How to Change Guitar Strings

From time to time you’ll need to replace the strings on your guitar. Ideally you should do this every few weeks as the strings become worn and start to sound dull; although it does obviously matter on how much you play your guitar! In this lesson we’ll discuss how to change guitar strings.

When changing the strings it is recommended that you change one string at a time starting with the thickest string, i.e. the E string. This is to try and reduce the change in tension on the neck of your guitar – making it a little easier to tune each string.

  1. Start by loosening the string that you are replacing. Do so until the string is out of the tuning machine. Once you have done this I’d recommend that you use a pair of pliers to cut off the end of the string where the string is curled up as this will make it easier for you to remove the string at the bridge.
  2. Now you can remove the string from the bridge. The bullet at the end of the string is sometimes hard to get out of the bridge so you may need to use a thin rod to poke it out.
  3. You should use this opportunity to wipe down the fretboard as dead skin from your fingers will have gathered on it while playing the guitar. Use some tissue or a soft cloth to give it a quick wipe. You could even go one step further and wipe it down with lemon oil, which will ensure your fretboard stays in better condition for longer.
  4. After you have done so get the new string – take care when unwinding the string. The string should be passed through the bridge with the end without the bullet first. Pull the string through and at this stage you should make sure that the bullet hasn’t caught on anything that it shouldn’t have.
  5. Pass the end of the string through the tuning machine. Leave the string a little slack and then start winding the tuning head. For thinner strings such as the G, B, and the top E strings you will need to leave more slack than the other strings.
  6. Make sure that when you are winding the strings that the string is being tuned up when turning the tuning machine away from you.
  7. Use a tuner to tune the new string. If you don’t have a tuner handy, our online guitar tuner may be useful! Tuning can be done very crudely at first as it will become detuned as you restring the other strings and also until the string has settled correctly on the nut.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 until all the strings have been replaced.
  9. Once all the strings have been replaced and crudely tuned – strum the strings quite hard a few times and retune the guitar. Repeat this step until the tuning does not change after the strumming. What you are doing here is making sure that the string is settled correctly on the nut. When you first place the string, the tension between the nut and the bridge and the tension between the nut and the machine head are different due to the resistance provided by the nut. By doing what we have stated in this step you are equalizing the two tensions so that the string does not detune while playing.
  10. Now that you have restrung everything and set the string correctly on the nut you’re done! You should cut the excess string off the tuning machines using pliers as the loose strings can be dangerous. Be careful you don’t cut yourself on the thinner strings!

Things to Note

  • If you are changing the gauge of the string you should make sure that the truss rod is set correctly for the new string gauge. If you do not do this your guitar will not perform as it should and you may experience problems such as buzzing, not being able to play some frets etc… If you want to find out more, you can read our lesson on truss rod adjustment. However we always recommend you go to your local guitar shop and get a trained professional to do it as you could damage your guitar neck if you do it incorrectly.
  • Although it is recommended that you replace all the strings at the same time, you could just replace one. For example if one of your string breaks you could just replace that single string to cut down on cost. However if you have a performance coming up we’d strongly recommend you change all the strings a few days prior to the performance.
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