How To Change Guitar Strings

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Guitar strings are the lifeblood of your instrument and knowing how to change guitar strings is an important skill to learn. It is impossible to play without them, and replacing old or broken strings can be a quick fix that makes you sound better than ever. The two main ways that people change guitar strings are using a string winder or manually. Here’s how to restring your guitar using either method!

Preparing to Restring your Electric or Acoustic Guitar

Find a Quiet Clean Place to Restring Your Guitar

The best place to restring your guitar is usually in a quiet and clean room. This will minimize distractions and make the process easier. Make sure to have plenty of light, so you can see what you’re doing, and avoid areas where there may be pets or children running around.

Prepare Materials Needed

To restring your guitar, you’ll need to gather a few supplies. You’ll need a new set of strings, a string winder if you have one, wire cutters, and a pair of needle nose pliers. You’ll also need a guitar tuner to make sure the new strings are in tune.

Jim Dunlop Guitar String Change Tool Kit

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Removing Old Guitar Strings

Now that you have a work area and materials needed we can start to remove the old guitar strings.

You will want to lay your guitar flat with something to help support the neck. I use some microfiber towels or some soft cloths rolled up and place them under the guitar neck directly below the head of the guitar.

Remove from Tuning Pegs

You will want to loosen the low ‘E’ string (the thickest string) first. To do turn the tuning key by hand typically in a clock ward motion until the string is loose (if the string is getting tighter, you are turning the tuning peg the wrong way).

Once the string is loose and removed from the tuning peg, I usually snip the wire with wire cutters close the bridge (around 4 “). This will help to ensure we do not damage the fret board if we need to pull the wire through the bridge.

Removing Guitar Strings from Bridge

Next you will need to remove the string from the bridge. This will vary based upon the type of guitar you have. You will need to determine if it is an acoustic, classical acoustic or electric and also the specific guitar manufacture.

Most acoustic guitars will have bridge pins the need removed. This can be accomplished by using a tool attachment on your string winding tool or a pair of needle nose pliers. You will want to secure the pliers on the ball of the bridge pins and gently lift upward.

acoustic bridge

Depending on your electric the wire will need pulled through the bridge either on the front or sometimes through the bridge and out the back of the guitar. Check your manufacture for specific details on this step.

Cleaning Your Acoustic or Electric Guitar

While the strings are off your guitar, it creates a great opportunity to clean the fretboard and shine up the tuning post. I recommend  seeing your manufacture instructions on what products are safe to use on the finish of your specific guitar. I have listed a few of my favorites for removing finger oils and for conditioning your new strings.

Fender Guitar Super Care Kit Bundle with Custom Shop Deluxe Guitar Care System 4 Pack

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Add Your New String to the Bridge and Tuning Post

Once the old guitar strings are removed, we will want to open our pack of strings. Before popping the new strings on your guitar, first make sure you have the correct strings.

Picking the Correct Guitar String

First make sure you have acoustic guitar strings for an acoustic guitar or electric guitar strings for an electric. Making sure the strings match the types of guitars is the first step in choosing a guitar string. Unless you are playing classical guitars which uses nylon strings, both types of strings will be a type of steel strings.

There are a variety of string manufactures to choose from and also string gauges. I suggest you try some different strings out to see which works best for you, your gear and playing style. It will really come down to personal taste in most cases.

Martin Authentic Acoustic MA150 Medium-Gauge Acoustic Guitar Strings, 80/20 Bronze

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I typically play with what most would consider light-gauge strings on my Fenders as they allow me to get some great bends. The issue with light-gauge guitar strings is you are more likely to have string breaks while playing.  I use a medium tension strings gauge to heavy string gauge for most of my other guitars. Below is the light-weight nickel wound strings I usually use.

D'Addario EXL110-3D Nickel Wound Electric Guitar

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String Cleaner

So with string cleaner everyone has their own take. Some guitarists swear by it and always clean and condition their strings and others do not care for it. I say try it and see if it is for you, below is one I use and recommend.

GHS Strings A87 FAST FRET

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Stringing the Guitar Bridge and Tuner Posts

We will work in the exact opposite and start by adding the low “E” (thickest string) through the bridge. An easy way to remember the string note is to use the following. Starting with the thinnest or smallest string, the order of the notes are E-B-G-D-A-E. I use the following phrase to help me remember.

Easter Bunnies Get Dizzy At Easter

Take the string up to the tuner post and push it through the small hole on the tuning post, about 3″. Once the string is secure in the tuning peg, use your other hand to secure the string in the correct nut slots (the white bone or plastic strip with grooves at the top of your fretboard).

Now we just need to turn the tuning peg in the opposite direction from when the guitar strings were removed. You can do this manually or save some time by using a string winder tool. The string winder slides over the tuning peg and allows you to wind the string.

how to string guitar

Do not over tighten the string, you want it tight enough to stay in the slot on the guitar nut but not too tight as we will still tune all the strings once finished. Once you reach the desired string tension, you will need to take your wire cutter and snip the excess strings length from the tuning key.

After the first string is finished, repeat the steps for each string in order from largest to smallest finishing on the high e (the thinnest string).

Tune Your Guitar Now That You Learned How To Change Guitar Strings

Once our new guitar strings are in place, the last step we will need to do is tune the guitar. There are various guitar tunings that you can try. For some alternate tunings, checkout this wiki page.

There are a few different ways to tune a guitar, but the most common is using a tuning fork, guitar tuner apps or an electronic tuner. The most basic way to tune a guitar is by ear. You’ll need to match the pitch of the string with the corresponding note on the tuning fork or tuner.

I personally use an electronic tuner but use whatever method works best for you. They are inexpensive and make tuning quick and easy. You will want to go through and tune each string one at a time. After finished I usually go back through all the strings, again one at a time, as they will shift a bit from the tightening and loosening of the strings from the first pass of tuning.

Snark Red Silver Guitar Clip On All Instrument Tuner (SIL-RED)

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Play Some Chords and Check Out the Great Tone

After all your strings are tuned you are ready to rock. Whether it is classical guitars with nylon strings or an acoustic with steel string you will notice the improvement the new strings make right away. Congratulations, you just learned how to string your guitar.

Need some more help in your music journey? Find the Difference between Overdrive vs Distortion Pedals and our guide to Understanding Tube Amps.

Now that you’ve learned how to change guitar strings, what are your plans for this weekend? Or do you have a project that needs some new strings? If so, we hope our guide has been helpful. Whether it be an acoustic or electric guitar, these instructions should help with the process of changing guitars strings on any make and model of instrument. Remember: all it takes is a few minutes and a bit of patience! Happy playing!

FAQ

I am having tuning issues with my guitar, will changing the strings help?

It may help as if the strings are extremely old and worn they may no longer hold enough tension to stay in tune. More likely the cause could be from cheap or damaged tuner pegs. You may want to take your guitar in to see a luthier and have them take a look.

How Often Should You Change Electric Guitar Strings?

If I am recording, I will go a few sessions before changing strings. I want the strings to be consistent and not worn across various takes. If touring, you will be wanting to change the strings daily as the oils and sweat from performing can wear strings quickly. 

If I am just playing for myself and practicing around the house I will go weeks without changing strings. I usually change them when i start noticing a change in the tone.

How Often Should I Change Classical Guitar Strings?

Similar to the above, there is no right or wrong answer in regards to how often to change the nylon strings on a classical guitar. You could technically play them until they break but we most likely do not want to do that.

It will depend a lot on what you are looking to accomplish with your classical guitar. If playing at home, you could go weeks but if recording or touring you would want to change the strings more frequently.

Should I loosen my guitar strings when not playing?

Some guitarists believe loosening the strings will alleviate some of the tension on the neck. Fortunately guitars are made to withstand a lot of tension so it is not necessary to do this if the guitar is housed in the proper environment.

Should you clean guitar strings?

Cleaning your strings after each session will extend their lifespan. Another tip is to wash your hands prior to playing. This can help cut down on the oils and squeeze a bit more life out of the strings.

How long do guitar strings last when not played?

If you have a guitar in proper storage and not playing it the strings can go months without needing to be changed. For some of my vintage guitars I do not play on a regular basis I do not notice any issues with playing them after they have set for 3 months but eventually the strings will degrade even if not being played.

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