I'm confused on whether the low E is the first or the sixth string. I've seen images online that show the high e as the first string, but I've also seen this statement in a book I'm reading:

Strings are always counted from the bottom. The bottom most string on the fretboard is the 1st string.

Is the first string the E or the e below:



  • The highlighted statement doesn't contradict that the high e is the first string, nor its position. – Tetsujin Oct 30 '18 at 14:48
  • @Tetsujin Does that mean that the bottom most string is the high e, not the low E? That's what confuses me. I'm thinking of the low E as the bottom. Is that incorrect? – Rich Oct 30 '18 at 14:52

It's all right. The thin E is at the bottom, physically, when the guitar is held properly: nearest to the floor. That doesn't make it the bottom string, though, as bottom here means lowest in sound. So, the thinnest is the top string, 1st string, and the fattest is the bottom, 6th string.

EDIT: it really is time to get realistic and stop using ambiguous terms for something as simple as this. My question is - who the heck started it in the first place? Followed by - have they let him out yet?

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    The bottom/top terminology might not be the best to use since bottom could mean two things as you say (1-closest to floor, 2-lowest in sound). Maybe thinking of it in terms of pitch would be easier to understand. Highest pitch=1st string, lowest pitch=6th string. But if someone says to start counting from the bottom then it does make sense that the bottom is the string closest to the floor. – Rich Oct 30 '18 at 15:15
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    I always go by thickness.. thinnest vs. thickest. It's unambiguous that way. – user2808054 Oct 30 '18 at 16:21
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    @user2808054 - totally unequivocal. I've called them thick and thin for years - students seem to understand... – Tim Oct 30 '18 at 17:31
  • Yep. Perhaps a good way of thinking about or explaining this would be to consider other stringed instruments: since many don't have the thinnest (or shortest, or highest pitch) string nearest the ground, the convention of saying "the bottom string is the one lowest in pitch" is the only generally useful one and should be the one used. – Scott Wallace Nov 1 '18 at 19:56

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