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How To Replace Guitar Strings In 6 Easy Steps

Replacing your electric or acoustic guitar strings may seem like a daunting task at first. You may have heard or read horror stories from other players on how difficult, time-consuming or even dangerous it can be.

However, being able to replace your guitar strings is an important skill if you play regularly. And, given that you may be unable to visit a specialist shop for the foreseeable future, now is the ideal time to master this skill.

With the right technique, this is a simple task – and one that will allow you to become better acquainted with your instrument.

So, let’s start with the basics.

Why should I restring my guitar?

As time goes by, your guitar strings will naturally become worn through playing. This can negatively impact their tone and clarity, whereas new strings create a much crisper sound.

Older strings are also more prone to breakage and can therefore pose a hazard if they snap off.

They’re also more difficult to tune – another reason why replacing them will improve your musical output.

Furthermore, you’d be surprised at how much dirt, dead skin and sweat can build up on your strings… which is detrimental to sound, but also pretty disgusting.

So, replacing them doesn’t just improve your sound in practical playing terms but also your hygiene! Taking the strings off provides a good opportunity to give your guitar a general deep clean – which we’ll go into later on in this blog.

How often should I replace my guitar strings?

It depends on how often you play. Professional musicians who use their guitar on a daily basis will need to replace strings once or even twice a month to ensure a consistent sound quality. However, an amateur player who picks up a guitar several times a week for jamming sessions or lessons can probably get away with changing them bi-monthly.

Remember, you’re unlikely to spot the degradation in your strings as they age. The sound won’t suddenly become dull – this happens over time. But you’ll immediately notice the difference in feel and sound from replacing them with a fresh set. So, what are you waiting for?

What tools will I need?

The basic tools you need to replace any guitar strings are:

  • A pack of new strings (obviously…) Make sure they’re the right type – i.e. electric or acoustic. It seems obvious, but it’s an easy and frustrating mistake to make. Especially as you may have been waiting a while for the strings to arrive by post in the first place. You’ll also want to check the string gauge (its thickness or diameter) for your preferred sound. A useful guide to string gauges can be found here. Top tip: it’s best to change all your strings in one go, as this maintains a consistent tone.
  • Wire cutters. You can get these from almost any DIY shop.
  • A string winder. This shouldn’t set you back more than around £10. It’s not essential but saves time and makes the job much easier!
  • A tuning machine or tuning video also helps if you cannot tune by ear or just want to be 100% sure.

How do I replace the strings on my acoustic guitar?

Step one: remove the current strings
Place your guitar somewhere flat, sturdy and padded so you don’t scratch it.

Starting with the sixth string (the largest and thickest one), loosen each string at the neck of your guitar until it is slack. You’ll be able to tell when it barely makes a note.

Warning: your guitar holds some serious tension in the strings. This can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Always be aware that they could ping off at any point if they’re not slack enough when you try to remove them!

Once the strings are slack, remove the bridge pins with the string winder, which should have a notch specifically for this purpose. Once the pin’s out, you can also remove the string from the bridge of the guitar.

Repeat these steps with the rest of the strings.

Step two: time for some TLC
Now that all the strings have been removed, why not clean your fretboard and give your guitar a once over? We recommend lemon oil for wooden fretboards.

Step three: thread the new string
Face the slot of the bridge pin towards the bridge pin holes of the guitar and push the pin gently into the hole together with the string. At the same time, pull on the string with your other hand to ensure the ball is at the bottom of the bridge pin. When you’re adding new strings, make a 45-degree bend at the ball end. This will help keep them in place.

Step four: attach to the machine head
Pull the string up along the fret board and draw it through the correct tuning peg like a shoelace, going from inside to outside. Then thread the string back on itself to secure. Turn the machine head to tighten the string, making sure the string winds around the peg from the inside to the outside.

Step five: tune your guitar
Tune your guitar to your desired pitch.
Repeat steps 3-5 for the remaining strings.

Step six: snip off the excess
Using the wire cutters, snip off any excess string.

How do I replace the strings on my electric guitar?

If you’re an electric guitarist, we’ve got some bad news – electric guitars need restringing more often than their acoustic counterparts. But, the good news is they’re actually much easier to restring.

Step one: remove the current strings
Place your guitar somewhere flat, sturdy and padded so you don’t scratch it.

Again, staring with the sixth string (the largest and thickest one) and loosen each string at the neck of your guitar until it is slack. You’ll be able to tell if when strumming it doesn’t make a proper note.

Warning: your guitar holds some serious tension in the strings. This can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Always be aware that they could ping off at any point if they’re not slack enough when you try to remove them!

Once slack, use the wire cutters to carefully snip the string halfway between the nut and the straddle – this is usually around the 12th fret. Or, you can unwind and remove from the bridge.

Step two: give your guitar some TLC
As in step two, above, use this opportunity to give your guitar a good clean and polish.

Step three: thread the new string
Ensure that the hole of the tuning peg is facing towards you – at a 90-degree angle to the fret board (parallel with the frets).

Starting with the sixth string (the thickest) thread the new string through the bridge and into the tuning peg, inside to outside and in the same hole that you took it out of. Make sure you leave yourself 2-3 inches of slack.

ring through the bridge and into the tuning peg, inside to outside and in the same hole that you took it out of. Make sure you leave yourself 2-3 inches of slack.

Step four: attach to the machine head
Then, taking the string at both sides of the peg, crimp the string in an ‘S’ shape. Take the end that comes out of the peg and pull it under the part of the string that is fed into the tuning peg. Then bring it back up to tie a loose knot. Hold the string gently down as you tighten the string anti-clockwise.

Step five: tune your guitar
Tune your guitar to your desired pitch.
Repeat steps 3-5 for the remaining strings.

Step six: snip off the excess.
Using the wire cutters, snip off the excess string.

And there you have it. Whether you’re replacing acoustic or electric guitar strings, in just six simple steps you’ll be making music again in no time.

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