Guitar Made Easy: Guitar Strings

July 29th, 2010

The very thought of restringing your guitar alone can make some people fret (again, no pun intended), however the process is much easier than you may have previously concluded.

There are, before we get started, a couple myths related to restringing your guitar:

  • You don’t have to do it often
  • It’s very difficult and best left in the hands of professionals

You should restring your guitar often (especially if you play a lot) to preserve that pure sound, although there are a couple of steps you can take to increase longevity. Also, it’s a practice that you can do without the aide of a local guitar shop, instructor, etc.

So, before we begin, you must first tell yourself, ‘I can restring my guitar.’ If you still do not believe it, than say it again and again.

Annoyed? Good, now let’s get rolling… 

The first thing you must consider when it comes to new strings for the guitar is the size. Just as a size nine foot will not fit well in a size 13 shoe, a particular size string may not “fit” with your guitar and style of music.

Consider this: What tune do you regularly play in? The lower the tuning = the heavier the gauge. The higher the tuning, and you guessed it, the lighter the gauge. Selecting a gauge appropriate to your music will keep your strings consistently tight and avoid too much fret buzz.

Once you select a gauge, you must either own or borrow a string winder (manual or automatic), wire cutters, and a bridge pin puller if you have an acoustic guitar. NEVER attempt to restring a guitar merely by hand. It’s a waste of your time.

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Once you have the new strings with appropriate gauge and tools, it’s time to get dirty. First, remove the old strings. The first step, as in most cases, is really straightforward and easy. All you need to do is unwind the strings until they flop off. 

Note: A bridge pin puller is needed for this step if you are working with an acoustic guitar.

Once the old strings are off, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Open the package and begin with the lowest string (low E). You’ll want to work low to high because tonally it makes much more sense.

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Start by placing the first string through the bridge hole. If you are re-stringing an acoustic, place the strings anchor in the bridge hole and then place the bridge pin after it. Make sure you keep the string tight so the bridge pin stays in place.

Next, bring the strings end up through the hole in the tuning peg and pull it until there is enough slack to wind the string about three to five times around the peg. The string should now be nice and tight and perform something of a relevant tone. Use the wire cutters to trim off the excess and repeat the process for the remaining strings.

Once you finish with the high E string, it’s time to move to the last step in the process. Please note that this step is important as it will prevent any premature snapping.

Loosely tune the guitar so you know how tight your strings are going to be. Once again, beginning with the low E string, place your left hand over the first few frets as if you were muting the strings. Use your right hand to pull gently upward close to your left hand.

Repeat this moving up the fretboard as you double check to make sure the string is nice and stretched out. You will than notice that the string you just tuned is way more flat sounding. Tune this string again and it should be able to hold its tune for a much longer period of time. Continue this process for the remaining strings.

As you have probably discovered while reading this post, restringing a guitar is fairly straightforward and a rather mindless activity. Remember, work low to high and place emphasis on the final step to ensure quality and longevity.

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