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Believe it or not, different alternatives can be used in place of guitar strings. While it is technically possible to play the guitar with other materials besides actual guitar strings, I would still suggest using these alternatives as backups.

However, some people will use other types of material as strings on their guitars. They can be a fun and exciting way to experiment with creating all types of different sounds. 

While they can be fun to experiment with, please remember that guitars are designed to be played with guitar strings.

If you are interested in experimenting with different materials to substitute for guitar strings, I would suggest doing so with a guitar you are not too attached to since some of these alternatives may damage your instrument. 

As someone who has played guitar and Bass for over 7 years, I have had many instances where I had broken a string accidentally and needed to have a replacement available right away.

The best option to prevent this is to have a spare set of strings in your gig bag or guitar case at all times. However, it is nice to know that there are other options just in case actual replacement guitar strings are not available to use. 

Any string that can be plucked or strummed can theoretically be used as a guitar string alternative in an emergency. However, it is best to use these options as a last-ditch option in a crisis. A replacement guitar string is always the better option. 

This article will go over several different options regarding string substitutions, along with options on how to best use these alternatives.

These alternatives to regular guitar strings include banjo strings, copper wire, dental floss, sewing thread, horsehair, elastic string or elastic thread, and piano wire. 

We will also review some frequently asked questions, such as whether a fishing line or bass strings can be used. We will also go over nylon strings over steel strings (which is easier to learn) and other things that can be used for strings, like  homemade guitars.  

Also Read: Tightened Vs Loose Guitar Strings: Effects To Pitch & Tone

7 Alternatives You Could Use As Guitar Strings

1. Banjo string 

A banjo is a musical stringed instrument with a round body and a neck

As long as you find a gauge thickness similar to the guitar string or strings you want to replace, Banjo String is actually a good alternative to guitar strings. 

Bryan May of Queen uses banjo strings on a guitar he regularly plays. He credits these strings with being able to do string bends with ease.

2. Copper Wire

This is used as a material to make legitimate guitar strings

Copper wire could be substituted for a guitar string as well. Copper is used as a material to make legitimate guitar strings. 

One significant advantage of copper wire is that it is solid and stable and does not stretch too much. Therefore, it should stay in tune well. 

Copper wire also has its disadvantages. It sounds less pleasant than a regular guitar string. You should avoid having to do a great deal of hammer on and pick off work with steel wire as your substitute, as this would likely get pretty painful quickly. 

To use copper wire, you would simply need to wrap one end around a ball bearing around one end, then run the guitar string as you normally would. This should hold as a temporary substitute for an authentic guitar string. 

3. Dental Floss

It’s a viable choice for the substitute guitar strings

Dental floss is a viable choice for substitute guitar strings. Dental floss is available in most households and is relatively affordable. 

Dental floss will also regularly stretch out, so it is not likely to stay in tune very well. It is also not a very strong material.

To use dental floss as a substitute guitar string, measure it out for the length of the actual guitar string you are replacing.

You can intertwine as many as six pieces of dental floss to ensure you are getting the required thickness of the dental string you need

If you are going to try this, please use waxed dental floss. Dental floss that is not waxed will not stick very well to any other dental floss you are attempting to use, making creating thicker substitute strings much more challenging. 

4. Sewing Thread

This is also be an option for repair or replacing a broken guitar with sewing thread

Sewing thread can also be an option for replacing a broken guitar string. However, this will create an almost melodic sound you would hear on a mandolin rather than a guitar. It can be an interesting experiment to play with it.

Some pros of sewing thread are that it is relatively inexpensive and is easily accessible in most households. It also comes in varying degrees of thickness. It is also not a very strong material, which means there is limited potential for damage to your guitar.

Some cons of sewing thread are that it stretches out very quickly and requires you to tune the string every few minutes when you are playing. It also does not create a guitar string sound. 

5. Horsehair

Horsehair is used in guitar strings for making violin bows

Horsehair is used in making violin bows. While they create an excellent melodic sound for violin bows, there are better options to use for a substitute guitar string. However, it can be used as a substitute for a guitar string in a pinch. 

The best way to use horsehair for a substitute guitar string is to use horse hair from Mongolian horses. Of all the types of horsehair, this will create the best possible guitar string sound. 

The downside of horse hair is that it is pretty expensive. It is also relatively time-consuming to wind the hair together to create a thickness similar to the broken guitar string you intend on replacing. 

6. Elastic thread

You can also used elastic thread in guitar strings

Elastic thread can also be used as a substitute for a guitar string. It will not sound nearly as good as a regular guitar string, but this type of thread should work just fine in an emergency situation. 

Some pros of elastic thread are that it is cheap and durable. It is also easy to apply it to the guitar as well. On the cons side, elastic thread will stretch out a lot. This will require that you tune the strings very regularly. It also does not sound as good as a regular guitar string. 

7. Piano Wire

There is also an advance option that piano wire can be used on a guitar

Piano wire can be used on a guitar. Even though the piano is a keyed instrument, the key strikes the piano wire, which will create the melodic sound you hear when a piano is played. 

One strong pro of using piano wire is that it is used for a musical instrument. This will ensure you will create some sort of melodic sound from it. 

Substituting piano wire for guitar strings has its cons as well. It requires great pressure to press the wire down on the guitar’s frets.

Performing things like hammer-ones and pull-offs will be very difficult to do. Additionally, piano wire may be too intense for certain guitars and put too much pressure on the neck and truss rod.  

Below is a link to a demonstration of playing a guitar with piano wire. The individual who did this also used flex seal tape to reinforce the guitar’s neck. I would suggest that if you do try this, please do so as carefully as possible to prevent any damage to the guitar:

Also Read: 7 Simple Ways To Make Guitar Strings Easier To Press


Q: Can I Use a Fishing Line as a Guitar String?

Fishing line can be used as guitar strings. However, if you try fishing line as an alternative, your best bet is to use nylon fishing string since so many guitar strings are made from nylon. 

One advantage of using nylon fishing line is that it is cheaper than guitar strings. One spool of nylon fishing string will produce enough material to create several replacement guitar strings. 

One disadvantage of using nylon fishing line is that it stretches out more than a regular guitar string would. Therefore, it will be required to tune the guitar a lot more often than you would be using a regular guitar string. 

Q: Can You Put Bass Strings on a Regular Guitar?

It is technically possible to put bass strings on a guitar. Although they are technically strings that go to a musical instrument, they will not sound nearly as good since they are meant for a different musical instrument. 

When applying bass strings to a regular guitar, it may be challenging to run the strings properly through the nut and the tuning pegs.

However, it may be possible to use a guitar capo to apply it across the nut to better hold the bass strings in place. If you try to use bass strings, consider applying the capo at different locations along the fretboard.  

Q: Is It Easier to Learn Guitar on Nylon or Steel Strings?

The actual learning process is easier on nylon strings. Playing nylon strings will allow you to play for a longer duration and increase your practice time. Nylon strings are typically used on classical guitars. 

A guitarist who learned to play on nylon strings and then went to steel strings will find that they can play all the notes and chords, but they will see their fingers getting blisters rather quickly, as they do not have the calluses that come with playing on steel strings. 

However, if you are primarily interested in playing the electric guitar, it is best to learn to play on steel strings.

Playing on steel strings will help develop callouses on your fingers. Although this is somewhat uncomfortable initially, it will eventually feel completely normal and natural to you.

Starting to play on steel strings will ensure that you can easily play on nylon strings. You will have the advantage of tougher fingers that will allow you to play longer and harder than you can without those calluses.  

Q: What Can I Use for Homemade Guitar Strings?

Almost no homemade guitar strings will sound as good as legitimate guitar strings. However, any string or wire purchased or wound in different gauges can be substituted.

All of the other items listed in this article will also be able to be used as a substitute for regular guitar strings. 

All of these alternatives will vary in how effective they are, how often they need to be tuned, and how long it will take to thread them appropriately. Most of these alternatives will sound different than your guitar strings will. 

Please also consider the amount of tension other types of material will place on your guitar when looking for different types of material to use as a string substitute.

Material designed for larger instruments, like bass strings or piano wire, could easily damage your guitar due to the pressure they are designed to withstand. 


We discussed seven alternatives for guitar strings if needed. We also confirmed that most of these alternatives would not sound nearly as good as a regular guitar string, but they are good to have as a backup in an emergency. These guitar string alternatives can also be fun and exciting to experiment with. 

We also reviewed some frequently asked questions confirming that fishing line and bass strings can be used as an alternative to guitar strings.

We also went over the differences in learning guitar on nylon strings vs. steel strings and some choices and options to substitute guitar strings with. 

If you are going to experiment with any of these guitar string alternatives, please do so carefully, so you do not damage your guitar. 

You may want to consider using a second-hand guitar if you want to experiment with different types of strings to prevent any significant damage from occurring. 

Ifandi S.

About Ifandi S.

Ifandi started Strumming Bars to answer all the questions of a guitarist. As a self-learned guitarist, he remembered how frustrating it was to not find answers to his many questions in the journey. With Strumming Bars, that's no longer the case!

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