The guitar string frequency, is the number of times a string displaces by its maximum amplitude (one full cycle) in one second, after being struck.
What each string frequency is, depends on what you tune them to.
If we’re talking standard tuning for open strings on a 6-string guitar, then they are the following:
Going from thickest to thinnest strings:
E: 82 Hz (E2 Musical Note)
A: 110 Hz (A2 Musical Note)
D: 147 Hz (D3 Musical Note)
G: 196 Hz (G3 Musical Note)
B: 247 Hz (B3 Musical Note)
E: 330 Hz (E4 Musical Note)
So, the lowest note on the frequency produced by a tuned guitar is 82 Hz from the open thick E string (E2).
Some guitars have extra strings in the lower region i.e. 7 and 8 string guitars.
7 string guitars add an extra B note (B1) under the E2 note of a standard 6 string guitar. The B1 note has a frequency of 62 Hz.
8 string guitars add a further string below the B1 note of a 7 string, which is normally tuned to F# (F#0). This note is a frequency of 23 Hz.
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Right, where were we?
This is a great thing to know when mixing music, as basically all frequencies in a guitar recording below 87 Hz are useless. They are likely to contain microphone rumble etc. rather than anything guitar related. Remove this can really clean up your mix and help your compressors out.
You just need to be careful of filter roll off (dB/octave) when applying any high pass EQ/filtering to a signal. As setting the cut-off frequency at 87 may lose you some audio information at this frequency and above it.
So, if you are going to cut, then keep this in mind and keep it a bit below 87 Hz.
It’s important to also note that the frequency content of a guitar string in motion is not just its fundamental tone.
A string vibrates with many harmonics that are numerically related to the fundamental frequency.
This combination of fundamental sound from the string resonance and the additional harmonics give the guitar its frequency content and sound.
What are the string frequencies dependent on?
The frequency of sound a guitar string produces is dependent on a few physical properties. Namely,
- string tension (how far you’ve wound the string);
- string mass (gauge of string); and
- string length (nut to bridge).
The higher the tension, the higher the pitch.
The higher the mass, the lower the pitch.
The longer the string length, the lower the pitch.
Here’s a link to an article with more information on this topic – How do guitar strings produce their sound?.
What’s the lowest it will go?
The limit to how low you can take the guitar is dependent on the setup of your guitar including:
- string gauge;
- height of bridge; and
- guitar action (how high strings are above fret board).
Thicker strings can go lower in pitch, just think about the difference in thickness between a guitar and a bass guitar. The bass guitar strings are much lower in pitch.
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Drop C Tuning
Drop C Tuning is common place in heavier styles of music and most commonly the following notes (going from thick to thin):
C: 65 Hz (C2 Musical Note)
G: 98 Hz (G2 Musical Note)
C: 131 Hz (C3 Musical Note)
F: 175 Hz (F3 Musical Note)
A: 220 Hz (A3 Musical Note)
D: 294 Hz (D4 Musical Note)
People in the know among you will perhaps see this as simply being drop D tuning (DADGBE) but dropped down a full step.
It has a much deeper tone than standard tuning and is often found easier to sing to.
The lowest string of a 4-string bass guitar is one full octave below that of the standard 6 string guitar. The notes and frequencies of the 4-string bass guitar (going from thick to thin) are:
E: 41 Hz (E1 Musical Note)
A: 55 Hz (A1 Musical Note)
D: 73 Hz (D2 Musical Note)
G: 98 Hz (G2 Musical Note)
5 string bass guitars add an extra B note (B0) under the E1 note of a standard 4 string bass guitar. The B0 note has a frequency of 31 Hz.
6 string bass guitars add a further string above the G2 note of a 5 string, which is normally tuned to C (C3). This note is a frequency of 131 Hz.
How does the frequency range of a guitar compare against other instruments?
I’m going to stick to the fundamental frequencies of a standard 6 string guitar, when I compare it against other instruments.
In general, the guitar frequency range starts at the upper end of the low frequency range and typically goes as high at the thin E string on the 24th fret, which is an E note (E7) with a frequency of 2637 Hz.
If we compare this range to other common instruments we can see the guitar has a good range and sits near the middle.
Check out the image below:
In the traditional instrument pool, the piano has the biggest frequency range; which is based on strings too!
Modern music and synthesizers go lower and higher than this but the issue then becomes having the audio system to adequately reproduce the sound.
I hope this article helped you to understand more about the elusive topic of the frequencies of guitar strings.
I could carry on further and, in more detail, but thought this was a good place to stop for now.
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