Changing the strings on acoustic and electric guitars

Guitar Tutorials, 04.09.2018

If a string breaks or wears out, the time has come again: The guitar strings need to be changed.

We will show you how to put on the strings of your guitar step by step.

Tip: Nylon strings that you only play with your fingers last the longest of all string types!

Tools you need to change strings

  • Diagonal Cutters: Determines the length of your strings
  • String winder (optional): Helps you to tension your strings up or down more quickly
  • Top or neck support: Protects the guitar head

When do guitar strings have to be replaced?

How often you have to change the guitar strings depends on which strings, how often you play your guitar, and the actual quality of the strings you are using.

If the strings are rusty, rough, or the wire around them comes loose, the strings should be replaced.

Changing strings is necessary:

  • Electric guitars: Every few weeks
  • Acoustic guitars with nylon strings: Every few months

If you are happy with the sound of your guitar there is no need to change them.

6 tips and tricks to help you changing the strings

  1. To avoid fresh strings from detuning, tune them first, then grab them in the middle and pull them upwards several times. Then tune them again afterwards.
  2. Apply a bit of graphite powder to the strings at the point where they come into contact with the saddle. This makes the strings run more smoothly through the notches (groove) of the saddle.
  3. Heat the end of thin strings with a lighter. This creates a small bead and the makes the guitar string easier to grasp.
  4. Don’t wrap too much of the string around the peg – you won’t need the whole string. The string expands, and the longer it is, the more often you have to tune your guitar.
  5. Change strings one by one – not all at once. This way you keep the tuning of the guitar for the most part.
  6. Note the rotation of the axis of the mechanics. If you turn the tuning peg as if you were closing a bottle (to the right “down”), you loosen the string and tune the string lower. If you turn the peg in the opposite direction, you tension the string and tune it higher.

Replacing the strings on classical guitars

  1. Release the tension of the string you want to change by turning the peg of the corresponding string with a string winder until the string hangs loose.
  2. Remove the old string by pulling it out of the mechanism (of the tuning pegs) and untie the knot on the bridge.
  3. Thread the new guitar string into the hole on the bridge from the sound hole. Let the string protrude about 10 cm.
  4. Tie this end round the string.
  5. A loop is created. Pull the string twice through this loop.
  6. Note: The end of the string should be behind the edge of the bridge. Pin the string between the tailpiece and the long string.
  7. Tighten the knot at the long end of the string – make sure that the short end of the string does not slip away.
  8. Turn the peg to the corresponding string on the guitar head until the hole is facing you.
  9. Now thread the string into this hole.
  10. Now, loosely wrap the string around the white piece of the mechanism (axis of the mechanism) a maximum of two times.
  11. The end of the string should face upward. Thread the string back down into the hole.
  12. Tune your guitar. The strings are tightened.
  13. Make sure that the strings run inside the groove of the saddle.
  14. Stretch the string(s) and tune again. Repeat the process a couple of times.
  15. Now, you can cut off strings that are too long, if necessary.

Replacing strings on acoustic western guitars

  1. Release the tension of the string.
  2. Now take the plastic part – also called bridge pin – out of the bridge end.
  3. Remove the end of the string.
  4. Unwind the other end of the old string from the peg and remove the string completely.
  5. Insert the end of the new string with the metal end into the hole.
  6. Put the bridge pin back again, so it holds the new string in place.
  7. Turn the corresponding peg towards the string so that you can easily access the hole for the string.
  8. Bend the string slightly above the ball end.
  9. Thread the new string into this hole and let the string protrude about 6 cm.
  10. Shorten the rest of that string.
  11. Turn the tuning peg to tension the string.
  12. Tune the acoustic guitar.
  13. Cut off protruding strings.
  14. Stretch the strings and tune the guitar again.

Exchanging strings on electric guitars

Strings used on electric guitars are usually thinner than strings that are used for western guitars. You will have to change these more often, as they show signs of fatigue more quickly.

  1. Release the tension of the string by turning the peg.
  2. Unwrap it from the mechanism, remove it from the bridge and remove the old string completely.
  3. Thread the new string into the tailpiece. The ball end holds the string in place on the bridge.
  4. Guide the string to the guitar head.
  5. Bend the string 4 cm above the corresponding peg.
  6. Turn the vortex so that the hole is clearly visible to you.
  7. Thread the string up to the bend in the hole of the mechanism.
  8. Turn the tuning peg to tension the string. Make sure that the string does not cross.
  9. Tune your electric guitar.
  10. Stretch the strings of your guitar and tune them again.
  11. Cut off any protruding strings.

Are you allergic to nickel?

Most guitar strings for electric guitars are surrounded by nickel wire. Depending on how strong your allergy to nickel is, playing the guitar becomes a pain. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: strings coated with plastic. Elixir strings with Nanoweb coating are recommended for players with nickel allergies.

Replacing strings on electric guitars with Floyd Rose tremolo

If your guitar has a Floyd-Rose tremolo, changing the guitar strings is a little different. The tremolo ensures that the guitar stays in tune by screwing the strings to the bridge

  1. Loosen the tension of the old string and unwind it from the mechanism.
  2. Loosen the screws on the Floyd Rose System with an Allen key.
  3. The new string must be fixed to the bridge with screws.
  4. Now, turn the corresponding peg on the guitar head so that the thread hole is facing you.
  5. Guide the end of the string through the groove in the saddle and the hole in the mechanism.
  6. Don’t pull the guitar string all the way through. The string should be wound around the mechanism 3 to 4 times.
  7. Bend the end of the string after the hole in the tuning peg.
  8. Now, turn the tuning peg to tension the string.
  9. Turn the fine tuner around at the bridge, once.
  10. Shorten protruding strings.
  11. Tune the guitar and stretch the strings.
  12. Tune the guitar again and tighten the saddle clamps.
  13. If necessary, adjust the pitch at the bridge with the fine tuners.
Thomas Dill

Thomas Dill

Thomas is the head of our electric guitar section at music2me. He studied classical guitar at the University of Giessen and electric guitars at MGI Cologne. Thomas works as a freelance musician, producer and author at Bonedo.de. He is also a professional music teacher.

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