In this post you will learn how to change guitar strings. Here’s how!
Knowing how to change guitar strings is a skill every guitar player should have. Yes, the store where you buy your strings will put them on for you, but they usually charge for that. Plus, when you learn how to change guitar strings you get to confirm that there aren’t any new chips in the body. You identify any problems that have arisen. Also, you get to clean your guitar. The shop isn’t gong to take near as much care of your instrument as you will.
To replace old strings with new ones, I typically follow this method and order. You can attempt other methods, but this is what I and most other professionals do.
Before you begin, here are some tools you will need to change guitar strings.
Here are a few tools and items you may want to collect before you begin this how to change guitar strings.
- Guitar cleaner (or polish)
- Guitar fret lemon oil
- Cleaning cloth
- String winder
- Wire cutter
- Needle nose pliers
- Spray air canisters
- Guitar tuner
- Guitar strings
I recommend any of these brands of guitar strings: Elixir acoustic and electric, D’addario acoustic and electric, Ernie Ball acoustic and electric, Martin acoustic and electric. I’ve used each brand and they are all great!
The first step to change guitar strings is to remove the old strings.
To take off the old strings, begin by loosening the tuning pegs to the point where the string you want released can be pulled out of it’s hole. I like to loosen all six strings from the headstock before removing them from the body. Once all strings are off, throw them away. They are old, used and not worth keeping! Not even as spares! Most music stores sell new individual strings, if you feel like you need to have some as spares. Old strings are stretched out and often covered in finger residue. They are spent! Throw them out!
Get some spare guitar strings here!
Next, clean the guitar and neck.
To clean the neck of your guitar, use guitar cleaner or polish for the body, back of neck and headstock, but not the fretboard. Make sure you get all finger prints and any unwanted residue off your guitar. For the neck, I use a guitar-specific lemon oil. It refreshes the wood of the neck while still cleaning your frets. Lastly, and this is only for instruments with a sound hole (like an acoustic guitar), I take compressed spray air (often used to clean electronics) and spray out any dust in the chamber of the body. When dust settles inside the body it causes sound to vibrate in a different way than the guitar was designed to thus changing or dampening its tone.
Step three – attach new strings:
After you’ve sufficiently cleaned your guitar you can move on to putting on your new strings. I recommend beginning with the thickest string [E6]. Most acoustic guitars have a tooth-like pin that needs to be pushed back in after you’ve inserted the ball bottom of the new string. Once in place you should be able to stretch the string the entire length of the guitar and neck. Put the end of the string into the first hole on the left side of the tuner area on the headstock. I recommend making sure that as you begin turning the tuning peg the string be wound so that it moves the end of the string move toward the middle of the headstock. This is rather than having the string wind toward the outside of the guitar. In other words, for the sixth, fifth and fourth string, the strings should wind counterclockwise and the third, second, and first should wind clockwise. If all tuning pegs are on one side I still recommend winding to the center of the neck. You may want to pick up a string winder to make winding your strings a breeze!
A secret that I learned a long time ago about how to wind your strings so that they tightly hold and stay in tune is to let the end of the wound string first go UNDER the string being tuned. After the string has been under once, make the remaining turns go OVER the string being tuned. It creates a type of locking mechanism.
Repeat these steps…
Repeat the steps above for all remaining strings. You should now have all new strings on your guitar. Congratulations!
The last things before you tune your new strings. Stretch your strings!
You’ll need to do a few final steps before you are ready to tune up. First, you’ll need to stretch out your new strings. This gets any leftover loose slack out at the strings at the headstock. It also lets the strings themselves begin to balance. They came from the factory pretty rigid. To stretch your strings, begin by pulling them off the guitar neck about 2-3 inches. Be safe! You want to stretch them at three second intervals for three to fives sets, releasing the string in between.
Cut the remaining slack off the ends
After you have sufficiently stretched your strings it is time to cut the ends of the strings that are still hanging on at the headstock. Be careful when using wire cutters or sharp scissors. Also, make sure you are cutting off the string excess and not the actual string that is new and on the guitar. I have made that mistake before and it’s not fun. Finally, use needle nose pliers to bend the tiny ends of the strings down and into the headstock. Your goal should be be free of any dangerous metal sticking out toward you that would make you bleed if you were to touch that area. I always keep a few bandaids in my guitar string changing kit.
It’s time to tune!
Now tune up! You may want to use a clip on guitar tuner to get your new strings to the correct pitches.
Now you have successfully learned how to change guitar strings! Congratulations! If you are having any trouble or have questions, we are here to help! Send us an email through our contact us page. We usually respond in less than 1 business day.
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Let us know what you learned! Are there any new tricks? Did you know about the over/under technique that the pros use? Have you heard any other techniques that our readers should know about? We want to hear from you! Comment below!