the ‘low E.’
Developments and attempted improvements meant that in the 1800s, the six-string guitar we all recognize had taken its form. With the extra ‘low E’ added becoming E-A-D-G-B-E tuning.
A tuning accident?
Not at all; there was a method in the design and progression to the tuning. When it was laid out, it had to satisfy certain criteria. Certain practical issues in the build had to be addressed.
- The tension needed to achieve the tuning had to be realistic; otherwise, it would place too much pressure on the neck and body.
- How easy would it be to play what we now call chords, but was then referred to as groups of notes?
- To make playing easier, how many of those groups of notes could contain ‘open’ strings?
- Could scales and melodies be played without the player having to stretch his or her fingers too much?
‘New’ chromatic tuning
The chromatic scale that we know was an updated version of the previous Pythagorean chromatic scale. That was not perfectly symmetric. The newer version came into being at the start of the Baroque period out of necessity. The ‘new’ guitar was designed, tuning-wise, to fit this scale.
Chords would have been harder to play if the intervals between the strings had been greater. Smaller intervals would have made it easier to play any melodies. But chords would not have worked well.
Therefore, the E-A-D-G-B-E tuning is the most comfortable and practical solution that covers all the bases.
Get Those Memory Cells Ready
And so we come to the bit where you must use your memory. But before we talk about strings and memorizing their notes, there is something else. And this also takes up some storage in the old brain box. You also need to memorize and remember the fretboard if you want to know How to Remember Guitar String Order & Names.
This is where you will play those notes. Where you press down will offer varieties of vibrations on the strings. That creates the notes. You will press the string down between the ‘frets,’ the metal bars that run across the fingerboard. Once you have mastered the notes, it is a good idea to remember where various notes ‘match up’ on the fingerboard.
The same notes everywhere
If the 6th string is an ‘E,’ then rising through the chromatic scale, it will pass through ‘A,’ which is the 5th string on the guitar. Where does that happen? On which fret? And does that also apply to all the strings? Well, yes, it does.
If the 6th String is an ‘E,’ how many other ‘Es’ are there on the fingerboard across all the strings? And where do the octaves fall, all in the same place on each string? This is the knowledge that a guitarist is so familiar with they don’t even think about it. To the beginner, it is important to learn.
In descending order lowest to highest, we have the 6th string, which is tuned to ‘E.’ Sometimes called ‘low E.’ You will see why in a minute. Then the 5th string is ‘A,’ the 4th ‘D,’ the 3rd ‘G,’ and the 2nd ‘B.’ The top string is also an ‘E’ sometimes referred to as ‘Top E’ as opposed to the ‘Low E.’
You will need to learn them and become familiar with them. When you’re playing with others, later on, someone might call out a note to or notes to play. It is going to help if you know exactly where they are.
Find a Phrase that Helps
Some can just memorize them; others need some help. One way is to label the strings with a phrase that has the note of each string in order from low to high as the first letter of the phrase. We call that a mnemonic.
Here are two examples of easy guitar string mnemonic phrases:
- Exam Answers Do Give Better Earnings ( E-A-D-G-B-E).
- Easy Acclaim Doesn’t Give Balanced Expression (E-A-D-G-B-E).
You can do it the other way if you wish, from High to Low:
- Every Boy Gets Dinner At Evening (E-B-G-D-A-E).
Of course, it is far better if you make up your own. Maybe something that has some personal meaning or makes you laugh every time you think of it. It just needs to remind you quickly of the tuning.
Need More Information about the Guitar?
Our experts are ready to help you find the answers. So, check out our handy guides on Exercises and Tips For Better Finger Dexterity, Different Types of Guitars You Should Know, 8 Best Guitar Games to Help You Learn Guitar, How to Tune a 12-String Guitar, and Everything You Need to Know About Guitar Sizes for more useful information.
You might also like our in-depth reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners, the Best Electric Guitar For Beginners, the Best Guitars For Small Hands, the Best Clip-On Guitar Tuners, the Best Guitar Tuners, and the Best Beginner Electric Guitar Packages you can buy in 2021.
How to Remember Guitar String Order & Names – Final Thoughts
If you can learn the strings and the fingerboard, it is the start of a long journey. A journey to take your playing to the highest level you are capable of. And then a bit more.
So, here are some books that might help you on your way – Guitar Basics: A Landmark Guitar Method for Individual and Group Learning and Ultimate Beginner Acoustic Guitar Basics: Steps One & Two.
And if you want to go old school with your tuning, get yourself a Portable Acoustic Guitar String Pitch Pipe.
When you are learning your instrument, every step of the way takes some time. The joy comes in mastering each step and then moving onto the next.