How to Restring a Guitar: Step-by-Step Guide
This article is a basic guide to restring a guitar, best practices to ensure your instrument doesn’t get damaged, and some tips and tricks regarding your strings.
If you are a guitar player, you must learn how to restring a guitar at some point. Some guitars are easier to restring than others but don’t worry. Restringing a guitar is fairly simple once you get the hang of it.
When do I need to restring a guitar?
Every guitar player is different. While one may change their strings after every show, others may prefer a more conservative approach. There are a few hallmarks to watch out for and signs your guitar gives you when you need to change the strings
Right out of the pack, guitar strings are sleek and shiny, begging you to put them on and start playing. If you notice that the sheen has gone dull, it’s probably time to change your strings.
The dirt and grime that comes with avid guitar playing build up on the strings over time, negatively affecting your sound.
Another sign that you need to change strings is their sound. Over time, your strings lose some of their structural integrity. Do you notice how bright and clean the tone is when you first put on new strings? That’s because the string’s integrity hasn’t been compromised.
So you are wondering: how often should you restring a guitar? The answer is if your guitar lacks tone, don’t panic. Just change the strings.
What materials do I need to restring a guitar?
The good news is that you don’t need tools to restring a guitar. There are tools out there that guitar techs use, but they aren’t required. So you need the pack of new strings and your hands, and you’re good to go.
How to restring a guitar step-by-step.
Here, break down the process and explain how to restring a guitar, one step at a time.
There are a ton of different guitars out there, some require further explanation. However, in this article, we cover the most common guitar types.
General rules for restringing a guitar
There are a few things to remember when you restring any guitar. Believe it or not, there is some controversy over whether or not you should remove all of the strings or restring them one at a time, leaving the old strings on and only removing the one you are replacing.
You only want to remove the strings simultaneously if you are working on setting up the guitar. Processes such as straightening the neck, polishing, sanding, or replacing frets require the removal of all strings.
If you are only changing the strings on your guitar because the time has come, it’s best to restring them one at a time. You don’t want to release all the tension on your neck at once unless you are doing a fresh set- up.
Releasing all of the tension on the neck results in neck shifting, making it harder to keep your guitar in tune. Now, let’s start with how to restring an acoustic guitar.
The acoustic is a pretty straightforward guitar to re-string. Start by unwinding the low E string completely. Pull the string by the ball end, the round metal part attached to the end of the string. Gently pull the string through the bridge until it is completely removed.
This process is slightly different if your guitar has pegs in the bridge. In this case, unwind the string and use it to pull the peg out of the bridge.
Take your new E string out of the pack, and be careful while you uncoil the string. Strings can uncoil quickly and pose a danger to your eyes.
Pull the new string through the bridge towards the headstock of the guitar. This part is essential. Thread the string through the tuning machine inside, from the middle of the headstock.
It’s best practice to have the hole in the steel peg of the tuning machine perfectly horizontal, pointing directly across the headstock—not vertically pointing from the headstock to the bridge.
Now that you have everything ready thread the string through the tuning machine. New players often make mistakes during this stage.
Make sure you pull the string tight enough so there won’t be too much excess string hindering your tuning. You want no more than three wraps around the head of the tuning machine with the low E, but loose enough to where you have a little room to hold the string taught with your strumming hand.
Hold the string in the desired position with one hand and keep the tension on the string with the other. Now spin the tuning machine toward the top of the headstock.
Once the string has enough tension, seat it in the bridge at the top of the neck in the correct position. Now continue to spin the tuning machine while plucking the string.
Don’t tighten the string into tune at this juncture. Get it close and let it settle while you replace the other strings. At this point, tuning the string is unnecessary. It will slip out of tune when the tension on the neck changes as you replace strings.
Repeat this process, and keep in mind the thinner the string, the more wraps you can have around the peg on the tuning machine. Just don’t go nuts. You want the wraps on the tuning machine to start from the top and line right up under each wind without overlapping.
Once you have all six new strings on the guitar, it’s time to start getting them into tune.
Start with your low E string and tune each string. During this process, they go out of tune, so be ready to tune multiple times.
Stringing a classical guitar differs from stringing an acoustic or electric guitar. The main difference is with a classical, you hand-tie each string to the bridge. On many classical guitars, the tuning machines lay horizontal inside the headstock, unlike the vertical steel peg on acoustic and electric guitars.
When you tie the strings at the bridge, it is crucial to pull them through and leave around one to two inches to make the knot. Take the leftover string and pull it under itself on the top side of the bridge. Pull it back towards you and tuck the extra string under itself. Now pull tight, and you have just tied your string to the bridge.
Aside from these minor differences, follow the steps above, and you will be ready to play in no time. Now let’s move on to how to replace guitar strings on an electric.
There are thousands of different setups for electric guitars. Here we focus on the most common type.
With an electric guitar, look on the back of the body for six holes – this is where your strings are seated in the bridge.
Unwind the string and push it through. The ball end should pop out of the corresponding hole in the back of the guitar. Now send the new string through the hole and watch it come through the bridge.
Make sure it is seated correctly in its place on the bridge before you put tension on the string. Now follow the steps mentioned earlier, and you’re on your way.
Tip #1 – Strings quickly go out of tune when you first put them on.
This can make performances stressful if you always have to retune.
Once a string is in tune, use your strumming hand to grab onto the string in the strumming zone and pull the string directly away from the body towards the audience.
Don’t be afraid to pull hard. It’s necessary. If there is a weak string in the pack, it may break. It’s better to find out now than during the performance. By doing this with each string around three times—your guitar stays in tune much longer.
Tip #2 – Using poly or nano-web strings makes your guitar sound better and reduces how many times you have to restring your guitar.
Tip #3 – How much does it cost to restring a guitar? If you are struggling with restringing your guitar, if you buy a few sets of strings at the guitar shop, ask one of the employees to give you a tutorial. This way, you learn how best to restring a guitar and get a new set of strings on by a professional.
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