Guitar String Color Codes (Beginners’ Guide) – D’Addario & Others

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

So, you are busy replacing the old, rusty strings on your guitar when you notice it, the colored ball ends on your new strings. That is odd! You have never noticed that before.

Some kind of code, you think. But what does it mean? How does it work?

Let us take a look at how guitar string color codes work.

Why Are Strings Color Coded?

The simple reason why some string makers color code their strings is just to make it easier to identify the strings. So, while you are restringing your instrument, you can easily identify which string is which.

This is helpful when you have strings that are a bit closer in gauge size. This is helpful to avoid putting the wrong string in the wrong place if you can’t quite make out which string is thicker than another.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Color Code Their Strings?

Color coding strings isn’t a universal practice, however. Not every company uses a color code system to make it easier to identify the strings. This is usually just because the strings are packaged individually in envelopes.

The assumption is that you aren’t going to take out all of the strings before restringing. Rather, you are going to remove the strings one by one while restringing.

Elixir does put a small paper tag on each string to help you identify the strings. These are easily removed before putting the string on the instrument.

D’Addario is perhaps the company that is best known for color coding the ball ends of their strings. Color coding is also common on Fender strings and might be the only other company that is known for using this system.

How Does the Coding Work?

Because color coding strings isn’t a universal practice, there isn’t a universal method of marking strings. That means that each company that uses color coding is going to use a different system.

But they all start labeling from the highest string, moving to the lowest. In other words, e, B, G, D, A, and E are marked 1 – 6.

D’Addario, for example, uses different colors than Fender. D’Addario luckily includes a handy legend on the pack of its packaging that shows what color each string is labeled with.

Fender doesn’t include a legend, for whatever reason. After some digging, this is what I could find regarding the color coding:

  1. e – Blue
  2. B – Yellow
  3. G – Green
  4. D – Silver
  5. A – Red
  6. E – Gold

D’Addario’s code looks like this:

  1. e – Silver
  2. B – Purple
  3. G – Green
  4. D – Black
  5. A – Red
  6. E – Gold

You can see there is some similarity with the G, A, and E strings using the same or similar colors.

Since doing away with individual envelopes, Dunlop has also started using a color code system for their strings. They only use three colors, however, alternating between them.

Dunlop’s color code:

  1. e – Gold
  2. B – Black
  3. G – Silver
  4. D – Gold
  5. A – Black
  6. E – Silver

Rotosound has also been using a color code system since 2014. They show off their British roots, using the three colors of the Union Jack, red, white, and blue.

Rotosound’s color code:

  1. e – Red
  2. B – White
  3. G – Blue
  4. D – Red
  5. A – White
  6. E – Blue

Another company that uses a color code is La Bella. Their code is not as straightforward as Dunlop or Rotosound but a bit more straightforward than D’Addario and Fender.

La Bella’s color code:

  1. e – Gold
  2. B – Silver
  3. G – Black
  4. D – White
  5. A – Red
  6. E – Blue

Color Codes for Other Instruments

D’Addario uses either the same or similar color coding between different instruments. For example, it is easy to know which string is which whether you are on guitar or bass.

Bass strings remain the same:

  1. G – Green
  2. D – Silver
  3. A – Red
  4. E – Gold
  5. B – Purple

Nylon strings are a bit different:

  1. e – Yellow
  2. B – Purple
  3. G – Green
  4. D – Black
  5. A – Red
  6. E – Silver

Banjo strings are quite a bit different:

  1. D – Silver
  2. B – Purple
  3. G – Green
  4. D – Black
  5. G – Red

The order does remain the same, though, with the strings being the only real change.

Strangely, D’Addario doesn’t have any sort of coding for ukulele or acoustic strings. Or they at least don’t have a legend at the back of their packs.

Aquila ukulele strings are color-coded, however:

  1. A – Red
  2. E – Blue
  3. C – Green
  4. G – White

Conclusion

Because more and more companies are doing away with paper envelopes to be more environmentally conscious, we will probably see more and more adopt a color-coding system for their strings.

While I personally don’t find much of a need for color-coded strings, it is a helpful system and adds a nice little touch to an otherwise fairly bland-looking thing.

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About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

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