Introduction: How to Change Your Guitar Strings
Playing guitar is an excellent hobby; Its fun, challenging, and incredibly rewarding. The more you play, however, the more you wear down your strings. This wear causes the strings to go bald, lose their tune, and forfeits some of the tone of the string. In some cases strings will even snap. Changing your strings regularly is an important step in becoming a better guitarist; I recommend changing them at least twice a month. But paying someone to string your guitar that often can get pricey. The following is a step-by-step guide to changing your own strings.
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Step 1: Pick Your Strings
This is arguably the most important step in the process.
Finding the right strings for you is crucial to finding the tone you want out of your guitar. The first decision you need to make is whether you want your strings to be flatwound or roundwound. Roundwound strings are cheaper, and easier to bend. They also produce a slightly brighter tone. Flatwound strings are a little more comfortable, and reduce string squeak. They also leave less wear on your frets.
Next, the guitarist must decide on a gauge of string. Strings vary in gauge from extra light to heavy. For example, extra light strings on an electric guitar generally have a 0.009 inch diameter on the high E string, and .045 inch diameter on the low E string. Light strings tend to range from .01 to .048 from high E to low E. Mediums range from .011 to .050, and heavy’s range from .012 to .054. Lighter strings easier to play and are less painful on the fingers. Heavier strings are slightly more difficult and painful, but produce a much better tone, and have more volume and sustain. Generally speaking, the heaviest gauge of strings is only used for jazz guitar, because bending strings is less common in jazz.
A big factor in choosing strings is whether you are playing acoustic or electric. Acoustic guitars have a lot more tension that electric, so if you’re playing an acoustic and want to solo, you might want to opt for a lighter gauge than you would on an electric. Experience is also a factor to take into account. A novice guitarist would find extra-light strings to be the best option because they are easier to play. A performing guitarist, however, would probably favor medium strings because of the benefits to tone, volume, and sustain. I play Ernie Ball medium strings on my electric, and D’addario light strings on my acoustic.
Step 2: Remove Current Strings
This step seems pretty obvious; If you want to put new strings on your guitar, you must start with taking the old ones off. The best way to do this is to continuously loosen the strings until you can slide the string out of the hole in the peg that holds it in place. The other end has a ball of the tip to keep tension of the string so it doesn’t simply slide out. Removing the string on an electric guitar is easy. Tstring is inserted through a hole in the back of the body of the guitar with the ball side going in last. To remove the string you simply pull it back through the body. On acoustic, the ball is held in place by little plastic knobs. Removing those can be tricky; I usually use a butter knife to slide the pegs out. If you really feel it necessary, you can buy little plastic tools designed to remove these knobs. They will usually run you about 10 dollars and you can buy them at most music stores.
Step 3: Clean Your Guitar's Fretboard and Body
This is a step people often forget to do. It isn’t totally essential, but it helps keep your guitar looking clean. Fretboards often collect grease from your hands and can have markings from the strings. The body of the guitar, especially underneath the strings, collects dust that can be tricky to clean with strings on. Using a soft cloth, wipe the fretboard and body from end to end. Cleaning the fretboard and body is an easy way to keep the guitar looking sharp.
Step 4: Apply New Strings
You’re almost there! To change the strings on your guitar you should start from either the high E and work up, or start from the low E and work down. If you’re changing the strings on an electric, insert the sharp end of the string into the corresponding hole for that string; The ball at the end of the string is usually color coded so you know which string is which. If you’re changing strings for an acoustic, place the ball into the hole on the front side of your guitar, and replace the plastic knob to hold the string in place. Be sure the knob is all the way in, if not it will fly out as soon as tension is applied. Drag the string slowly across the next, and place it into the hole in the middle of the tuning peg. Next, rotate the knob to tighten the string into place. Pay close attention to the direction you are rotating in and keep that consistent with all of your strings. Failing to do this result in an ugly looking neck, and often causes premature breaking of strings. Finally, you need to do something with the excess length of string. You can simply cut the string with a wire cutter, or you can loop the extra string back on itself to make a circle. The second option adds some character to the string, and allows you to remove the string and reapply it if
Step 5: Tune Strings
All that remains is tuning your guitar. Usually new strings will go out of tune pretty quickly when first applied, so I recommend tuning the guitar 3 or 4 times spaced out in 5 minute increments. Finally, the fun part! Sit back, relax, and play your favorite tune.