Last Updated on June 15, 2020.
So, you just bought your first electric guitar and either one of your strings broke, or the whole set of strings is in need of changing.
You think to yourself “huh, acoustic guitars sound awesome, why no use acoustic strings on my electric guitar?”.
Well, I would advise against doing this without at least reading up on the subject since you will probably be wasting a good set of acoustic guitar strings.
In this post I’m going to tell you why you may-, or may not want to use acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar, as well as if it’s a good idea to do the opposite; use electric guitar strings on an acoustic.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Can you use acoustic guitar strings on an electric Guitar?
While you can use acoustic strings on an electric and get sound out of them, only the first two strings will sound like electric guitar strings.
The other four strings, since they have a bronze coating aren’t as magnetically reactive, and therefore will generate a lower signal, creating an uneven sound.
Here’s a more detailed explanation;
Differences between acoustic and electric Guitar strings
To understand why electric guitar strings sound better on an electric guitar than acoustic strings, we have to take a deeper look into what they are actually made of and how they work.
Electric guitar pickups work magnetically, meaning that they don’t pick up the air vibration like a microphone would in order to generate sound, but rather the magnetic field created by the pickup reacts to the movement of the string which makes a current flow through the pickup once the string moves.
And that is how the signal is generated.
Now, in order for this to work properly the strings need to be as magnetically reactive as possible, and that is why electric guitar strings have a core made of Steel and are generally covered in Nickel.
Since both of these materials are magnetically reactive, they will work perfectly with magnetic pickups (electric guitar pickups).
How about acoustic guitar strings?
Well, acoustic guitar strings also have a steel core, but they are usually wound in Brass or Bronze, and these materials aren’t magnetically reactive at all.
This means that the only part of the string that can create a current in a magnetic pickup is the steel core, thus outputting a much lower signal than nickel strings.
What if my guitar also has a Piezo Pickup?
This is another common question I see when talking about strings and pickups, and it’s; “if my guitar has a piezoelectric pickup, can I use acoustic strings?”
A piezoelectric pickup works by picking up vibrations and not magnetically, which means that yes, it will work.
However, if you have an electric guitar that has a built-in piezo pickup on the bridge like any of these ones (link to Thomann), even though you could use acoustic strings on it, why would you?
Only the piezo pickup would work as intended while the other magnetic pickups wouldn’t be able to generate the proper signal from the thicker strings.
Can you use electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar?
Yes, you absolutely can.
Electric guitar strings will work on an acoustic guitar, the only difference is that the third string isn’t wound in another material and the strings are usually lighter as well.
Unlike an electric guitar that works with magnetic pickups, an acoustic guitar just requires the strings to ring out naturally, which means that no matter what they are made of they will create sound.
However, if you use your typical electric guitar string gauges on an acoustic guitar, say .008 or .009, the sound will be a bit “twangy” and more banjo-like.
This is why if you ever decide to use electric guitar strings on an acoustic, you should make sure to use heavier strings than you would on an electric to get a tone that resembles the one of an acoustic guitar more.
Now, here’s one question that many beginners ask, and I know I did when I was starting out, which is;
Is electric or acoustic guitar better for beginners?
Electric guitar is much easier to learn for the simple fact that the strings as lighter, making it a lot easier to play single notes as well as chords.
Having lighter strings also means that your hand won’t fatigue as quickly and your fingers won’t hurt as bad from having to press down harder on the thicker acoustic strings.
While using acoustic strings on an electric guitar could certainly be useful in certain scenarios since the way they make the guitar sound is very different from how both the electric- and the acoustic guitar normally do, I wouldn’t recommend doing this.
In most cases, you would be wasting a good set of acoustic strings for the simple fact that you would probably be switching them back for electric ones in a matter of hours, or even minutes.
On the other hand, stringing up an acoustic with electric guitar string could actually work.
One reason I can think of is that with regular acoustic strings bending the 3rd string ends up ruining the winding; this won’t happen with electric guitar strings.
However, like I mentioned earlier, make sure to use thicker strings, otherwise the sound won’t be anywhere near the one of an acoustic guitar.
I hope this information was useful!
Have a wonderful day!
Can you play an acoustic guitar like an electric?
They are both essentially the same instrument, the only thing that varies is the thickness of the neck, the size of the body and also the gauge of the strings, since electric guitars are usually played with thinner strings.
But everything you learn on one will translate to the other.
Are acoustic guitar chords the same as electric?
The acoustic- and and electric guitars are both the same instrument that just work in a different way, but they are tuned exactly the same way which means that every chord or scale you learn on one will immediately translate to the other.
What strings do electric guitars use?
The most common types of electric guitar strings are;
Nickel-Plated Steel; which has a good combination of warmth and brightness.
Pure Nickel; which is warmer than nickel-plated steel.
Stainless Steel; Which is less susceptible to corrosion.