Every guitarist will need to replace their guitar strings at some point in their career. If you’re a beginner, knowing how to change guitar strings ensures that string-related problems don’t hinder your learning.
After all, knowing how to string a guitar is a valuable skill, and despite what many people think, you don’t need professional assistance. In this guide, you will learn how to restring both an acoustic and an electric guitar at home, about the tools you need, and where to get them.
Why You Might Need to Change Guitar Strings
Being proactive about changing the strings will prevent your guitar from failing you when you need it the most, but the most obvious sign that your guitar needs restringing is when one or more strings break. If you’ve been practicing a lot, this is bound to happen. But there are a few more reasons why restringing is in order:
- Guitar Won’t Stay in Tune: If your guitar doesn’t stay in tune after a good tuning, the strings may be worn. However, the possibility that strings are behind your tuning issues should be a last resort. Rule out other possible causes first before changing guitar strings.
- String discoloration: Know your strings’ natural color. If the natural color has started to fade or the strings look splotchy, even in places where you don’t strum or touch often, it could be time to change your strings. An excellent place to look for discoloration or splashiness is on the strings’ ends that wrap around the machine heads on the headstock.
- Some time has passed: After every 100 hours of practice, you should change your strings. However, not everyone is meticulous about counting how many hours they play; when you’re in the zone, you can easily lose track of time. A good rule of thumb is to change the strings once every two to three months.
How to Change Guitar Strings on an Acoustic Guitar
Surprisingly, changing a guitar string isn’t as complicated as many people think. With the right tools, you can do it in the comfort of your own home without damaging your instrument. Follow the steps below to learn how to change guitar strings on an acoustic guitar:
- Remove Strings: For this step, you will need a string winder, which makes string removal a little faster. Using the winder, unwind the machine heads on the headstock and remove the strings on that end.
- Remove the Bridge Pins: Some string winders come with a notch that you can use to pull out the pins. If they don’t, you can use a pin puller to do the job. If you don’t want to purchase a pin puller, you can use a small string cutter instead. Just open up the cutter, place it on the bridge saddle for leverage, and pull out the pin (keep the cutter open while doing this).
- Clean the Fretboard: This is an optional step, but it is a good idea since the strings are out and won’t get in the way of cleaning the fretboard. Place a few drops of fretboard oil on a piece of cloth and rub it all over the fretboard. Be sure to take your time to make sure you really work the oil in. Since the unfinished wood on the fretboard can get dry over time, this oil will act as a protective layer. Feel free to place oil on the bridge as well, because that part is also unfinished wood.
- Put on the New Strings: Grab your replacement strings. Before inserting the string into the bridge, bend the ball end 45 degrees away from the pin. Insert the string into the bridge hole, followed by the pin. Doing this ensures the strings stay in longer and prevents them from getting stuck to the pin. When you’re done with one string, do that for the rest as well.
- Cut the Strings Down to Length: A good rule of thumb is to pull the string through the tuner peg, making sure it’s straight and that the tuner peg is aligned with the guitar’s neck. Then, cut the string just after the next tuner peg. For example, you should cut the E string to length behind the A string’s tuner peg. Cutting the string like this will allow you to achieve the ideal 2 to 3 turns when winding it.
- Wind the String Up: Using your string winder, wind up the string from the previous step, making sure it is tight. Don’t worry about tuning at this point.
- Continue With the Rest of the Strings: Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the remaining strings.
- Tune the Guitar: Your guitar won’t have perfect pitch right off the bat, so you’re going to have to tune it. There are many ways to tune a guitar, but using an electric tuner is faster and more accurate. You can also download a tuner app on your phone and use that instead.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: With your strings all switched up, it’s time to go back to practicing your guitar.
How to Change Guitar Strings on an Electric Guitar
Restringing an electric guitar is as easy as restringing an acoustic one. Follow the steps below to restring an electric guitar:
- Unwind the Strings: Use a string winder to save yourself some time.
- Cut the Old Strings: Grab your string wire cutters and cut the strings right in the middle of the guitar—you don’t need them anymore.
- Oil the Fingerboard: Put a couple of drops of fingerboard oil on a piece of cloth. Wipe the fingerboard, making sure the oil is worked into the board and frets. Keep in mind that this is an optional step. However, it helps you remove the dirt and natural oils that have built up over time. It also protects the wood on the board while giving it a nice shine.
- Install Replacement Strings: Not all electric guitars are built equal, so the method by which you’ll install the new strings will be different. You might have to slide the new strings through a tailpiece, underneath the body, or through a tremolo cavity. You might even need to wrap them around the bridge.
- Cut the Replacement Strings: Depending on the shape of the headstock, you might have to wind the strings a little differently. Here’s how (make sure you’re pulling on the string to ensure it’s straight while you’re doing this:
- Six Tuner Pegs in a Row: The ideal length to cut the string is 2 to 3 tuner pegs further. For instance, the E string needs to be cut just after the machine heads for the D strings.
- Three Tuner Pegs on Each Side: For this headstock shape, you’ll have to cut the string a machine head and a half (1.5) away.
- Wind the Replacement Strings: When inserting the string through the tuner peg, ensure that the hole is facing sideways. Also, ensure the winds are coming to the headstock’s center and going outside. Then grab your string winder and wind the string up.
- Change the Rest of the Strings: Use steps 5 and 6 to cut and wind the other strings of the guitar.
- Make Sure the Guitar is in Tune: You can use either an electric tuner or a tuner app to get the guitar tuned.
- Test Run: If you did everything correctly, you can plug your guitar into the amp, turn it on and see how it sounds.
Improving Your Child’s Musical Journey
Improving your child’s guitar skills so that they can continue enjoying the gift of music is an experience that will last a lifetime. And you can enhance their musical journey through BYJU’S FutureSchool. We offer guitar and piano lessons that help children discover their passion for music. Our research-based curriculum provides a customized learning experience with 1:1 attention, fun projects, and live performance that boosts your child’s confidence, creativity, and technical skills.
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