3-String or 4-String? How to Decide Which is Right for You!

3 string or 4 string guitar

When you are in the market for a Roots Instrument like a 3-string or 4-string guitar, one of the most common questions is, “Which one is right for me?”  I get this question on a daily basis, and it all depends on the goals, tastes, and experience level of the player.

Advice for Beginners:

If you are a total beginner, or planning on purchasing a 3- or 4-string guitar for a beginner, you really can’t go wrong.  Both 3-string and 4-string are much easier to learn than conventional 6-string guitar… mainly because less strings require less muscle strength in your hands and less multi-tasking.  Most 3-string and 4-string guitars are tuned to “open tunings,” meaning that the open strings are tuned to a chord, so it’s easy to play many chord changes with just one finger on your fretting hand, as opposed to learning and practicing complicated chords shapes on the 6-string for hours before playing your first song. 

The main difference between the 3-string and 4-string when it comes to beginners is that the 3-string is just plain easier than the 4-string.  The 3-string is really the perfect beginner instrument for anyone wanting to learn a stringed instrument, but wants to play music right away.  It’s simple, easy to pick up and play, and still teaches you all of the fundamental techniques such as fretting, building muscle memory, strumming, fingerpicking, and more.   It’s also perfect for children who have smaller hands with less muscle strength. 

If you know that you will want more complex harmonies, tuning options, and a larger range between your lowest and highest notes on the guitar, then the 4-string will be a slightly better and more versatile option, as long as you don’t mind the challenge of an extra string.  You can enjoy the best of both worlds by beginning with a 4-string, but only stringing it up with three strings at first..  once you get the hang of it, you can add the extra string and take your playing to the next level. 

Advice for Players with Some Experience:

If you are already playing a stringed instrument, the 4-string might be a better option.  It has more tuning options, a larger range, and can be tuned to mimic other stringed instruments like the ukulele, tenor guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, etc.   It’s also great for players who are already familiar with stringed instruments, but want to add the look, tone, and feel of a roots instrument to their palette.

If you are experienced, and just want a simple instrument that is easy to play, and will inspire you to “do more with less,” the 3-String is a perfectly simple, rugged & rocking’ roots instrument.  Just tune it up, crank it up, and have fun! 

Check out the Videos Below:

Below are two videos that will give introductions to the 3-string and 4-string guitar. 

Thanks for keeping the Roots alive, and don’t forget to click “FOLLOW” on the right-hand side of this page to stay up-to-date with new lessons and articles!

~Justin Johnson
VISIT STORE for CDs, DVDs, Books, & More!: www.JustinJohnsonLive.com/store.html SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: www.YouTube.com/justinjohnsonlive

justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRINGSLIDE justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 4STRINGSLIDE

This Video Features a Guitar by Algoma Acoustics: http://www.AlgomaAcoustics.com

This Video Features a Guitar by Algoma Acoustics: http://www.AlgomaAcoustics.com
justin Johsnon Product Promo Banner 3STRING

Posted on November 23, 2015, in 3 string, 3sring, 3string, 4 sring, 4 string, 4string, beginner, blues, cbg, cigar box guitar, delta blues, diy, easy, electric guitar, guitar, homemade, how to, instruction, justin johnson, lesson, lessons, music, parts, roots, slide guitar, theory, tune, tuning, tutorial, video and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Have been playing for years, but still can’t read music lol not sure if 3 or 4 string.


  2. kurt, n shaelyn betournay,,,from canada

    got 8 yer old granddaughter SHA,,,well she taking her guitar lessons at her request, kept talking to me bout Justin,,,lol finally googled ya and cant stop listing to ur music,,,,,


  3. Good stuff. I’ve been playing since the mid 1960s when Beatlemania struck. Focusing now almost exclusively on fingerpicking blues and folk and making up instrumentles simply for my own enjoyment. I have two grandsons (11 & 9) and I’m trying to get them interested in guitar. A three-string would be a perfect fit for them at this stage. Glad I found you on YouTube!


  4. I have a 4 string which string do I remove to make it easier to learn how to play


    • Generally I recommend using the Middle 4 string from a 6-string pack (ADGB) for the 4-string guitar, and leaving out the B string if you are only using 3 of the strings. Then you would be left with the A, D, & G strings.


  5. Excellent info and explained on ground level. Thanks for the lesson Justin. You are a great help to anyone trying to learn the CBG.


  6. Riccardo Puccio

    can you play a 4 string with 1 finger like the 3 string


  7. Philibert Muday

    j aime le traivaille de justin ,j apprend la cgb ces lecons ces dvd m interresse ,mais je suis francais et parle pas l anglais y a t il des dvd traduit en français svp ;thank you


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