If you’re still getting familiar with playing your acoustic guitar, then changing the strings can seem a little bit daunting. But don’t be scared! You don’t need to pay a qualified technician to do it for you! Once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy and can be pretty satisfying. Simply follow our step-by-step string-changing guide and watch your self-confidence grow string-by-string. In this blog, we’re focussing on changing the strings of a standard steel-string acoustic guitar. If you play a classical or Spanish guitar and want to change your strings, you can find some helpful tips on how to do it here.
- Video: Changing Acoustic Guitar Strings
- Remove the Old Strings
- Install Your Fresh Strings
- Once You’re Done
- Tips and Tricks
- See Also …
- First, you’ll need to get yourself a fresh pack of acoustic guitar strings. Since an acoustic guitar can only be strung with steel-strings, you need to use the right ones. Luckily, steel-string acoustic guitar strings are almost always clearly marked ‘acoustic guitar’.
- While we say that acoustic guitars can only be strung with ‘steel’strings’, they’re not always actually made out of steel and can sometimes come made of different metals or wound with different metals, like bronze.
- A lot of beginner guitarists feel most comfortable using a ‘Light’ set of strings. This means that the strings are thinner (or, in tech-speak, have a ‘lower gauge’), so it’s easier to press the strings down and get a clear note. A pack of Light strings usually includes gauges: .011 – .052 or .012 – .054. A lot of people also find that a ‘medium’ gauge, .013 – .056 set of strings (also known as ‘regular’) have the most comfortable playing feel. If you want strings that feel even more flexible under your fingertips, you could also go for a set of ‘extra light’, .010 – .047 strings. If you need a little help picking out the right strings, you can find some tips here.
- A few more string-changing themed tips can be found at the bottom of this blog.
Video: Changing Acoustic Guitar Strings
Remove the Old Strings
- Loosen each string by turning the corresponding tuning peg (also known as a button or machine head). The string is loosened by turning the tuning button towards you but you’ll immediately feel which way is right. By using a string winder (image .1) you’ll be able to do this much quicker.
- Using wire cutters, snip the loose string at its middle, and cut it in two.
- Loosen the corresponding bridge pin (the pin that keeps the string in place at the bridge on the body of the guitar) and pull it out. This is made much easier using a bridge pin puller, like the one seen in image .2. Removing the pin without a bridge pin puller may cause damage to the pin or the bridge. But you’ll find that a lot of string winders actually come with a useful built-in bridge pin puller.
- Pull the string ends out of the corresponding machine head and bridge hole.
Install Your Fresh Strings
Get your new pack of strings ready, and to install each individual string, follow these steps:
- Poke the ‘ball-end’ (the end that has a small metal hoop attached to it) of the string into the hole in the bridge where the bridge pin is inserted.
- Lightly pull the string towards the sound-hole of your guitar, so that the string ‘bends’ over the saddle.
- Slot the bridge pin into the hole to secure the ball-end of the string.
- Hold the string at its other end, near its corresponding machine head. Then bend the string at the height of the following machine head (or 3 or 4 finger-widths above the corresponding machine head – see image .3).
- Follow the steps illustrated by images 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Tip: Don’t hold the string too tightly, making sure that you have a little length to play with as you’re winding the string into the machine head, and so that it can be wound around the machine head at least 3 times (see image 9).
- Turn the tuning button to tighten the string.
– Make sure the string is slotted into the corresponding groove of the nut and hold the string down just behind the nut. This makes sure that the winding stays neat as you tighten the string.
– Don’t tighten the string too much. For now, just make sure that it’s tight enough not to slip out of the nut.
– While initially tightening the string, a string winder can be used to make the process a little bit quicker. But make sure not to wind too fast since it can quickly tighten the string to a higher pitch than intended. This can put too much stress on the string and might break it!
Once You’re Done
- Tune up your guitar. Begin with the outermost strings on either side and work towards the middle. If you’ve never tuned a guitar before, you can find a helpful tuning guide here.
- Since the strings are new, they need stretching in otherwise they’ll stretch as you’re playing and quickly sound out of tune. Pull lightly on each string to stretch it and press against it with your thumb, as illustrated in image .11.
- Tune up your guitar again and repeat these 3 steps until your strings are nicely stretched in and no longer go out of tune too quickly.
- Trim the loose ends of the strings that are sticking out of the machine heads (see image .10).
Tips and Tricks
- Change your strings when they start to sound dull. If you’re playing your guitar a lot, you can wear out your strings quickly. But even if you don’t play that much, the strings will still deteriorate over time. Of course, you could just wait until a string breaks but this can often happen at the worst possible moment.
- When you do break a string, it’s always best to change all the strings and not just the broken one. If you change one string, the rest will sound dull while the new string will sound fresh and bright. As such, changing all of the strings will give you a balanced sound. Also, if one string breaks, it usually means that the rest are about to break.
- Always use a pack of strings that is compatible with your specific instrument. For example, never install a set of steel strings on a classical guitar or put nylon classical guitar strings on a steel-string acoustic guitar. Since the guitar has not been built to take these strings, it can actually cause damage as well as tuning problems, and you’ll probably struggle to install them in the first place.
- Experiment with different packs of strings to find out what suits you best in terms of sound and feeling. Most beginners will choose a set of light strings while they build up their finger strength since it’s a little easier to hold down notes and chords on the fretboard. But later, by using a set of thicker, or heavier strings, you will notice that the notes have a longer sustain – meaning that the note lasts longer after it has been played. There are other features of different strings that will effect the sound, such as the materials used to make them, the construction of the wound strings, and whether or not they have been given a special coating. See our tailor-made guide to get more help when choosing acoustic guitar strings.
- You’ll find the names of each string printed on every pack of strings so that you know which string should go where on your guitar. The correct order is: E (thickest), A, D, G, B, E (thinnest). If the pack only has the string gauges (the numbers that indicate the thickness of each string) printed on it, then this is just as easy. Simply install the thickest string (biggest gauge number) in the bottom E position first, and then install each string in order, finishing with the thinnest (smallest gauge number). Some strings even come colour-coded, making life even easier!
- Just after you’ve removed all of your strings to put new ones on, this is the perfect opportunity to give your fretboard a good clean. You can find the perfect stuff for cleaning your guitar here.
See Also …
» How to Choose the Right Acoustic Guitar Strings
» How to Tune Your Guitar or Bass
» How to Choose the Right Acoustic Guitar
» How to Change Classical Guitar Strings
» How to Choose the Right Acoustic Guitar Strings