Introduction: How to String a Steel-String Acoustic Guitar

About: I am a college student at Texas A&M University.

Wether you have broken a string, rusted your strings away, or your guitar sounds just plain dull, you know it is time to replace the strings on your guitar. Lucky for you, changing guitar strings can be an easy and rather enjoyable task if done properly.

*NOTE* Click on any image to enlarge it and view any notes I have added to an image to assist you.

Step 1: Get the Right Tools

Before you begin, it is important to have the correct tools. You will need:

  • A String Winder
  • Guitar Pick (or other small hard object like a coin)
  • A Pack of Guitar Strings (I recommend Ernie Ball, Elixir, or D'Addario guitar strings)
  • Wire Cutters (Pictured here is a Leatherman Rebar, a multi-tool with many functions, but for this project wire cutters are all that is needed from the tool.)
  • A Rag (To clean areas otherwise unaccessible with strings on the guitar.)

Step 2: Parts of a Guitar

Before changing the strings on a guitar, it is important to become familiar with the names of different parts of the guitar. Refer to this step if any confusion occurs later on.

Step 3: Unwinding the Old Strings

Start by slowly unwinding the strings currently on your guitar. Alternate between the top three strings and bottom three strings to prevent the neck from warping to one side. Once all six strings are very loose, unwrap the remaining string from the pegs by hand and pull it out of the hole.

Step 4: Removing Bridge Pins

Once the strings have been removed from the pegs on the head, you need to remove the bridge pins and remove the strings from the guitar completely.

Reach inside the sound hole of the guitar and firmly push on the bottom of the pins using a pick or small hard object like a coin.


Once the pins are removed, remove and discard the old strings. Ensure you do not lose any of the bridge pins as you will need all six again.

Step 5: Clean the Guitar

Take time to carefully clean the guitar with a soft polishing cloth. It is important to remove oil and residue that builds up from regular use.

Step 6: Install New Strings in the Bridge

Open the package of new strings and organize them by size.

Start by dropping the largest string (Low E) into the first hole in the bridge. Insert the bridge pin into the hole with the groove facing down the neck of the guitar. Pull the string upwards until it stops, then apply firm pressure to secure the pin and string.

Repeat this until all six strings are secured in the bridge with a bridge pin.

Step 7: Inserting the String Into the Pegs

Insert the low E string into the first peg on the head. Pull the string through until it is relatively tight. Once it is tight, pinch the string 1 1/2 inches past the peg and work it backwards to add slack into the string on the neck.

Once the string has the correct amount of slack, begin to wind the string in the opposite direction you used for unwinding the string. When the string is at a 45 degree angle, put two 90 degree angle bends into the string.

Step 8: Winding the Strings

Slowly start to wind the string around the peg. Ensure the string is winding below the hole in the peg so the string is aligned properly. Wind until the string has several wraps around the peg using the string winder, but is not tight enough to play a note yet.

Repeat Step #7 and #8 for all six strings.

Step 9: Tuning the Guitar

Once all six strings are inserted, wrapped, and have minimal tension, you can begin to tune the guitar. If your guitar has a built in tuner, feel free to use that. If not, there are plenty of free apps available for on iPhone and Android to aid you in tuning the guitar. Just like when you removed the guitar strings, any major changes in tension should alternate between the top three strings and bottom three strings to prevent warping.

Remember, standard guitar tuning is E, A, D, G, B, E.

*NOTE* Once you tune the strings for the first time, they will very quickly become out of tune again. You will need to continue to play and tune the guitar until the strings have finished stretching.

Step 10: Clipping the Excess String

Now it is time clip the excess string leftover from winding. It helps to have sharp and durable wire cutters to achieve a clean cut. Be careful not to scratch the guitar during this process.

Step 11: Enjoy!

Have fun playing your guitar! Continue to tune and clean your guitar between sessions to extend string life.