Whether electric guitar strings can be used for an acoustic guitar is a common question.
Well, yes, in practice, it can be done.
But if you want to understand why this is not recommended and what the consequences can be, you will find all the answers in this article.
What is the difference between an acoustic and an electric guitar?
The problems that can happen from placing electric strings on an acoustic guitar are due to the differences between the two guitars. Let’s take a look at exactly what these differences are:
Acoustic and electric guitars use different gauges of strings
Gauge refers to the diameter of the string in inches. It can vary depending on the type of guitar and its size, what style of music will be performed, the way the guitarist plays, etc.
What gauge are acoustic guitar strings?
A standard acoustic guitar set starts at .012 and can go up to .054.
The larger the caliber, the more tension it needs. Acoustic guitar strings produce a higher tone and put more pressure on the top of the guitar and the bridge.
What gauge are electrical guitar strings?
Electric guitars use lighter strings, with .009 and .010 being standard gauges. These strings bend more easily and do not require much tension.
The difference between .010 and .012 gauge will be very noticeable when stringing electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar. Smaller electric strings will produce a weak, hollow tone with little volume.
Electric and acoustic guitar strings are made of different materials
The material the strings are made of is another reason for guitars to sound different.
The steel core is usually the same in different strings, but the material wound around it is different.
What material are acoustic strings made of?
Acoustic guitar strings are mostly made of bronze or brass and are resonating materials. They give a warmer and brighter tone.
What material are electrical strings made of?
Electric strings are made of nickel, steel, and other magnetic materials. They interact with the guitar’s magnetic pickup to transmit an electrical signal to an amplifier. This is how the sound of the electric guitar is produced.
They would give an acoustic guitar a more metallic sound.
Electric and acoustic guitars have different action
The electric guitar’s action is lower than the action of the acoustic guitar. This is also due to the difference in gauges of the two types of strings.
Acoustic guitars are built for heavier strings, while electric guitars are for lighter strings. If you put the light electric strings on an acoustic guitar, they will need additional tuning.
Electric and acoustic guitars have different nut slot depth
Acoustic guitars have a wider and deeper nut slot because it has to accommodate higher gauge strings. If we put .009 gauge electric guitar strings, the guitar may have intonation problems or buzzing.
Will I damage my acoustic guitar if I put in electric guitar strings?
Electric guitar strings will not cause physical damage to the guitar if used for short periods of time. There is no danger of putting too much pressure on the guitar’s top because they need much less tension. They can form grooves in the nut slots and bridge saddle with extended use. These grooves can affect intonation and create a hum.
While electric strings won’t seriously damage an acoustic guitar, they will change the sound noticeably. They are best used as a last resort if you break a string and don’t have a better option.
What to expect if you put electric strings on an acoustic guitar?
- bad intonation
- difficult to set up
- a metallic, muted sound
Tips for placing electric strings on an acoustic guitar
If you still want to replace acoustic strings with electric ones, then we have some tips on how to make the sound a little better.
- Use .011 gauge strings – they are more suitable because they are closer to the acoustic string standard and won’t require many tuning changes. These strings will be close in tension to the acoustic ones and will create a slightly higher sound.
- Start with nickel-plated steel because the guitar will increase the acoustic properties of the string and will sound better.
- After you have placed the strings and started to tune the guitar, watch the nut and bridge saddle to make sure there is no binding that will cause problems later.
- Check the neck and adjust the truss rod to balance the tension.
- Try each note individually to ensure there are no mutes in between and no buzz.
It’s not dangerous for the guitar if you put electric strings on it but be prepared that the sound may not be what you expect. Whatever you decide, it’s always a good idea to experiment with your instrument to get to know it and gain experience as a guitar player.
Can I Put Classical Strings on an Acoustic Guitar?
Most classical strings do not have ball ends and are designed to wrap around the bridge. Also, the nylon strings used on classical guitars are thicker, and the nut slots will not be wide enough to accommodate them. In general – no, it is not recommended to use classical strings on an acoustic guitar.
Do electric guitar strings hurt less than acoustic?
Yes, electric strings are lighter than acoustic and much easier to play.
What acoustic strings are easiest to play?
Beginners are best off starting with a lighter gauge – .010-.011.
Some string brands also offer .009 gauge if these are heavier for you.
Gary has been in love with music since he was a child. His passion is guitars and everything related to them. He is the founder of
Riff-Mag and can’t wait to share his knowledge with you.