How to Restring Your Guitar

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Introduction: How to Restring Your Guitar

About: WSU Student

This Instructable will take you through the process of replacing the strings on just about any kind of guitar. As this is designed to help beginners, the electric guitar used in this example is a common model in "Beginning Guitar Bundles" that can be found through online shopping and local music shops, that often include a small amplifier, cables, shoulder strap, soft case (cloth), picks, and sometimes other incentives.

Required Tools:

-Wire Cutters (to trim excess wire after guitar has been re-strung)

-Plyers (for some acoustic guitars)

Recommended Tools:

-Tuning Peg Key (aka: Tuning Crank)
-Auto Tuner

Step 1: Before You Begin...

Be sure to look through all the instructions with your guitar in-hand before starting the process, knowing the end result will help avoid accidental damage to the guitar or strings mid-process.

Additionally, verify how your guitar anchors the stings to the bridge. Classical and Flamenco Guitars, as well as Ukuleles, use nylon strings that are tied off at the bridge. This Instructable will NOT be covering these particular knots, but will focus ONLY on metal strings, which have a braided knot or eyelet to keep the base of the string in place.

Step 2: Identify Your Bridge (Acoustics)

Acoustic guitars generally have two types of bridges:

One that the strings can slide straight through until the eyelet is caught when pulled tight, such as the red guitar. Or they will have pegs that hold the eyelet and are then inserted into the bridge, such as the brown guitar. Plyers will be needed to remove these pegs, even after the strings are loose.

Step 3: Identify Your Bridge (Electrics)

Electric guitars have a greater variety of bridges; however, despite their difference in appearance, most simply have an entrance that is too small to let the eyelet pass through, holding it in place when the string is tightened. Some will pull straight through, like the red acoustic; dovetail bridges, seen on the orange guitar, catch the eyelet and loop back over the bridge; where others are inserted all the way through the body of the guitar from the back and catch the eyelet inside the guitar itself, shown with the blue guitar.

Step 4: Verify Your Strings

While holding the guitar, "String 1" is the thinnest string and is closest to the ground; shown being touched by the index finger. "String 6" is the thickest string and is furthest from the ground; shown being touched by both the index and middle fingers.

Different manufacturers will label their strings in different ways. While is it most common to use colored eyelets to easily recognize the thickness of each string, some manufacturers will not color code the eyelets but label each strings package respectively. If you're eyelets are not color coded then be extra careful not to mix the strings; in this case, it would be recommended not to open the individual string until you are ready to attach it to the guitar.

"What do you play?"

There are several factors that influence the sound a guitar makes, and the strings play part in that equation as well. If you are looking for a heavy metal & rock sound, look for strings made of steel or nickel; nylon for high and "bright" sounding tones; and brass or copper strings if you're looking for a versatile "middle of the road." However, most strings will only make an impact on high end performance gear and recording studios - the cherry on top, if you will - so don't be afraid to stick to your budget when it comes to strings, especially when starting out. As you progress, try out different materials and gauges to hone in on the styles you enjoy.

Step 5: Removing Your Old Strings at the Head

Begin loosening the strings by turning the tuning pegs.

Caution: do not cut strings that under tension as the recoil is unpredictable and may cause damage to people and/or equipment. Always loosen strings completely to remove them.

While a tuning crank is not required, most locations where you purchase stings will have these cranks and they usually only cost $1 or $2. It will make the process much quicker and keep you from turning the peg one half turn at a time. Simply place the cap over the tuning peg and grasp the handle, as you "crank" the tool around (hence the nickname), the handle will rotate allowing a quick and smooth rotation of the tuning peg.

Without the crank, continue to rotate the tuning pegs by hand until the stings can be removed by hand.

Looking Ahead: Righty-loosy...???

While some guitarists will stick to a "righty-tighty, lefty-loosy" attitude when setting up their guitar, others will turn the peg away from the body of the guitar (to the left) in order to pull the string tight and turn the peg towards the body of the guitar (to the right) to loosen the strings. The latter does tend to be the norm, but the truth is that there is no correct answer; just make sure it feels comfortable and intuitive to you. Take some time to play with what "feels normal" and turn the pegs in the direction that feels natural when you replace your strings in later steps.

Step 6: Removing Your Old Strings at the Bridge

When all strings have been removed from the head, push the strings back through the bridge. This will aid you in identifying where and how to re-attach your new strings if this is the first time to replace them on this guitar.

Note: Over time, the tension on the strings can cause the eyelet to become wedged in place; if this happens, a small screwdriver or allen wrench can be used to push the eyelet out.

Acoustic Pegs: If you have an acoustic guitar with pegs, use your plyers to remove the pegs and strings from the bridge. To preserve your pegs, place cloth between your plyers and the pegs to avoid divots in the plastic pegs.

Step 7: "A Clean Guitar Is a Happy Guitar..."

Ok, technically you don't HAVE to do this part, but keeping your guitar clean will help preserve it for much longer and cleaning your guitar is much simpler without all the strings covering the fretboard and pickups. A rag and a few q-tips will make quick work of dust, dirt, and oil on the surfaces and crevices of your guitar. Additionally, as you become more familiar with your guitar, this will also become a great time to make sure that none of your other components are loose or damaged.

Step 8: Feeding the Bridge

Feed the new strings back through the openings in the bridge until the eyelet catches. Be certain that to use the strings in the appropriate places, refer back to Step 4 if clarification is needed.

Acoustic pegs: Insert the eyelet into the peg, then insert the peg into the bridge.

Step 9: Measuring Your Slack

Pull each string to its corresponding tuning key, but do not pull the string tight. Allow approximately two fingers above the neck as slack, this excess will wrap around the tuning peg and provide the tension needed to keep the string from unraveling.

Step 10: Pro-Tip...

With the slack measured, feed the string into the tuning peg. To mark its location you can bend the string to act as a hook in the hole of the tuning peg; you can now remove the fingers used to measure the slack without fear of losing your place. Bring the bend of the string to the hole of the tuning peg and begin to tighten your string.

Step 11: Tightening Your Strings

Keep the winding string as close to the base of the peg as possible, the curve of the peg will push the sting up as it begins to tighten. Ensure that the string sets within the groves of the bridge and the head of the guitar. At this point, only tighten the string enough that it will not easily be pulled from these grooves.

Repeat Steps 8 - 11 until all strings are attached to the guitar. Once all string are attached, use wire cutters to clip off the excess string sticking out of the tuning pegs; just be careful not to accidently snip the tightened portion of the string.

Step 12: Re-tuning Your Guitar

Now that all of the stings have been replaced on your guitar, it's time to get it tuned up and ready to play. New strings will need to be re-tuned everyday for the first few days as they stretch and settle into the tension being placed on them.

Auto tuners can be purchased that will clip onto the head of the guitar, or apps can be downloaded to your smartphone (there are quite a few free apps that work really well), they will use the microphone to listen to the tone the strings make and indicate whether you should tighten/loosen the string.

Guitars that are played regularly (3-4 hours/week) should only need their strings changed every 3-4 months. Playing more or less will reduce or extend their duration respectively, so be warry of anyone telling you to replace them every month (especially if they're the ones selling you the strings).

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    16 Comments

    0
    usbeatler5
    usbeatler5

    13 hours ago

    these people are right never ever remove all the strings at the same time will change the action and probably cause unwanted buzzing

    0
    usbeatler5
    usbeatler5

    13 hours ago on Step 4

    these people are right never ever remove all the strings at the same time

    0
    PhilipH4
    PhilipH4

    Tip 4 days ago on Step 1

    I have learned to change the strings one at a time rather than cutting them all off at the same time. This will reduce the number of times you have to tighten the new strings to get them to stay in tune, as it prevents the stress in the truss rod in the guitar neck from being lost, and then having to redevelop it through repeated retightening of the new strings.

    0
    aaahotdog
    aaahotdog

    Reply 3 days ago

    Interesting I have never heard of changing one string at a time. I was always of the impression, you remove all, clean the fretboard, check your frets, suck out dust bunnies out of sound hole, etc. I believe that when you string the new ones you bring the tension up in unison. Tuning one, then tuning the next, the first will be out of tune when the second is in tune. Think I agree that changing one at a time is probably correct, but how do you clean the fret board then? Seems the opinions are split on this subject. I have always changed all strings at once except on my mandolin and banjo which have floating bridges. Even those, I will occasionally clean fret board by replacing all at once. This guy says it doesn't matter though and I believe him. I have also heard of musicians tuning guitars slightly lower pitch making it easier to bend notes. Good discussion.

    https://stringjoy.com/safe-take-strings-off-guitar/

    0
    PhilipH4
    PhilipH4

    Reply 2 days ago

    I clean the fretboard the same way I clean it with all the strings on. By passing a cleaning cloth under one string at a time, and then sliding it up and down the length of the string. I learned to play the guitar from Bert Weedon's 'Play in a Day' book in which he mentions that dirt accumulates under the strings so cleaning the strings that way makes sense anyway. You can play in a day as his book suggests, but he doesn't say how well you can play in a day.

    0
    louis.m
    louis.m

    5 days ago

    You made a big mistake by removing all the strings at the same time, the tension disappears completely. This is NOT GOOD for the shape of the guitar, especially the neck.
    This causes the tuning to be more difficult and it must be done repeatedly as the neck resettles to the new tension over time.
    The forces of the strings are much higher than most people imagine !
    Better is, removing and replacing the strings one at a time.

    Btw.: If you remove more strings from a piano simultaneous, it is possible that the cast iron harp frame will break or even explode !

    0
    aaahotdog
    aaahotdog

    Reply 3 days ago

    "Btw.: If you remove more strings from a piano simultaneous, it is possible that the cast iron harp frame will break or even explode !"

    This is true, however, if you slowly detention all of the strings in unison, you can remove the strings together on a piano. I believe same to be true of a guitar. Detention and retention the strings in unison. Not remove/restring all 6- one totally at a time.

    Even in bicycles, when relacing rims, you get all of the spokes in place, then slowly start tensioning the spokes in unison. If you don't, you get wheel hop.

    0
    Nestordane
    Nestordane

    7 days ago

    Nice instructable. I have made a 3D-printed adapter for the tuning pegs of my Fender Stratocaster. It can be used with a hand drill - that makes changing strings very fast.

    0
    johnstewart1999
    johnstewart1999

    8 days ago

    One more thing: this procedure is fine, as long as you're replacing strings with strings having the same guage. If you switch to lighter (or heavier) strings, then you need to adjust the bridge so that the octaves are in tune (as well as the open string).

    1
    aaahotdog
    aaahotdog

    8 days ago

    A couple of things. You really should "lock" the strings during restringing. Hard to explain, youtube videos on it though. To lock, the first wind goes above the excess wire, additional winds go below the excess wire. The excess wire is then pinched (locked) between the first two windings. On the bass strings you need about 3 windings (2-2.5 winds on heavier guage) The upper strings (gbe) you should shoot for 4 to 6 windings. Also a good idea to string all 6 strings before doing the final tuning and then e start tightening across all 6( don't tune 1 at a time, slowly start bringing each one closer to tune until all 6 in tune). As you are tuning stretch the strings to check for slippage and seating. There is a big difference in righty-tighty. Looking down on the tuning pegs on the guitar head, the strings are wrapped so the string heads towards the fret board on the inside of the tuning peg. It is nearly impossible to get this wrong, because if you do it backwards, the string will be rubbing against another tuning peg. The rest is just practice.

    0
    PeterM520
    PeterM520

    Question 8 days ago

    Thanks. This always takes me longer than it probably should. My one question: when turning the peg to tighten it, it's important to keep the part of the string that's winding around the peg BELOW where it protruded through the hold in the peg? Will the bent string stay anchored while doing the tightening? (I've had it tighten -- tighten -- tighten and then spring out, requiring me to restart it. Pretty irritating.)

    0
    AlanH183
    AlanH183

    Answer 8 days ago

    Check the Youtube videos from Martin about how to put the new string through the tuning machine. Their method will prevent the string from ever slipping out.

    0
    george57
    george57

    Answer 8 days ago

    I think it is important to do it this way. If the string is wound above the peg hole there is a theoretical risk the string could slip off the peg. It is unlikely, though.
    By winding the string below the hole, it physically could not slip off, as it is held in place by the part of the string going through the hole.

    2
    AlanH183
    AlanH183

    8 days ago

    DON'T use pliers to pull the string pegs out of the bridge. This will easily cause the peg or the bridge to be marked. The end of the tuning crank is slotted to fit under the peg and then just pry up on the crank to lift the peg out.

    0
    SA38
    SA38

    8 days ago

    With an acoustic guitar it may be important to replace the pegs by the bridge, as they do wear out, faster with thinner strings--if they pop out it is past time to replace. Sets of 6 cost $7 to $20 or so, depending on material--nylon plastic, wood, bone (cow), ebony wood, and brass are commonly availabile, optionally with pretty inlays or colored glass. These low cost upgrade options that can improve looks of your guitar, maybe the sound. Seems like a Maker opportunity to design & 3D print or CNC cut your own.

    0
    randofo
    randofo

    9 days ago

    Nice. Very thorough.