It can be a real pain to go out and buy new strings. Many guitarists who have some old acoustic strings lying around might be wondering if they can string up their electric guitar with those acoustic strings.
Well, in theory, you could. However, the sound your electric guitar ends up making will be a little different for a couple of reasons. Because of this, it’s not normally recommended that you use acoustic strings on an electric guitar.
There’s plenty to know about the right way to string up your electric guitar, the difference between electric and acoustic strings, and string maintenance in general. Read on to find out everything you need to know and find out the answer to: can acoustic guitar strings be used on electric?
Is There A Difference Between Acoustic And Electric Guitar Strings?
It might seem on the surface that acoustic and electric guitar strings are the same thing. After all, it’s just a long, thin string of metal to vibrate right? Sure, they’re the same thing in concept. However, they are often things that separate the two.
Actually, there are some significant differences between acoustic and electric guitar strings. Things like how they’re built, the material they’re made of, and how thick they are. It also must be considered how they’re wound and how many of the strings are wound. There are plenty of differences that can exist between the strings of electric and acoustic guitars.
It’s because of these differences that you can’t put acoustic strings on an electric guitar and expect a similar sound. You’re better off sticking with strings that are made for the proper instrument.
What Is The Differences?
But what are the actual differences between the different types of strings?
Firstly, they are made out of different metals. Acoustic strings are made out of metals that resonate well. These include things like bronze and brass. These thick alloys produce a deep, resonant, and thick tone that acoustic guitars excel at.
On the other hand, electric strings need to be made of more magnetic alloys, such as chromium, steel, or nickel. This is because the pickups in the electric guitar work off of magnetism to produce a signal that travels to your amp. Without a magnetic string, your guitar will have a far more difficult time making noise than it would with the proper kinds of strings.
The coating on the string, or the metal that’s around the main metal of the string, also affects the sound of your guitar quite a bit.
The strings are also usually of different thicknesses between acoustics and electrics. Acoustics have thicker strings that produce a warmer and deeper tone. Electric strings are the opposite and are usually a bit thinner. Electric strings are usually between 0.008 and 0.38, while acoustic strings are between 0.1 and 0.47.
There are different strings on acoustic guitars vs. electric guitars that are wound and unwound. A wound string is coated in another metal or alloy, while unwound strings are not. Acoustic guitars have four wound strings and two that remain unwound. Meanwhile, electric guitars have three of each.
Can You Put Acoustic Strings On An Electric?
With all of this information in mind, it’s probably best to avoid putting acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar. The brass and bronze alloys that they’re normally made of won’t be magnetic enough to create the desired sound with your guitar’s pickups. They will also sound a bit different due to being different thicknesses and having a different ratio of the wound to unwound strings.
If you want your electric guitar to sound like an electric guitar, you should put the proper kinds of strings on it.
Can You Put Electric Strings On An Acoustic?
On the other hand, you’ll definitely have a better time putting electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar. There is no factors like magnetism that will stop them from making the sound correctly. However, acoustic guitars do tend to use thicker, more resonant strings for a reason.
If you put too thin of strings on your guitar that are made of very non-resonant metals, you might get a very thin, twangy tone. Usually, better acoustic tones are considered the darker, deeper, and more resonant tones.
Acoustic guitar strings also give, with their thickness, a percussive quality that electric strings don’t have. Your acoustic guitar might sound strange with the wrong strings on it because of this. However, they’re usable in a pinch, especially if you only need to replace one or two.
If you’re looking for a short answer, though, you can be sure that your electric strings will certainly work on an acoustic guitar. Just be prepared for a bit of twangier sound that’s not quite as percussive, deep, or resonant as the acoustic sound you’re used to.
It should be noted that some kinds of acoustic guitars use nylon strings. These strings are far easier on the fingers and make a completely different sound than both regular electric and acoustic guitar strings.
These strings aren’t made of metal, so they won’t make any sound at all on an electric guitar. They also won’t sound great on a regular acoustic guitar and should be kept on the classical guitars that they’re normally used on.
Make sure you aren’t buying nylon strings to restring any kind of guitar that isn’t specifically made for them!
So, unfortunately, acoustic guitar strings can’t be used very effectively on an electric guitar. Their brass and bronze alloys won’t interact properly with the magnetic pickups and make the electric guitar sound you’re looking for..
However, you can swap the strings around a bit more effectively, as putting electric guitar strings on an acoustic guitar will work a lot better than the other way around. Although they’ll lose some of their great tone and percussive quality, they’re still usable in a pinch.