Many guitarists end up damaging their guitars or hurting their fingers because they don’t know how to restring a guitar correctly. Whether you play the bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, or classical guitar, one thing is certain: You will eventually have to restring your instrument.
Surprisingly, many guitarists are skeptical about restringing their instruments themselves because they fear they will make a mistake and ruin their instruments. This fear comes from not knowing how to restring a guitar the right way.
There are several methods to restring your guitar. If you are a seasoned musician, chances are you have tried every conceivable approach to restring your guitar and found one that works for you. However, if you are a beginner, you may experience difficulties restringing your guitar on your own, especially the first time. Have no fear, we are here to help.
When to Change Your Strings
There is no right or wrong time to change your guitar string. However, this does not mean you should wait until your rusty strings start to sound terrible. Many factors contribute to how often you have to restring, including frequency of use, your style of play, sweat, and body chemistry.
However, as a general recommendation, you should consider changing strings once they begin to have wear spots or dents, or when you notice an accumulation of grime or dirt, especially on the underside of the string that faces the fretboard.
Common Restringing Mistakes
1. Buying the wrong strings
Strings are either sold in packs or individually and are available in a wide range of gauges. Gauge refers to the thickness of the guitar string. It is easier to bend lighter-gauge strings than heavier-gauge strings.
Using guitar strings with the wrong gauge can damage your guitar. For example, using a thicker string will pull the neck and change the feel of the guitar. On the other hand, lighter strings will make the truss rod overcompensate, causing the guitar strings to touch the fretboard, or worse, rattle when played.
2. Taking all fresh strings out of the pack at once
Don’t take all the replacement strings out of the pack at once, or it will be hard to tell them apart. Take them out one by one when you are ready to install. The same thing applies to removing the strings from the guitar: Complete the removal and replacement process of one string before moving on to the next.
3. Neglecting to stretch new strings
When restringing your guitar, you should stretch out the guitar strings, tune it to a pitch, then stretch it out some more until it stops sounding flat. If you don’t do this, your guitar will continue to sound flat.
Required Items for Restringing
- Fresh strings
- Guitar string cutter or wire cutter
- String winder (optional)
- Tuning machine (also optional)
- Soft cloth
- Neck support
How to Restring a Guitar
Step 1: Choose a clean and uncluttered space
On older guitars, the saddle, bridge pins, tuner bushings, and nut are all held in place by string tension alone. The moment the strings are removed, tension is released, and you could easily lose any of these tiny components. A clean and uncluttered space makes it easier to find any missing part.
Step 2: Take out the string
Prop the neck of your guitar on a supporting surface to secure it. Next, slacken the tension on each string with a tuning key or use a string winder to save time. Once loose, unwind the string from the tuning post and remove it.
Step 3: Remove the bridge pin from the bridge hole
The string winder has a built-in notch to remove the pins. Alternatively, you can put your hand inside the soundhole to gently push them out with your fingers.
Step 4: Put in the new string
Place the ball end of the string under the bridge pin, then slide the pin together with the string into the hole. As you push the pin through the hole, simultaneously pull the string tight with your other hand. Gently pull towards the headstock to be sure the string is secure before winding.
Step 5: Secure the string to the tuning post
This is where a lot of people begin to make mistakes. First, use a graphite pencil to lubricate the nut slots so the strings pass through easily. This technique also ensures you don’t have any tuning issues later on.
Now, make sure your string has enough slack to go around the tuning peg enough times to be secure. Push the string into the tuner hole. Leave about 3 inches of string to get some slack before tightening it. Pull the string taut towards the bridge as you tighten.
Step 6: Wind the string
Another mistake most people make is in determining what direction to wind. Winding should begin on the side opposite the peg. So for left-sided pegs, string counterclockwise. For right-sided pegs, string clockwise.
Make sure the first turn around the turning post goes over the unattached end of the string to ensure you don’t have any string slips. From here, begin to wind each string, ensuring they are winding towards the center to prevent them from overlapping or interfering with each other. You can use a string winder for speed.
Repeat the same process for the rest of the strings.
Step 7: Tighten the string
As you wind the strings, keep some tension to ensure it is holding, then tighten properly. However, do not tighten completely or tune the strings until you have replaced all of them. Once you have fixed all the strings, start tightening in the order of 6E, 5A, 4D, 3G, 2B, 1E.
Step 8: Tuning
Use a tuning machine to tune your guitar to the correct pitch. Once you have the right pitch, gently pull each string taut to stretch it a little. You will have to tune the guitar again after this and repeat this step 2-3 times until the guitar stays in tune.
Step 9: Cut off excess string
Trimming should come last, so if you make a mistake or one of the wound strings doesn’t hold, you won’t have to start over or waste the string. Trim the excess string with a wire cutter. Don’t cut too short, or they will loosen. Don’t cut them too long either, as the sharp ends of the strings could injure you.
This is a simple, foolproof method to restring your guitar. Once you have finished restringing, do what the average guitarist would — play a G-chord to test your new strings!