Introduction: Replacing a String on a Guitar

These instructions are general for replacing a broken or worn string on a guitar. These instructions are general guidelines and variations exist. With practice, personal preferences will develop and help make the process faster and unique to your instrument. The main variations in all guitars are seen in the way the tremlo is set up, mainly in the saddle and the bridge. The guitar pictured here is a Gibson Les Paul.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself With the Guitar You Are Working With

Parts: Start at the bottom of the guitar:

Saddle: where the string rests and is held in place

Bridge: string is positioned and sits in its own slot to ensure adequate spacing among all the strings

Electric pickups: magnetic pickups that translate the strings vibration into the correct sound

Peg and tuner: At the head of the guitar, you will find the pegs and the tuners. The tuners are the six knobs on the ends of the pegs that, when turned, tighten or loosen the string. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with which pegs and tuners go with which strings.

Step 2: Remove the Broken String

Many factors contribute to breaking a string. It varies hugely among who is playing the instrument and how long the string has been on the instrument and in use. The bottom line though, is that you still have a broken string and it must be fixed.

In order to remove the string, first you must pull the string out through the bottom of the saddle. You will notice an eyelet at the end of the string which will help you grasp the string when removing it.

Step 3: Unwinding the String

Move to the top of the guitar and either unwind the string around the peg or by using the tuner. This is more easily completed by simply unwinding the string from around the peg because it is already broken. However, if you just want to put a new string on your instrument and replace an intact string, using the tuner is a much better option. This is because the string has tension that does not exist when it has broken.

Step 4: Picking Your New String

Purchasing new strings for your guitar varies greatly according to your needs and wants. Not only does the type of guitar matter, but also personal preference. It is recommended to talk with the experts at a music store to help you narrow down what will best meet your needs. Once you have a  new string, remove it from the package and locate the corresponding string the note you need to replace.

Step 5: Preparing the New String

The string will be in a circular formation and it is best to straighten it out before attempting to put it onto the guitar.

Step 6: Feeding the String Through the Saddle

Begin by feeding the string into the empty slot in the saddle, ensuring that the eyelet is at the bottom. This shouldn’t be a problem because the eyelet should not fit through the hole in the saddle if it is not at the bottom of the instrument.


Step 7: Measure the String Length

Now pull the string fully to the end of the neck. Once you reach the top, judge how much string you want past the peg before inserting it into the peg. A general rule of thumb is 1.5” beyond the peg to ensure it ravels around the peg at least twice. Make a 90-degree crease at the measured point. This does not have to be an exact measurement.

Step 8: Insert String Into Peg Hole

Now put the string in the hole of the correct peg to the crease you created.

Step 9: Bring Tension to the String

Begin winding the tuner. Generally, if you are on the bottom three strings- the higher three notes G, B and high E- you want to turn the tuner clockwise to tighten the string. Conversely, if you are on the top three strings- meaning the lower notes low E, A, and D- you will turn the peg counterclockwise. This is just a rule of thumb and it will be extremely important to determine if your instrument is set up this way. If you turn the peg the incorrect way, this string will not hold a tune because it loosens much easier.

Step 10: Align String in the Bridge and Nut

Begin turning the tuner to create tension in the string. Set the string in the bridge, located at the bottom of the guitar and in front of the saddle, and the nut, located at top of the neck and before the tuners. Feel free to reference other intact, already strung strings on the guitar. Ensure it remains there throughout the process. If the string falls out of the bridge, the string will continue to tighten but without the correct contact point. This will create the incorrect vibrations when played for the intended note.

Step 11: Cut the Excess String

Remove any excess string that protrudes from the tuner peg, but beware of some general guidelines.

If the string is cut too short, it creates the possibility for the string to pull itself out of the peg.  If there is too much excess string left on the peg, there is the possibility of harming yourself on the very sharp edge left by cutting the string. If there is a bit of excess, try to wrap it around the peg with the cutter or pliers.

Step 12: Stretching and Tuning the String

A new guitar string will have quite a bit of give. Due to this, tighten the string until you reach the correct tune. This can be easily determined by using a tuner or referencing the other in tune strings on your instrument or a piano. Once in tune, stretch the string by grabbing the string and horizontally moving it back and forth about an inch. Do not stretch too far or the string is likely to break. Electric strings will have a lot more give than an acoustic string. This is done to remove the initial give and avoid having to retune your instrument frequently as the string stretches naturally.

Once again, take a moment to retune the instrument. It is likely that through the stretching process the tune became flat and will need to be tightened a bit. Now that you have reached an in tune string, you have successfully restrung your guitar. Congratulations!

Comments

author
rockadio101 made it! (author)2010-11-23

i love the adio sticker it is sick and good instuctable i realy needed this couse my string broke thanks ps NICE STICKER IM ABSESED WITH ADIO

author
h3dru5h made it! (author)2010-11-10

Well done and thought out instructable.
btw i change the strings on my Les Paul and Flying V one at a time, to maintain tension on the stop bar tailpiece. I never have problems with intonation or string action, after changing strings.

author
iamtoats made it! (author)2010-10-30

AAAHHHH!
Why put a sticker on suck a nice guitar? Even worse, why put an upside down sticker on suck a nice guitar!?

author
berky93 made it! (author)2010-10-28

really, you should never just replace one string. If one breaks, you should replace them all. Besides, nothing feels better than playing a guitar that has six fresh strings

author
rblee made it! (author)rblee2010-10-29

Also, replace the strings one at a time - Don't remove them all then put on the new ones.

The combined tension of the strings will normally be at least 150lbs, depending on the strings you choose, and can be a lot more. Big changes in tension are supposed to be bad for the neck, though I've never noticed this, probably because I've never done it.

Good instructable - Nice pictures.

author
berky93 made it! (author)berky932010-10-29

I replace all of my strings at a time and have never noticed any problems. Maybe lower-quality guitars with less stable truss rods will have more noticeable effects

author
rblee made it! (author)rblee2010-10-29

For what it's worth, I've seen that advice in a number of places, and it's also suggested by the guys at the place that does our guitars. They actually reckon you should check the fretboard for straightness after re-stringing if you have had to remove all the strings. They made a point of demonstrating the flatness of the fretboard to my wife when she picked up an acoustic they lowered the action on recently. That said, they also reckon you should do this if you change the string weights significantly, so maybe they're perfectionists, or obsessed.

You'll also find it on Washburn's site, for instance, and I wasn't aware that their guitars are poor quality.

Maybe it's just the difference between an acoustic and a big chunk of solid wood like a strat? They do feel indestructible.

It's standard practice on violins, cellos, etc., but that's more likely to be because the bridge falls off and is a little tricky to set up. I hate tuning my son's violin. No gearing and grotty old tapered pegs shoved into holes? Urgh!

author
newb made it! (author)newb2010-10-30

I change all my strings at once on my bc rich and my strat like the only guitar's i've heard had major problems with that are Les Paul's. That's why i change one at a time on mine but also after i change my strings i set up my guitar basically set the action again adjust the bridge and truss rod kind of a pain but feels great playing a newly set up guitar with new strings.

author
rblee made it! (author)rblee2010-10-30

If it works for you then go for it. Ain't no rules that can't be broken :)

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