Lesson 1: Numbering The Guitar Strings

Note: It is not strictly necessary to follow this numbering method in order to follow my other lessons. You can skip this lesson if you want and the rest of the lessons will still make sense.

Jimi Hendrix

One of the things that always bugged me when I first started playing the guitar was how the guitar strings are numbered. In case you don’t know the conventional order that guitar strings are counted in is: low E = 6, A = 5, D = 4, G = 3, B = 2 and high E = 1. But I can’t find any good reason for why it is done in this way. It is confusing and counter intuitive yet everyone just goes along with it since that’s always the way it has been done.

That’s just not good enough for me and that’s why here at GTR all lessons and resources count the strings in the following way:

Low E = 1, A = 2, D = 3, G = 4, B = 5 and High E = 6.

Now is a good time to memorise the note names of the strings if you don’t already know them. You can use the following sentence to remember them easily:

Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears.

I know that everyone else counts in the other way but it wouldn’t be much of a guitar theory revolution if I did things in the same old ways. But I’m not doing this just to be difficult or different. There are several reason for why I think this is a better way of doing it.

First of all, in all other areas of music a lower pitch is given the lower number. This is the case with both scales and chords for example. Next, the strings that you hit first when strumming or on which scales tend to start are those closest to your face when holding the guitar. It only makes sense to start counting at strings that are closest to you.

Lastly, the fingers on both hands are usually numbered 1 to 4 from the index finger to the little finger when indicating where to place your fingers on the fretboard and when plucking strings with your strumming / plucking hand. In both cases the lower numbered fingers are touching the lower numbered strings the majority of the time.

Remember that the main inspiration behind this site is to clear away all the stupid and silly conventional ways of teaching and learning music theory for the guitar. I’ve been playing guitar for more than a decade and I can’t tell you how confused I was when I first started. I didn’t realize that some of the standard ways in which things are presented just aren’t that good. It’s no wonder so many people get confused and give up on learning music theory.

On this site I challenge some very basic assumption and question the dogma presented by so many guitar players and teachers. I encourage you to adopt this numbering method and spread it amongst your guitar playing friends so we can make learning to play the guitar easier for everyone.