Guitar String Spacing – What You Need to Know

One of those things you’ve probably never thought about is string spacing on your electric guitar. In this short guide, we’ll show you how to measure it.

How to Measure String Spacing

To get a rough measurement, take a ruler that measures in millimeters, and measure it between the center of each outer pole (where the low and high E strings pass over).

If you want to do it properly, get a proper string spacing rule from Stewmac which locates the correct string positions far more accurately. 

Note that each of the humbuckers in the illustration below is the same physical size, but the spacing is different.

String spacing above pole pieces in guitar humbucker pickup

Here are those measurements converted to inches:

  • 49.2mm = 1 15/16″
  • 50mm = 1 31/32″
  • 52mm = 2 1/16″

Humbucker Vs Single-Coil String Spacing

Pole pieces on traditional Gibson humbuckers have a string spacing of 49.2mm on the bridge pickup and slightly less on the neck pickup as the strings taper in the closer you get to the headstock.

On Fender-style single-coil pickups, you’ll usually have 52mm at the bridge and 50mm on the neck pickup.

If you have a tremolo bridge – especially a Floyd Rose style locking bridge / six-screw vintage type (or a two-point fulcrum bridge) – you’ll have a string spacing of 52mm. The increased spacing between the poles allows the pole pieces to more accurately pick up the vibrations of the strings. 

Correct String Alignment 

To get optimal tone it’s important the strings pass over the pole pieces correctly. This is because the magnetic pole pieces in the pickup act as a conductor for the magnetic field of the pickup.

Your strings need to be lined up with the pole pieces or you’ll experience loss in string balance, as you see below.

Lining up strings with guitar pole pieces

Summary

So there you have it, a short introduction to working out string spacing on an electric guitar.

Does string spacing at the nut have to match string spacing at the bridge? No, they are two different things. You could have a 1 11/16” nut width with a 2 1/16” string spacing, for example, or you could have an identical nut with and string spacing.

If you want to know how to set up string spacing on an acoustic guitar, here’s a good tutorial:

Good luck!

Ged Richardson

Ged is editor-in-chief and founder of Zing Instruments. He's a multi-instrumentalist and loves researching, writing, and geeking out about music. He's also got an unhealthy obsession with vintage VW Campervans.

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