As a guitar enthusiast, you may have noticed that the strings for acoustic and electric guitars are almost the same. They are metal-built, and their tuning systems are more or less the same.
Then why do we see separate string sets for electric guitars and acoustic guitars on the market? Why don’t they sell universal string sets that work on both of these guitars? Can acoustic guitar strings be used on an electric guitar?
You can use acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar. But you won’t have a satisfying experience with it because the output will be weak. Plus, the tension of both string types differs from one another. You have to adjust the truss rod anyway, and it may just not be worth the effort.
Do you want more detailed reasons why you shouldn’t install strings of acoustic guitars on electric guitars? This article is just for you!
Types of Guitar Strings
We won’t be talking about Nylon Strings as they are an entirely different class. With Nylon strings out of the list, there are four types of strings made with metal you can find for acoustics and electrics.
Nickel and stainless steel strings are generally made for electric guitars. Acoustic guitars use the latter two types.
Electric Guitar Strings
Nickel Strings are vintage electric strings with a warm tone. Those are great for blues, jazz, or other older genres of music. But for a heavier tone, stainless steel strings were made. Due to its brighter tonality, it gained popularity in the heavier genre of music. Steel strings are also more durable and last longer than nickel strings.
Then there is the best of both worlds, the nickel-plated strings or nickel wound strings. It has a stainless steel core, but that core is wound with nickel wire. This way, the player gets the warm tone of the nickel strings along with the bright sound and better durability of the stainless steel string.
Acoustic Guitar Strings
For acoustic guitars, bronze and brass strings are available. They also have stainless steel cores inside, but brass strings tend to sound brighter than bronze strings. For deeper and mellower tones, many acoustic players use phosphor bronze strings.
String gauges are the thickness of a string measured in inches or mm. Generally, the gauge of the strings is written on the strings pack.
You may hear people saying they prefer 10s to 9s because 8s are very bright. These numerals mean that the strings are 0.009 or 0.010 inches thick in diameter. So, a string’s thickness is measured in thousandths of an inch.
When choosing a string gauge, it’s all about personal preferences. Some people prefer lighter strings for bending easily and are less hard on the fingers. Some prefer heavier gauges due to the depth of the sound and heavier riffing with distortions.
Acoustic guitar players typically use 11s and more. This is because the acoustic guitar’s sound depends more on the strings’ vibration and resonance with the wood and needs more force to create a sound. The chords on the acoustic or the plucking sound great with slightly thicker strings.
Problems With Acoustic Guitar Strings Used On Electric Guitars
There’s no problem with bronze or brass strings being installed on acoustic guitars. But if you install those on electric guitars, problems will arise.
Issues With The Pickup
First of all, electric guitars produce sound through the magnetic pickups installed on them. The pickups generate a specific voltage level when a particular kind of string vibrates in its magnetic field.
The unwound strings, like the first and second strings, will remain unaffected and sound the same as an electric string. But the lower four strings are going to sound less powerful due to the bronze or brass winding.
It happens because brass or bronze is nonferrous, and the only output the pickup is receiving is from the magnetism of the steel core.
That is the sole reason acoustic guitar strings shouldn’t be used on electric guitars.
Strings of acoustic guitars tend to be less magnetic than typical nickel or stainless steel plating. This results in the pickups of the guitar not picking up the strings’ vibration enough to produce a clear sound through the amp.
Issues With String Gauge
Other problems can arise due to the difference in string gauges. Generally, acoustic strings have a slightly heavier gauge than their electric guitar counterparts. Even the extra light gauge of the acoustic string is considered a medium gauge of electric guitars.
Installing the first and second strings of an acoustic guitar in an electric guitar may be okay, and it won’t be much of a problem. But using the lower strings from an acoustic guitar will ruin the sound when it is plugged into an amp.
It might bring some intonation issues as well due to the fact these strings were not made for electric guitars.
How Gauges Affect The Sound
Acoustic guitars have heavier gauges than electric guitar strings. Installing acoustic strings on the electric guitar may need a truss rod adjustment. That’s because of the increased tension of the heavy acoustic strings that may bend the guitar’s neck slightly.
By adjusting the neck alignment, acoustic guitar strings can be installed on electric guitars. However, the sound will not be satisfying.
So, we have discussed guitar strings and the factors related to them. Can acoustic guitar strings be used on an electric guitar? You can, but you shouldn’t.
The reason is the sound they are going to deliver. It just won’t be as satisfying as an actual set of electric guitar strings. Moreover, you might have to readjust your electric guitar’s truss rod due to the difference in string tension. So, we don’t recommend doing it.