3.8 Changing Strings

Andy | August 24, 2015 | 21 Comments

Changing guitar strings is really not a complicated task, but it is definitely something that “scares” the new guitarist.

First of all, reduce the tension of the string(s) using the tuning pegs, then remove the bridge pins from the body of the guitar to completely remove the string. It is up to you, but Andy removes all of them before replacing the strings so he can give the neck and body a good polish. However, there is a school of thought that says to remove and restring one at a time to keep string tension in balance with truss rod tension.

There is a great tool called a peg winder which reduces the time taken to unwind and wind the strings –we reckon this is an excellent investment.

Now get your strings ready (some strings are colour coded to indicate which string is which) and either start using the top or bottom E (up to you). The most preferred method is to first put in the thinnest string, then the thickest, then alternate to the next-thinnest, then the next-thickest and so on (1, 6, 2, 5, 3, 4). Alternating in this fashion keeps a more even left-to-right pull on the neck of the guitar and makes later tuning less problematic, especially for older guitars.

Once each string is in its peg hole, stretch it up to its appropriate tuning peg and insert the end through the hole in the peg. Keep in mind that you will want to be turning the guitar tuning key ALWAYS TO THE RIGHT to tighten. If the tuning keys on your guitar are on opposite sides of the head (as is usual), you bring the string up between the two rows of key pegs and to the outside.

Thread the string through the hole and pull tight You will want to leave just a little bit of slack to have some excess string to wind around the tuning pegs. If you do not, you will run out of string too quickly and the strings will loosen when you are playing. This is a trial-and-error process and is different for each string. Just remember, you can always cut off more if you leave too much. You can never add back what you cut off.

Bend the string (90° perpendicular to the guitar) and turn the tuning key so you get several winds around the peg. Make sure that when you tighten the string that each subsequent wind stacks one below the last, so that none of the winds overlap. This ensures both a cleaner looking wind and a longer life to the string itself, as well the guitar itself staying in tune

Do not tighten the string to its usual pitch, but rather a few semi-tones below. You want it tight enough to hold in place and put enough tension on the bottom peg to not come out again, but now is not yet the time for “tuning”. Repeat this procedure with the rest of the strings.

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Comments (21)

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  1. jim crossland says:

    Best way to tune the guitar is by when near pitch do not pull away from guitar as this is very bad practise and you WILL break many b strings doing this the best way is to break the strings in several places. Which is done by pinching the strings in parallel to fret board i.e. push down with thumb whilst pulling up with finger done like a rolling action

  2. Gary Stout says:

    3.8 Changing Strings: May want to pull string so that a tiny amount of slack is left to aid winding (not tight); tight but with slack doesn’t make sense. Might want to add something about NEVER cut all the strings to start removing them, this may lead to neck and truss rod issues. “Bend the string (90° perpendicular…” might add to the “longer life to the string” that crimps due to poor winding technique may vibrate over time and cause string to break prematurely. This is something a newbie will surely do.

  3. Jack Runnels says:

    good advice at some point every guitar player will have to change strings.

  4. Anthony Mucci says:

    Remove 1 string at a time, replace, tune then remove the next and so on.

  5. Ronnie Holderfield says:

    I think you need to re-think about turning the tuners to the right as most guitars are set up different

  6. Grant Thiele says:

    There are some good videos on You Tube for this which may be a bit easier to follow.

  7. Brian Armstrong says:

    It would be a great help to beginers if you demonstrated putting one of the the strings on. It is much easier for a beginer to see this done rather than read it.

  8. Paul Dennee says:

    Agree, I’ve seen more detail on this. Eric Andreas does a thorough explanation:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrdaGoBi6Tg

  9. Richard Darby says:

    Taylor guitars has an excellent pdf on stinging a guitar (https://www.taylorguitars.com/sites/default/files/Steel_Restring.pdf). One of their tips for bass strings (Low E. A, and D)is to bring the string one tuner post past the post to which the string is being inserted. In other words if you are stringing the Low E bring the string to the next post (the A string post) and cut it. Then inset it into the E post and tighten. That should allow 2 -3 wraps when tuned, which is ideal. For the treble strings (G,B and high E) allow for 1 1/2 tuner posts, giving them 6 wraps when tuned.

    For slotted heads (which you might want to mention on your Anatomy of Guitar page), allow for 1 1/2 tuner lengths. It sounds harder that it actually is. Take a look at the page.

  10. GARY CHIKOWSKI says:

    I AGREE WITH ROBIN THAT A PHOTO SHOULD BE USED ESPECIALLY TO SHOW HOW THE STRINGS SHOULD APPEAR AFTER CORRECTLY WINDING THEM THE PROPER WAY. I RECENTLY CHANGED MY STRINGS AND DID THE E, A, AND D STRINGS CORRECTLY BUT NOT THE REMAINING 3 STRINGS AS I DIDN’T ENSURE THAT THEY ALL FLOWED AWAY FROM THE TUNING PINS.

  11. Richard McKay says:

    You must have a video for this.

    Everyone has a slightly different way to string. I use the locking method where you bend the string over on itself and then wind around that bend. I seldom break strings with this method and stay in tune better.

    Stretching is a must.

    Also, envision the string path as straight as possible so you thread from the inside out and wind away from the centerline of the guitar.

  12. Colin Rothery says:

    Maybe less detail is needed as it could make this a more complicated process for the beginner to understand, but have a short video to show how the strings are changed to compliment the existing explanation above ? Actions always seem to speak louder than words 🙂

  13. Marcus Hunt says:

    This section could do with a video of at least one string being strung. In addition to what’s been said already, bending the string slightly at the ball end helps it seat properly in the bridge and helps stop the bridge pins popping out as the string is tensioned.

  14. Robin Haynes says:

    Please provide a picture showing how the stings should go through the tuning pegs. I think your comment about always turning to the right to tighten is likely to cause confusion. To me, at any rate, that’s not intuitively how it works.

    Also, there are a couple of good tricks for securing the stings to the tuning pegs. With the wound stings, make the first wrap go above where the string sticks through the post and subsequent wrap(s) below. For the plain strings, wrap the loose end back around the post and bind it under the string where it feeds into the post. I suppose this might be too complicated to describe. There are some websites that show these things. Maybe a link?

  15. Michael LaPaglia says:

    Thread the string through the hole and pull tight You will want to leave just a little bit of slack to have some excess string to wind around the tuning pegs.

    This is confusing to a beginner. Pull it tight but leave some slack. To start I instruct them to leave about 2.5-3 inches, about the length of an index finger, when the string is grabbed at the nut and pulled away from the neck. Trial and error is good information but it would be better to give them a mid point to start.

  16. JL Brunet says:

    I heard of pre-stretching the string before final tuning. Pull gently each string away from the guitar.

    This way strings remains well in tune. I think it’s a good tip.

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