How to Change Guitar Strings – Step by Step Guide

Even the best kept guitar will require string replacements at some point. Learning how to change guitar strings isn’t as hard as it seems, even if you’re a beginner.

This step by step by guide is for a dreadnought acoustic guitar, but many of these principles apply to other guitars as well.

Required Tools and Materials

  • bridge pin puller
  • peg winder
  • guitar cleaning kit
  • wire cutter
  • pliers
  • new guitar strings

Note: you can replace guitar strings without a peg winder or a bridge pin puller. However it will take more time.

Make sure you’ve got the appropriate strings for an acoustic guitar, i.e. steel. Classical guitars for instance, use nylon strings and aren’t ideal for an acoustic guitar.

Choose which restringing method to use:

There are two options:

  • Remove one at a time
  • Take off all the strings at the same time

Method 2 is more ideal if you need to clean the fingerboard as dirt and skin oil accumulate there over time.

Take off the strings:

Take off the stringsLoosen each string until the tension is gone. Use the tuning machine to keep loosing them until you can pull each one out. You can also use the peg winder for this task.

If the strings are broken, carefully place the guitar on a soft, flat surface to avoid damaging the guitar. Take the pliers and remove the broken string off the tuning peg.

Follow the broken string to where it meets the guitar bridge. Look for the peg that contains the damaged string and pull it out. Use the pliers to take out the peg. Once you take out the peg you can remove the string.

Take off the bridge pins:

Use a bridge pin puller for easy removal. Do not use pliers as it might damage the guitar.

Remove the strings off the peg holes one after the other:

Just take the strings out carefully and make sure they do not get entangled. Set them aside and don’t mix with your new guitar strings.

Clean your guitar if needed:

Whether you’re studying how to put on electric guitar strings or for acoustic, now is a god time to clean your instrument. You can buy a guitar cleaning kit or use a lightly dampened cloth, preferably lint free or chamois. Use only a small amount of water, and only if it is necessary.

Get your new strings and set the order:

Guitar-StringThe next step to learning how to put strings on a classical guitar is to prepare your new strings. Many are color coded, and that tells you what note it is made for. Use that as a guide.

The most common string order is to place the thinnest string first, then the thickest, then thin and thick.

Put the string’s knob end in the peg opening. Put the end peg in:

Hold the string in while you’re doing this. Pulling a bit of string tension towards the guitar head will prevent the pegs from slipping.

Pull the strings up to the proper tuning peg:

If you research how to change acoustic guitar strings for beginners you’ll realize that stretching the strings is necessary.

After you put the string in the appropriate peg hole, pull it along the right tuning peg and set the end in the peg hole. Remember your guitar tuning key should be turned to the right for tightening.

Bring up the string between the key peg rows if the tuning keys are at opposing sides of the head. If the tuning pegs are all one side, thread the replacement string so it is straight before being wrapped on the peg. This helps when you’re tuning the guitar.

Some tips for beginners:

  • Hold the new string’s end firmly to make guiding in the peg easier.
  • If the guitar head pegs are symmetrically arranged, guide the string, wrapping from the guitar center head to the outer as you tighten the peg. Done right, the string will unwind off the peg’s side towards the middle of the head.

Thread each string in the opening and pull:

Pull tight, but you also need to offer some slack so you’ll be able to wind some string on the tuning peg. This is trial and error, and remember not to cut off too much. You can always cut off the excess later.

There should be enough slack so you can pull the string approximately 6 inches from your guitar prior to winding.

The string should be bent 90 degrees perpendicular to your guitar. Rotate the tuning key along the peg:

tuning-keyYou’ll find the peg winder useful here as it may take numerous winds. Be certain after tightening each string, the succeeding wind slacks under the previous one. This is necessary to prevent overlap and keep the strings looking clean.

Do not tighten the string to its regular pitch, just a few tones under it. Tighten the string enough so it does not slip. There should be sufficient bottom peg tension to keep the string stable, but don’t tune it yet.

Repeat those steps for all the strings.

Cut off any excess string with a wire cutter and tune your guitar. That’s it, you’re done.

Be careful when you cut the excess wire. Cut the wire as near the tuning peg as possible, taking care to avoid scratching the wood.

When cutting excess wire, make sure to bend the wire stub down in the direction of the guitar head. Use the pliers for this task.

Tips and Warnings

When replacing guitar strings, keep the following in mind.

  • New guitar strings are sold in six packs and in various sizes and specs. If you need to replace only one string, read the label description to find the right one to change.
  • Depending on the string’s design you’ll have to insert the ball or ring in the peg hole about 1 to 1 1/2 inches.
  • Make certain the white peg groove is aligned and facing the string. Do not set the string too deep down as the string could get stuck down the peg.
  • Friction holds the string in position. If the string isn’t properly set it’s going to fall off so you have to wedge in properly.

If you’re having issues tightening the string, here are some suggestions:

  • Set the string in the tuning peg until 90 degree bend gets to the surface. The replacement string side needs to have a bit of tension before you turn the key.
  • Make certain the replacement string unwind/wind along the tuning peg side which keeps the strings straight.
  • Your replacement string needs to do a complete coil on the peg over the thread opening. The other coils have to be under the tuning peg’s thread hole. Get the peg winder and use that to accelerate this procedure. Just set the peg winder in the key and turn. Stop turning when the string produces a note when you pluck it.
  • Do not tighten the string too much as you could snap it. If the string produces a higher note compared to the next string, it’s too tight.

Want to see how to string a classical guitar? Check out this video. It’s for an acoustic guitar, but the process is the same for classical guitars.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: How often should I replace guitar strings?

A:  It depends on how often you play guitar, but every 6 months is fine for most guitarists.

 

Q: One of the guitar strings broke. Should I change them all?

A: If the strings are new, you can get by replacing just the broken one. If it’s old, might as well replace them all as combining old and new strings will alter the guitar’s sound.

 

Q: How do I know which strings go where?

A: If you are right handed – strum using your right hand, the fretboard is at your left – the thinnest string should be at the bottom and the thickest string at the top. If you are left handed, it is the opposite.

 

Q: How can I prevent the strings from breaking when I tighten them?

A: Don’t tighten too hard, and hold the string by the section close to the sound hole.  Once you’ve grabbed hold, stretch the string.

 

Q: Can I replace an acoustic guitar string with one for an electric guitar?

A: No you should not. Doing so will have a drastic effect on the sound.

 

Q: Is it possible to put classical guitar strings – nylon – on a steel stringed acoustic guitar?

A: Is It possible? Yes, it is, but it’s not a good idea because nylon strings are softer and produce a different sound. Use the same type of strings your guitar currently has.

 

Conclusion

That’s all there is to learning how to change guitar strings. As the steps above show, even a beginner can learn the process without much difficulty.

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