Have you ever wondered what it sounds like when you put acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar? Well, we tried it out, so that you don’t have to waste your strings finding out for yourself.
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Can you use bronze acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar?
Well the short answer is no. But today we’re going to try it out and see what it sounds like so that you don’t have to waste a few packs of strings to find out for yourself.
Alright, so to serve as a control group, we have a set of 9 1/2 to 44 electric guitar strings here on this little Epiphone 339. Let’s see what this sounds like so that you have something to compare the acoustic guitar strings with.
This is my clean tone with electric guitar strings I’m running through this little five watt Ampeg behind me with a Traynor 1 by 12″ cabinet.
As you can hear, that sounds just like electric guitar strings ought to, has a nice mix of warmth and brightness and a lot of good output out of the amp. Now let’s through some bronze acoustic guitar strings on this puppy and see what happens.
So of course I couldn’t find my tuning peg winder when I needed it, so that took a little bit longer than I would have hoped, but, at last we have everything set up with Phosphor bronze strings, this is 20 through 50 gauge set that we have on here. Let’s see how it sounds.
The first thing I noticed is that when strung up, acoustically, if I’m not putting it through an amp, it sounds just fine, it sounds nice and bright like any acoustic guitar would.
But of course it’s not the acoustics that we’re concerned about, it’s how it sounds through an amp, so let’s turn it up and see what it sounds like clean.
Interestingly, it doesn’t sound quite as bad as might expect. You are getting some signal passing through to the amp, you can hear the cords, it might even work in a pinch. The problem is, the output on these wound strings is way lower than our previous nickel strings, especially when you compare them with the plain steel strings.
That for example, I was playing my G and my B, which is actually a G sharp and a B if you’re paying attention and it’s way, way different, the volume between those two strings. So it really leads to an overall unbalanced sound, it’s not something that I would really recommend for anybody.
So the question is, why does it sound like that? Why don’t Phosphor Bronze strings sound just as good through an amp as nickel strings? Well the reason is because pickups work on magnetic output and Phosphor Bronze strings just don’t have quite as much of it.
The reason we are getting some signal through to the amp is because Phosphor Bronze strings, or 80 20 bronze strings, they still have a steel core, there’s something there in the string that is magnetically active that’s moving across in front of those pickups and giving us some signal. The problem is that the wrap wire, the Phosphor Bronze in this case, is not very magnetically active at all, so it’s not really giving you much signal on that end, it’s just acting to mute the magnetic output so that when we get the signal through to the amp it’s pretty low, pretty weak, and doesn’t really have that fullness or that brightness that we look for in a typical set of electric guitar strings.
So, should you ever put acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar? In my opinion, no. I can’t really see what good would come from it, it’s just not going to sound right, it’s not going to give you all that output. If you’re playing a hollow body electric, mainly as an acoustic instrument at home, maybe. But even then, I think you’re really just wasting strings versus using the type of strings that are meant for a particular guitar.
So there you have it. We put acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar and the results were not as bad as I might have thought they would be, but still not anything you would actually want. I had actually made this mistake before when I was maybe 13 or 14, I put a set of acoustic strings on my electric because they were what I had and I didn’t understand why I shouldn’t do it. It probably actually took me a few days before I really realized that it wasn’t working, but I was 13 at the time.
Are you like me? Have you ever made this mistake before? Let us know down in the comments, be sure to give this video a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel so you can keep up with more great stuff like this in the future.
What if you put nickel or steel set of acoustic strings like GHS silk and steel on an electric for the less tension feel. Would that work?
So first off, “silk and steel” strings aren’t made with steel windings or anything, that is just a term that references that the core is steel with silk strands insulating the core and windings. So those won’t work any better or worse than typical acoustic strings. But nickel strings would work great, since those are magnetically reactive.
Hey! I just got a set of Gibson double silver plated bronze strings. Would that work for my electric guitar?
Nope, there’s nothing magnetically reactive in that string except the steel core, so the windings wouldn’t contribute anything to overall tone.
what about active pickups?
Have you considered trying a different kind of acoustic strings? The first that came to mind was D’addario Nickle-Bronze. Wouldn’t those have more output in an electric guitar than 80/20s? Those might possibly be more balanced as well.
Hey Sal! Great question. Nickel-bronze strings would have a bit more output on an electric because of the nickel plating, but less than typical electric strings because the bronze core on the wrap wire is still less magnetically active than a steel core in the wrap wire. I still couldn’t see any reason why they would be beneficial on an electric instrument.
Minor gripe — I find it tough to believe that the acoustic strings are a .020-.050 set. An .020 for a high E is *REALLY* heavy… 🙂
(I suspect that you meant .020-.050 for the wound strings)
Hey Dave, that’s correct, we only changed the wound strings in the set so that’s what we were referring to.
What about acoustic electric with fishman or lr baggs pickups?
If you’re talking about a hybrid piezo-based acoustic guitar, or anything that primarily uses a piezo pickup, acoustic strings will work just fine as piezos only sense vibration, not magnetic output
Interesting – never thought of trying that out. But now you’ve opened the door. What happens when you go the OTHER way – and decide to string up your acoustic with electrics?
Great question, and one we’ll do a video about at some point! Nickel electric strings can work just fine on acoustic guitar, they’ll have a darker, warmer sound than bronze strings do. The trick is, you want to ensure that the gauges you’re using are closer to those of typical acoustic guitar gauges, so a 12-54 electric set would sound pretty good, especially with a wound 3rd, but a 9-42 set would sound pretty lousy, imho.
I’ve never put acoustic strings on an electric guitar but have put electric strings on an acoustic with the idea there would be less tension when the strings were tuned to pitch thus making a messed up acoustic guitar playable. It helped a little but I would never want the perform with a guitar set up like that.
I said Marty instead of Scott. MY BAD.
Thanks for the great videos Marty. I am getting more and more sold on Stringjoy. I was a little apprehensive about stringing all of my guitars with Stringjoy at first because of the price. But I am coming to believe they are worth it. I know of no other string manufacturer that gives the support you do. And I love them 1/2 gauges.
My kids bought me a Heritage 535 15 yrs ago for my 50th BDay… [I’d never have $pent the money] and I have used FX 80/20 on it everyday in a Worship Team Band. Yes I have coil taps and a treble bleed on my Duncan’s pushed by a Vox Tonelab into a Vox AC 15 with one 12″ Greenback. I get all the
clean treble I need with split bridge pup and amp settings on Tonelab. Or all the warm tone/growl even when finger picking power chords… All that to say it can be done! Not sure if the 535 Acoustic Electric set neck is the difference or more likely the entire package. I do know it can work… and ordered 2 sets of your version Phosphor Bronze strings today… Peace!
I use light ga. Acoustic strings to setup a newly strung guitar always. I find that the pickups do not pull the sustain from the string magnetically. If then the buyer wants to change them to any other type or size it is up to them therefore saving me a lot of money. I get ultralight copper wound strings for a dollar a set and work fine for the setup
But I prefer the string joys on my final setup . Mike Majewski
Thanks for this. Should I use acoustic or electric strings on hybrid acoustic-electric guitars?
To date, I have used acoustic sets on acoustic guitars that are amplified either by a sound hole pickup (e.g., Sunrise or L.R. Baggs) or an under-saddle piezo.
What do you recommend for hybrid acoustic-electric guitars (e.g., Taylor T5Z)?
If a guitar is primarily using a piezo pickup it won’t matter quite as much, but if it’s using traditional electric guitar pickups (or in the case of a T5z) nickel strings would typically be best. For the T5Z in particular, I’d recommend our Balanced Medium gauge (11-50) electric set.
I’m no expert on acoustic/electrics, but I know there are some string sets that are hybrids (don’t know if Stringjoy makes any though), but a higher gauge electric set should do the trick. Something with at least a 10 on the high E, and a wound 3rd.
Need to generate an magnetic field for the pickups amplify. But Bronze or outer part does not have magnetic field to amplify, probably just the inner core.
Yep, that’s correct!