April 09, 2015
How to Change Electric Guitar Strings
Although changing guitar strings isn’t a complicated task, the process can be intimidating to new or inexperienced players. Intimidating or not, being able to change guitar strings is an essential skill for guitar players of all skill levels- amateurs and students will need to know how to change strings whenever they break, and professionals will need to change strings before each gig. Whether your child’s guitar strings are rusted, discolored, or broken, skip the repair shop and install new strings yourself by following the below steps.
Note: to get started you’ll need a new set of strings, a string cutter, a peg winder, and a guitar neck support (optional, but recommended.)
Step 1: Decide How to Restring
There’s an age-old debate about the proper re-stringing method: is it better to replace the strings one by one or remove them all at once? While the choice is ultimately yours, each method has its own benefits. If you replace the strings one by one you’ll maintain the same amount of tension the neck is used to keeping the string tension in balance with the truss rod tension. If you choose to remove all the strings before restringing, you’ll be able to clean and wipe down the fretboard, which accumulates dirt, oil, and skin particles over time. There is no right or wrong restringing method, just choose the one that works for you.
Step 2: Remove the Strings
Use the peg winder to loosen the strings until they’re no longer under tension. Once you’ve completely loosened the string, unwind it from the tuning peg and remove it from the guitar completely. You may find it helpful to snip the string with pliers and remove it that way. Regardless of the method, be sure to discard of the strings appropriately, as old guitar strings can end up poking you in the foot or stuck in a vacuum cleaner. To prevent injury, loosely wrap and immediately toss your old guitar strings in the trash. Before moving onto the next step, take a moment to clean the newly exposed area of your guitar with a damp cloth. For extra neck support, use the guitar neck support tool throughout this step.
Step 3: Thread the Strings
While feeding the new electric guitar string through the guitar varies from instrument to instrument, the overall concept is the same: threading the new strings through the instrument. For some electric guitars, particularly Gibson style-guitars, you’ll simply feed the string through the tailpiece (in a manner that’s similar to stringing an acoustic guitar, if you’re familiar. Quite a few electric guitars, including Fender-style non-locking electrics, you’ll need to feed the string through the body of the guitar. To do so, flip the guitar over, locate the appropriate hole, and feed the new string through the back of the body and out to the bridge on the other side of the guitar.
Step 4: Leave Extra String Length
Once you’ve pulled the string through, bring the string up the neck of the guitar. Pull the string so it’s fairly taught, and measure about two inches past the tuning peg you’ll eventually be feeding the string through. (While using a ruler or tape measurer isn’t necessary, you may wish to do so your first few times until you feel comfortable enough to measure two inches on your own.) At this point, grab the string on both sides of the peg and crimp and crimp it into an “s” shape. Don’t overthink this- just grab both sides tightly and turn your hands clockwise to crimp both sides of the string along the tuning post.
Step 5: Lock & Tighten the String
Once the string is crimped, it’s time to lock the string in place. To do so, take the end of the string and pull it under the side of the string that’s being fed into the tuning post. After you go underneath the string, bring the end back over the top and pull it tight. During this step, you’re basically creating a loop with the end of the string around the rest of the string. Once locked, place your index finger on the string about 1-2 inches before it reaches the tuning peg. While you’re holding down the string turn your guitar tuner slowly counter-clockwise and make sure the string is winding around the peg in a uniform manner. While the goal is to create tension, don’t over-tighten as this can cause your brand new string to snap.
Step 6: Cut the Strings & Tune the Guitar
Once you’ve successfully wrapped the string around the tuning peg, use wire cutters to remove the excess string and tune the guitar. Leave approximately ¼” of the string to prevent slippage and, if your child prefers deeper tunings, leave about ½” of excess wire. Discard of any excess string immediately. Once your new guitar strings are on, tune your guitar frequently. As the string becomes accustomed to the tension, they’ll slowly stretch and lose their tone. This will only occur for the first few days, and can be avoided with frequent and regular tunings. While changing strings can be a difficult and time-consuming process the first few times, it’ll eventually become a simple part of everyday guitar maintenance.