How To Change Electric Guitar Strings

How To Change Electric Guitar Strings

You can wipe them down as often as possible, you can do your best to keep them clean and in good condition, but eventually you’ll just have to admit it – guitar strings aren’t meant to last forever, and it’s high time that those rusty old things currently befouling your prized axe just have to go.

Nobody particularly enjoys this part of playing guitar, but it’s something we all need to do. It’s a daunting task for a first-timer – but there’s surprisingly little to go wrong, and it’s far better to learn how to do it yourself than be stuck with the embarrassment of having to ask somebody at the guitar shop to do it for you!

Here’s a quick guide to changing your guitar strings!

Removing Old Strings

First of all, you’ve gotta get those nasty old strings off. A luthier in a rush might well just cut the offending articles off with a set of wire cutters, but perhaps you don’t feel that confident.

No problem at all – simply unwind the string using the tuning pegs on your guitar until the strings are loose enough to be removed from the guitar by hand.

Simply unwind them from the tuning peg, then remove them from the bridge – Floyd Rose users will need to free the string from the block in the bridge holding them in, so you’ll likely have to get a hex wrench out. Those without tremolos can simply thread the string out of the guitar.

If you’re just intending to quickly replace your strings, it’s best to do them one by one – that is, take one string off, and then replace the same string from your new pack. However, if you’re looking to give your guitar a clean and polish too, then you might well be better served by removing all of them at once.

Wipe Your Guitar Down

If you’ve taken all the strings off, now is a great time to give your guitar a bit of a clean. A damp (NOT dripping) microfibre cloth is a great way to get a lot of dust and grime from your guitar, and can work wonders – after that, a bit of polish is an optional, yet useful step in making your guitar look its best.

It’s also a great time to give your fretboard a clean and an oiling, if need be. Just make sure the fretboard is perfectly dry before you even think about putting new strings on it! Give it a wipe down with a clean dry cloth after doing any cleaning – and, of course, make sure your guitar never gets too wet in the first place!

Even if you’re simply trying to quickly change your strings, however, it’s definitely worth giving the body and neck of your guitar a quick wipe down. Just make sure you wipe it down with a dry cloth immediately afterwards, so no water is left to sit on your guitar!

One At A Time

As mentioned before, replacing strings one at a time is certainly the easiest way to just get a new set on. It’s far easier to avoid confusion this way – as you take a string off, you replace it with a fresh one from the new pack.

This way makes it easy to keep track of your progress, as you can simply work your way into the pack from thickest string to thinnest. One of the most annoying things that can happen when changing strings is getting the wrong string in place – doing it this way avoids that!

There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking all of the strings off at once – and in fact, it has the advantage of making your guitar a little easier to clean down. However, if this is your first time, you’ll likely want to make things as easy as possible on yourself – so, therefore, one at a time may well make things a lot easier for you!

Through The Holes

How to actually get them on, though? Well, start by threading the bare end of the string through the bridge.

Some guitars will actually need you to thread the string through the back of the guitar – you can tell these because they have 6 holes going through the body of the guitar. Also, of course, you’ll have removed the strings already – so you’ll be simply threading them through the opposite way that you removed them.

Note that the strings have little ferrules on one end. On most guitars, they’re what holds the string onto the guitar at the bridge – but on Floyd Rose and similar bridges, you might have to cut these off so that the string will fit in the bridge.

At the tuning peg end, simply thread the whole string through, and leave about as much excess string as the distance between two tuning pegs. Turn the tuner until the string grips – you don’t need to do loads of turns or leave loads of excess, about an inch is plenty!

Tune Up To Pitch

Now that you’ve got the strings on, time to play, right? Not yet – everything is floppy and out of tune! You’ll need to tune them back up to pitch. In case you’ve forgotten, this goes (from thickest string to thinnest) EADGBE in standard tuning.

Bear in mind that a guitar is a piece of slightly flexible wood, with some metal strings creating tension in it – this makes it act as a spring! So, the tuning stage might take a little while, which is where the next stage comes in.

Stretch ‘Em

Note that you’re not actually stretching the strings as such – you’re actually going to be removing some of the slack from the string winding around.

Press down on the string at around the 12th fret with the left (fretting) hand – and with the right thumb, push down and pull up on the string between your fretting finger and the nut of the guitar.

Ideally, you’ll be pushing and pulling in the same direction as if you were bending a note on the guitar! This will take out excess slack in the string at the post, which will help it stay in tune once brought up to concert pitch.

Tune Up Again

Now that you’ve pulled some of the slack out – retune your strings! You’ll likely find that the last step pulled them out of tune a little. Better that it happened now than mid-solo!

Conclusion

That’s it! Restringing your guitar is an essential skill – hopefully, this guide has helped you learn how!

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