Changing Guitar Strings

You can tell when strings need changing by how they sound and look. Old strings sound lifeless, and will be discolored over the frets.

What You Need:

  • Wire cutters
  • Guitar tuner
  • New strings

How to Do It:

  1. Loosen the old strings by detuning them
  2. Use the wire cutters to clip the strings in the middle
  3. Remove the old strings from the bridge and tuners
  4. If you’re going to clean and polish the guitar, do it now
    • Use a polish made for guitars so you don’t ruin your finish
    • If you have an unfinished fingerboard (rosewood, ebony), every couple of months put a few drops of lemon or olive oil (actual oil, not furniture polish) on a rag and rub down the fingerboard wood
  5. Take a standard #2 pencil and rub the tip over the saddle and nut slots to lubricate the string break points; if your guitar has string retainers, do the same on the underside of the retainer, as well
  6. Install the new strings, 1 at a time:
    1. Push the string through the tailpiece or string channel and over the appropriate saddle
    2. Insert the string through the appropriate tuning peg, and pull it relatively tight; if you’re using locking tuners, pull it as tight as you can, otherwise, leave a little bit of slack

      Note: Even with locking tuners, you’re going to get a bit of slippage, especially on the thinner strings; I’ve found I need to leave a little extra on string 1, enough to wrap a couple times, to prevent the string slipping out altogether (your mileage may vary, depending on the tuners you have).
    3. Tighten the string by turning the tuning peg key; the direction depends on which side of the headstock the tuner is installed on–if on the left side, turn it away from the bridge, and on the right, towards the bridge (you want the string to be as straight a line as possible from nut slot to tuner)
    4. On non-locking tuners, bend the extra bit of string so it points straight up after emerging from the tuning peg; as you wind, you want the loops to trap this part of the string in place; see the diagram for specifics
    5. Tune it to the proper pitch; especially on the thinner strings, be careful not to over-tighten and break the string
  7. Tune each string to the proper pitch
    • Thickest string is 6, thinnest is 1
    • From 6 to 1, standard tuning for each string should be E, A, D, G, B, E
  8. As you install each string and tune it, go back to the previously installed ones and retune them
  9. Once all of the new strings are on, stretch each by pulling it up and over, towards the middle of the fingerboard, at various points along the string–again, be careful not to break it; do this, then retune, then repeat until each string stays in tune
  10. Use the wire cutters to clip the excess string


Author: Dennis Hickey

There are no limits to success to those who never stop learning. Learning will nourish your personal growth. I hope you enjoy this website and visit often so you keep learning and growing too!

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