How to Change Guitar Strings: Acoustic Guitar, Classical Guitar, Guitar Basics

How to Change Guitar Strings

How to Change Guitar Strings | String Changing Basics and detailed instruction for classical guitars, acoustic guitars and electric guitar in the guitar basics lesson.

Georgia Luthier Supply
  • String Changing Basics
  • Classical Guitar Stringing
  • Acoustic Guitar Stringing

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How to Change Guitar Strings - A Very Handy Tool to Have In Each Case

I have one of the Planet Waves Combined String Cutter and Winder in each of my guitar cases. Believe me, they are a great little tool to have. It's compact and allows a quick change, wheather that is a single string emergency or any entire string set.

How to Change Guitar Strings:

This is usually a trial and error process for beginning and intermediate guitarists alike. But now with a good set of strings costing in the $15.00 and up range, the error portion of that statement gets to be quite costly

If strings are not placed on your guitar properly, you can have all kinds of problems such as:

  • Poor Intonation
  • Hard to Tune Your Guitar
  • String Breakage
  • Lead to Premature String Changing
  • In this How to Change Guitar Strings article we will cover both Classical Guitars and Acoustic Guitars. We will not cover Electric Guitars because there is such a variety of bridges available.

    Usually with electric guitars, installing the ball end of the string is rather simple as the string is fed through a slot or placed on a post. The remained of the operation can be followed in the Acoustic portion of this article.

    Augustine Classical Guitar Strings How to Change Guitar Strings - Classical Guitar Strings

    Lets talk about string selection first. Most Classical Guitar Strings are made of nylon for the high (3) strings and silver coated copper thread over a nylon filament core for the (3) bass or lower strings

    Also, Classical Guitar Strings come in several tensions:

  • Medium Hard Tension
  • High or Hard Tension
  • Extra High or Extra Hard Tension
  • Which tension is right for you? That depends completely on your guitar and the tonal range and volume you expect to get from the guitar. Just remember that even the best of strings will not make a poorly made guitar sound good, but poor strings will make a well-made guitar sound awful.

    I have gravitated to a high or hard tension string on my guitar. I like than added volume and the tightness of the strings. Also the strings do not oscillate quite as much as the low tension strings do and I get less string buzzing.

    Time to Change Strings How to Change Guitar Strings - When Is It Time To Change Strings?

    That is a often asked question that I get. Here are some things to consider to access your string condition:

    The first and most obvious  is : The strings sound "dead". This is most often caused by dirt filling the grooves between the windings of the bass strings. There are techniques for bringing back some liveliness to your  strings and I will discuss those  techniques at the end of this article.

  • Secondly, you will notice discoloration on the bass strings. Inspect the strings and see if there is an inordinate amount of wear on the silver windings direction over the frets. Quite often this extreme amount of wear will result  in a shiny spot over the frets, which indicates the silver winding is being worn  through.
  • The third how to change guitar strings tip and most obvious is string breakage. I find that the 3rd or 4th strings, which are the thinnest are the first to go. So you may want to have a few extra of those strings around to extend your string life a bit more. You can be sure thought that the other bass strings are not far behind and will break with in a few days or a week.
  • How to Change Guitar Strings - What Strings Should I Purchase

    There is a large selection of strings available. You can click here for my string recommendations and here is a list of my recommended picks:

  • Augustine Concert Series
  • Savarez
  • D'Addario
  • How to Change Guitar Strings - Additional Options:

    If you are having trouble getting enough volume or punch out of your guitar on the treble strings, which is quite often the case on the lesser quality guitars , you may want to explore carbon fiber strings for your 3 plain strings in lieu of the standard nylon.

    How Can I Extend The Life Of My Strings?

    How long your guitar strings last is strictly a function of how much you play, how you care for your strings. So let's dive into that in this section.

    If your hands perspire quite a bid during playing be sure to always wipe down your strings with a soft micro fiber cloth. Not only wipe done the top surface of the strings, but run the cloth under the strings (between the strings and the frets) as well.

    The bass or silver-wound strings are almost always the first to go, so keep a small supply of these around.

    Because as strings age, the bass strings pick up quite a bit of grime. You can extend the string life by soaking the strings in a warm (not hot) solution of 3 parts water and one part household ammonia for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. You will find that the strings are amazingly brilliant after you restring them.

    Time to Change Strings Find Out How To Change Guitar Strings on a Classical Guitar

    The last how to change guitar strings tip is to be sure your string up your guitar properly, and that is what this article is about.

    How to Change Guitar Strings - The Classical Guitar.

    Now that we determined the need to change our string we will progress right into the actual process. Assemble the following tools to aid you in the easiest and quickest method for this.

    How to Change Guitar String - The Required Tools:

  • String Winder/Cutter Combo Tool
  • Electronic Tuner
  • Micro fiber Cloth
  • Fingerboard Conditioner
  • An Elevated Padded Work Surface
  • I will tell you that in the event of an emergency, all you need to have is a sturdy fingernail clipper or a toenail clipper. So carry one with you in your case.

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 1:

    Start laying the guitar on it's back on the padded workbench. Take the wire side clipper and cut the first or "e" string near the sound hole, while holding the string. This will keep the string from damaging the guitar. I would recommend loosening the string a couple of revolutions prior to cutting.

    Remove your string first

    Unwind & Cut You Old String

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 2:

    Remove Each String: Carefully remove both ends of the string from the bridge and the tuner. Take care not to scratch the top or the head piece. Unwrap the new string and insert the string through the the hole in the bridge tie block from the saddle side of the hole.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Insert Through Tie Block

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 3:

    Pull enough of the string through the tie block so you can loop the string around for 2 twists and wind up with the end of the string facing toward the bass side. See pictures below.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Loop the String Around Three Times

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 4:

    Get That Final Loop Correct!: One of the most important things to accomplish is the final loop should go over the backside of the tie block. If you don't do this the string will slip. If your installation looks exactly like this you will have absolutely no slippage.

    Pull the string snuggly to tighten up the winding.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Pull The String Tight So It Locks Onto The Tie Block

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 5:

    Now take the other end and place it through the first tuner roller on the right. Adjust the tuner so the hole lines up vertically prior to inserting the string.

     Pull enough of the string through (about 3 or 4") to pull it up the backside of the roller and then thread it through the hole once more.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Thread The String Through The Roller Hole Twice

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 6:

    Time to take up some slack in the string: I like to start with 4 to 6" of slack above the fingerboard, measured at the string midpoint. Pull the string end at the roller to meet this length.

    Now with your right hand, grasp your string winder and hold the string near the nut with your left hand to guide the string around the tuner roller.

    It is important that the string rolls over the top to the roller and not under the roller, as this would make the tuning backwards.

    Insert String Through Tie Block The String Should Cross Over Itself Several Times

    Also, attempt to guide the string over the roller so it crosses over the string entry point at the roller hole several times.

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 7:

    Time to clip the strings: Now take your clippers and cut the end of the string about 1/2" above the roller. Note that at first you can leave the string long, in the event you didn't do everything as you should have and have to start over.

    If you left too long a tail on the string at the tie block of the bridge, you will have to very carefully clip this end of the string too. There should only be about 3/8" of the string extending beyond the point of the loop.

    Continue this same procedure with the 2nd and 3rd strings.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Insert Wound String & Loop Only Once

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 8:

    The 4th 5th and 6th strings: With the 4th string (the first wound string), the only difference is with the method used at the tie block. Only one loop around will be necessary, as shown in the photos.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Make Sure The Loop Hangs Over The Tie Block Edge

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 9:

    Also, you may find that the 5th and 6th strings cannot be threaded through the roller hole a second time. That is ok since the wound strings have a great deal more grip than the plain nylon strings.

    Just be sure to "lock" the string on the roller by crossing over the roller hole a couple of times.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    Some Wound Strings Have A Loop At One End. Use This Loop On the Tuning Roller As Shown Above

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Step 10:

    It may be a bit more difficult to leave the string long with the wound strings because they can damage the peghead slots as you tighten the strings, so cut them off right away Just leave a little extra string length to wind around the roller if you want some extra insurance.

    Insert String Through Tie Block

    The String Should Cross Over Itself Several Times

    How to Change Guitar Strings: A Few More Tips For You:
  • Put your strings on one-at-a-time so you keep almost full tension on the guitar top at all times. If you don't do this and decide to take all the strings off at one time, you will find that the guitar loosed it's tone and volume from several hours or even days.
  • Bring all of the strings up to proper tuning and then go about 1/2 tone above proper tuning. Now grasp each string at its center point and pull it about 2" straight up for several times. This will immediately take a lot of the stretch out of the string. Now tune each string up to pitch , play a while and slowly tune each string as it goes out. Check with the electronic tuner and you will find that in about 15 or 20 minutes your guitar will stay "in tune" quite well.
  • How to Change Guitar Strings seems like a rather easy task to perform, but there is definitely a right and a wrong way to accomplish this. Putting your strings on improperly can lead to slippage of string and leaving you with a guitar that is very hard to keep in tune. Also, if not installed properly, you can have a greater incidence of string breakage.

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Assemble The Proper Tools

    First, lets assemble the proper tools for this job to quickly and efficiently complete our task.

    Pro String Winder Pro String Winder/String Cutter Combo

    The Planet Waves Pro String Winder & Cutter is three tools in one. Its a string winder, a string cutter and a bridge pin puller. Very handy too. I keep one in each case for emergency acoustic guitar string changing.

    Korg CA-40 Electronic Tuner How to Change Guitar Strings - Korg CA-40 Electronic Tuner

    I prefer the Korg CA-40 Electronic Tuner. It is very accurate, affordable , easy to read and long-lasting battery life to boot.

    Elixir Phosphor Bronze Strings

    How to Change Guitar Strings - Get a Quality set of Guitar Strings
  • Typically, I recommend that you change your acoustic guitar strings one-at-a-time. I do this because it keeps almost all the tension on the neck and top wood and this  will not kill the tone, which is what happens for a few hours after removal of all the strings
  • If that isn't important to you, just loosen all the strings several revolutions with the string winder and carefully clip all the strings, one-at-a-time while holding on to the string to prevent it from snapping back to the guitar body. (if the acoustic guitar strings are loose enough this will not happen.
  • Carefully remove the acoustic guitar string ends from the tuners without scratching the peghead. Use the bridge pin removal portion of your Planet Waves Pro String Winder & Cutter and pop all the bridge pins up and remove the ball ends of all the strings.
  • If your fingerboard is dirty, now is the time to take some denatured alcohol on a Micro Fiber Cloth and wipe down the fingerboard. If the the fingerboard still does not come clean, take #0000 steel wool and rub it vigorously up and down the entire length of the fingerboard. Don't worry, as this is how you smooth a fingerboard anyway.
  • Dunlop Fingerboard Conditioner How to Change Guitar Strings - Dunlop Fingerboard 02 Deep Conditioner
  • Apply some fingerboard conditioner, such as Dunlop Fingerboard 02 Deep Conditioner This is also part of the complete care kit for general guitar care.
  • Start by removal of the first or high "E" string from the package. Unwind the string and put a slight bend in the string at the ball end. This will allow the string to more easily insert the bridge pin.
  • Insert the bridge pin and while pressing down on the top of the bridge pin with your thumb, pull the string up with the other hand until the ball end on the string is "snugged" up against the bridge pin. Now insert the other end of the acoustic guitar string through the hole of the tuner.
  • While you do this, insert your other hand midway between the bridge and tuner like a you are karate chopping the fingerboard with the string over the top of this hand. This will give just the right amount of slack in string to give it good overlap on the tuner.
  • While in the position take the string end with your left hand and give the string a sharp 90 degree turn away from the guitar and around the tuner.
  • Take your string winder and place it on the tuning peg. While holding the string, feed the acoustic guitar string to the tuner while winding the peg. Make a few revolutions around the peg and then guide the string so that you "cross over" the string on the tuning peg to lock he string tightly on the post. I do the "cross over" technique once and maybe twice on the smaller gage strings.
  • Turn on your electronic tuner and bring the guitar up to tune for an "E" note. I usually go 1/2 tone higher to remove as much stretch from the string as soon as possible.
  • Take your string clipper or Planet Waves Pro Winder String Winder and Cutter and carefully clip the string end between 1/8" and 1/4" from the tuner peg. Do no wind the string up without trimming as this can be a source of buzzing or cause damage to the peghead.
  • One of the most common things I have seen is the strings being wrapped the wrong direction around the tuner peg. An easy way to keep this straight is draw an imaginary line down the center of the nut and peghead.
  • The first 3 strings (E, B and G) wrap clockwise and the lower 3 (D, A and E) wrap counter-clockwise around the tuner peg - it looks very natural this way.
  • Now follow this same procedure with the other five strings. With all strings tuned about 1/2 tone high (sharp) firmly grasp each string at its midpoint and firmly pull straight up away from the fingerboard several times. This will tighten up any slack left at the bridge pins and also remove a lot of the new string stretch from the string.
  • Now you are ready to tuneup - again if you choose keep it about 1/2 tone high and let the instrument come down that sharp note ins a short amount of time. You will find that your guitar will keep in tune very quickly and be in great playing shape in no time.
  • Guitar Peghead

    Start and the lower right post with the "E" string and work your way around COUNTER clockwise to the lower left peg with the Low "E"

  • Also - a tip to keep which string goes to which post, hold the guitar peghead up facing you. The lower right post is where you start with the first or "E" string. Progressively COUNTER clockwise and wind up at the lower left tuner peg. Very simple.

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