How To Change Guitar Strings (Electric, Acoustic, Classical)


As a beginner in playing guitar, you may get frustrated when one of your guitar strings snaps. In such a case, you may set aside your guitar for a while. But in the worst case, you may completely give up learning how to play guitar because of that one broken string. Well, this is but natural for changing guitar strings seems difficult for beginners. Yet, there is nothing too complicated in replacing broken guitar strings. In fact, it is the most basic maintenance you can give your guitar.

Why Do Guitar Strings Need To Be Changed?

Guitar strings aren’t meant to last forever! Like all other parts of your guitar, the strings are subject to wear and tear. You will need to replace your guitar strings along the way. Here are some telltale signs that you need to replace your guitar:

  • If you feel that your guitar strings are becoming gummy or sticky to your fingers.
  • If they are becoming slow and dull.
  • If they are rusty.
  • if your strings often get out-of-tune
  • If you have a huge gig and you want to make sure that you got good strings on your guitar.

Whether you are a guitar virtuoso or a beginner, you will need to change your guitar strings. So before your guitar strings break, you better learn the steps on how to change guitar strings.

How Often Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?

The frequency of changing your guitar strings depends on how you use your guitar. Electric guitars need more frequent restringing than the classical or steel-string acoustic guitars. But this frequency may also depend on your guitar bridge and your usage of your guitar.

Serious and regular users of guitars definitely need to change guitar strings sooner. In fact, they will likely do it every month. On average, you should change your guitar strings once every three to four months.

Tools For Changing Guitar Strings

There are the tools you will need for the job:

  1. A diagonal cutter, the cut the old strings if you choose to, which I don’t recommend. And to cut the excess of the new strings.
  2. hexagon wrench if you have a guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge. You will need it to open the string locker at the nut.
  3. Other optional tools
    1. that you may need are peg winder to turn the pegs more quickly, it is more used for classical guitars rather than the acoustic and the electric.
    2. a neck cradle to rest the guitar safely
  4. Of course, you will also need a set of brand new strings.

Prepare Your Guitar

Although there is a small chance of hurting yourself while you change strings, it is better to be on the safe side. As a precaution, you should find a quiet and isolated space for this task. Look for a safe place where there are no children playing. Make sure likewise that the place is clean so that you will not misplace a pin or two or lose any of your tools.

Once you’ve found a nice place, you can then prepare your tools and your guitar. Gather all the needed tools and materials like those of the wire cutters and string or peg winder. But before anything else, you should have already bought a new set of your preferred new strings.

With all these materials at hand, then you’re all set for changing your guitar strings. Take your guitar out of its case. Some guitar stores sell special equipment for balancing a guitar. You can check out the nearest guitar store to your place for this type of equipment. You need to cushion the underside of your guitar to prevent scratches.

How To Change Electric Guitar Strings

The electric guitar’s strings need more frequent changing. But this may depend likewise on how you use your electric guitar. On average, you need to change your electric guitar strings every three to four months. But some electric guitar players usually change their strings at least once a month.

Ensure that you have the right set of strings for your guitar before you decide to detach the old strings. Strings come in various gauges. Some are heavy, and some are light. So when buying a string, make sure that you buy the right ones, it may be uncomfortable to use different gauge then you are used to.

I personalty use Elixir Strings Electric Guitar Strings NANOWEB Coating (view on Amazon) which are available in any thickness you want

1. Find a flat surface where you can lay your guitar.

As much as possible, the surface should be soft but steady and of a comfortable height. It should also give you enough elbow room to work on. It can be a sturdy table with a soft surface to prevent your guitar from getting scratches. If the surface is hard, you can place a cushion underneath to prevent scratching.

2. Check Your bridge and tuning pegs.

Different electric guitars, for example, have different types of bridges. There are two main types of bridges. the fixed or hardtail bridges and tremolo systems. Each of these two types has different subtypes likewise. A fixed type has the following kinds: Tune-o-Matic, wrap-around, hard-tail, Telecaster, and ever tune. For the tremolo systems, you can find the two-point tremolo, floating bridge, and dynamic vibrato.

Before you remove the old strings, ensure that you know what type of bridge your guitar has. This will give you a good idea of how you are going to install each new string to the guitar.

Attention: if you have a floating bridge you need to perform the steps 3 through 9 one string at a time, maximum two. If you remove all the strings at once you will need to have to do a setup for your guitar, which may be difficult if you are a beginner. In each section, I will specify if something needs to be done differently for this type of bridge

3. Open the nut string locker

If you have a floating bridge you will need to open the screws of the strings locker at the nut. You will need a hexagon wrench for that. Open all the screws and remove the holders.

4. Down-tune the strings

To unwind the strings, you need to turn the peg by your hand or via the use of a peg winder. As you down-tune a string, I prefer to start with the E string, the 6th. you’ll notice that it will sound deeper. Other guitarists immediately cut the strings using a cutter. But I would not suggest this to you for high-tension strings when cut may bounce back and hit you. You need to ease the string tension for safety reasons before clipping them. You can clip the strings all together once they are loose.

If it is your first time, I would suggest that you keep it slow and safe by loosening at a time a single string. Once loose, you can then unwind each string from the peg and set it loose from the guitar’s neck. Do this for each string until you have removed all six strings. Then, gather all the strings and wrap them together for safe disposal.

For the floating bridge-type guitar:

You need to unwind just one string at a time, a maximum of two. And this is so the correct tension on the bridge will maintain.

5. Remove the Strings

Electric guitars vary on how the bridge hooked the strings. With this type of guitars, you need to flip the guitar over. Then, remove the backplate covering the bridge. Afterward, you can push each string out. Once you got slack at the back, you can grip the ball at the end of the string and pull it. You should not yank the strings to avoid damage to your guitar. Once you’re done removing all the strings from the bridge, you can then flip over the guitar.

The best time to clean your guitar is right after you have removed all the strings. This is the best time too to inspect the surface of your guitar from top to bottom. Get a clean piece of lint-free cloth and wipe the neck down to the body where the strings had been before.

For the floating bridge-type guitar:

You will need to unscrew the string locker for that particular string that you unwind at the bridge using a hexagon wrench.

6. Clean The Neck

Clean the neck of your electric guitar, with a cloth and appropriate solutions for the neck.

7. Unpack the strings

Rip its cover off and check if you got a complete set. You should figure out the color coding and the dimension of each string. Once you’ve figured out which is which, you can then start threading each string through the bridge. After you’ve inserted it through the bridge, pull it up a bit and then thread it to the hole of the post. But beforehand, you should turn the tuning peg in such a way that the hole faces you.

Most guitarists would first thread the heaviest string or the “Top E” string. This string has the highest gauge number of around .050. It also has the mark of “6th string.

For the floating bridge-type guitar:

Clean as much as possible under the string you just removed. Locate the type of string that you just removed in the new set of strings.

8. Insert the new strings

You should follow the reverse path by sliding the string at the back through the bridge. Pull it on the other side away from the guitar. Then, insert the other end of the string into the hole of the tuning peg. The pegs of an electric guitar don’t have markings. As an advice, you should attach to the furthermost peg the thinnest string. While the nearest peg is for the thickest string.

You should leave around three inches of slack after inserting the string into the hole. Don’t overwind the string for at this point, you are still not yet tuning your string.

For the floating bridge-type guitar:

You should insert the string through the peg first, sliding across the neck to its position at the bridge. The end result should be that the circle of the string located at the head and the tip is placed inside the bridge clamper.

9. Lock the string

Grab the tip of the string and slide it through the bridge to the correct peg. Pull the string away from the neck around to 1 to 2 inches to create a space for the string. Loop the tip of the string once more through the peg to create a loop and pull it hard from the exit

For the floating bridge-type guitar:

You need to lock the string at the bridge with the hexagon wrench. To check if it is ok you need to try and pull it if it is in place than the lock is correct.

10. Pull the string up as you wind it.

Use your index finger to hold the string around 1 to 2 inches above the neck as you wind the peg. Afterward, you can turn the tuner counter-clockwise. Use tension to control the winding of the string. As you wind the string, make sure that you apply pressure on the string using your index finger but not too much. Once you feel your finger touches the neck you can release it and wind a bit more. You can keep on winding until you feel there is enough tension or there is a similar sound to the string.

There are many ways of wrapping the strings around the tuning peg. Some would wrap the string around a little over the string’s exposed end. And then, they would let the string coil below the first wrap-around. The important thing is that you coil the strings around the post right.

11. Tune the Strings

You may be aching to play your favorite guitar riff after having attached all the strings. But at this point, the strings of your guitar are not yet tuned. At the onset, the new strings may often go out of tune as you try to get the right tune. You should stretch out the strings by pulling each string one inch away from the guitar surface. You’ll notice that the pitch of the strings would drop. You can then tune each string again until it stops falling out of tune.

You can use various methods to tune your electric guitar. But the best way is to use a chromatic tuner to get the perfect pitch for your guitar.

Once you have tuned all the strings, you can then cut the excess string. This will make sure you didn’t cut too much after you winded the string.

For the floating bridge-type guitar:

Once you tuned the current string that you are replacing, don’t cut the excess. Go back to step 4 to the next string. After you changed all the strings and tuned them all at the end once more, only then you can cat the excess.

12. Close the strings at the nut locker

This is is for a guitar with a floating bridge. Before you close the string make sure to reset the fine tuners screws at the bridge, as you will be using them once you closed the nut.

Do the action in pairs of two and detune the strings a bit before you close the pair, as when you close it will bring them back up as it raises the tension. Once you closed a pair check it’s tuning is ok and fine-tune the two strings you just closed.

For the rest of the pairs check the tuning before you close the pair and fix the tuning if needed with the pegs.

After all the strings are closed at the nut check the tuning once again, and if the tuning can’t be done with the tuning screws at the bridge you will need to open the pair and adjust the tuning with the pegs and resetting the fine tuners screws.

How To Change Acoustic Guitar Strings

If your guitar is an acoustic guitar, you can follow the following steps:

1. Find a flat surface where you can lay your guitar.

You should find a good place for changing your guitar strings. This place should give you enough space to move around without bumping your guitar while you fix its strings. It can be a well-built table. Moreover, you should cushion the underside of your guitar to prevent accidental scratches.

2. Unwind the String

At the onset, it would be good to take note of the connection of the strings to the pegs. This will give you a good idea of how you will restring back the new strings. There is no issue replacing all the strings at once.

Using the peg winder or your hands, you can then turn the peg of each of strings. Start with the thinnest string (E-string), followed by the second string (A string) and so on. Do not completely unwind the string. You only need to unwind it enough for you to unwind using your hand. You are turning the peg winder right once you hear the string start to sound deeper when you pluck it. Other guitarists cut the strings off after down-tuning them. This may be a faster way to do it. Yet, I would prefer loosening the strings first and replacing them one at a time.

3. Remove the Bridge Pins

The bridge pin holds each string at the lower end. Once the two strings are already loose, you can then cut them right above the guitar’s soundhole. Afterward, you can unwind each string from the guitar peg. Be careful not to hurt yourself while you unwind each string. The string’s end may stab your skin or even poke your eye. You can wind each string after detaching it from the peg for safe disposal. You can then wipe the guitar surface with a clean cloth before installing the new strings.

The remaining parts of the strings are still attached to the guitar by the bridge pins. Hence, you must remove them by lifting the pins. Some guitarists use different items to unplug the pins from the bridge. This isn’t a good idea. Why? Because you may scratch the surface of your guitar and the bridge. The best thing to do is to use the cutout located at the winder’s opposite end. Manufacturers of cut out designed its other end for removing guitar pins. It is definitely safer to use!

Once you’ve unpinned the pins, you can then remove the remaining parts of the strings. Make sure that you remember where you have pulled off each pin. Each pin corresponds to a specific hole, and if the pins got mixed up, they may not fit well into the holes of the bridge.

4. Clean the guitar’s neck

Before you continue to make sure you clean the guitar’s neck with a cloth and the proper solutions.

5. Unpack the strings

Now that you have removed the old strings, you can then rip the cover off your new strings. Then, check the set if it is complete. Figure out the color code and dimension of each string. Once done, you can then go on with installing each string.

6. Install the New Strings

Once you’ve completely removed the old strings, you can then unpack your new set of strings. Install the lower end of each string into the hole using the corresponding pin. Start with the “E” string; then with the “A” string. Ensure that you understand the color-coding. You should also know the dimension of the strings on the package before installing them. You don’t want the strings to get mixed up.

Each string has a ball at one end that you need to insert into the hole. Each pin also has a notch or groove. You should ensure that this groove faces towards the headstock. This notch goes along with the string. Ensure that the string goes first into the hole. Afterward, you can push the pin back into the hole. Make sure that you tug on the string as you push the pin down to ensure that the string is secure. You must do that because you don’t want the pin to slide while you are playing the guitar. Then, let the installed string hang loose while you install the second string.

7. Lock the strings

Now that you’ve attached the strings to the bridge, you can then attach them to the tuning posts. Start with the “E” string. Hold the other tip of the “E” string. Then, stretch the string and pull it up to the neck. Slide its tip into its corresponding peg hole. Bring the string about an inch beyond the tuning peg. Wrap the string twice around the peg. Afterward, insert the end into the peg hole right between those two loops that you have created. Stretch the string with your other hand to give it enough tension while you wind the string.

8. Pull the string up as you wind it.

Afterward, you can use your peg winder to wind the string to the post. Start to wind the string from the top going down to the bottom of the post. Press the string down while you take hold of it to guide it down the post. Keep the wind nice and even all the way to the bottom, giving you a proper angle over the nut. You should use your index finger to hold the string around 1 to 2 inches above the neck while you wind the peg. Turn the tuning peg counter-clockwise. Using your index finger, maintain a certain tension while you wind the string. Don’t apply too much pressure.

At this point, you are not yet tuning the string. You are simply locking it to the peg. Once you’re done winding one string, you can then go on with the next string until you got all six strings installed. Once you’re done with winding all the strings, you’re almost done restringing!

9. Tune Your Guitar

At this point, you are obviously aching to play your guitar for all your guitar strings that are already attached. You can then start tuning the strings. At the onset, there is a tendency for new strings to go out of tune. Hence, you should stretch out the strings after tuning them. Pull each string one inch away from the guitar surface. You’ll notice that the pitch of the strings would change. This is but natural for new strings for they are still adjusting to the tension. Afterward, you can then tune again each string until it stops changing pitch.

There are many ways to tune your guitar. Yet, the best way is that of using a chromatic tuner.

After tuning the strings, you can then trim the excess strings. Trimming the excess strings after tuning ensures that you don’t cut too much after winding the string.

How To Change Classical Guitar Strings

There are telltale signs that you need to change the strings of your classical guitar. If they sound blunt and buzz, or if the strings no longer give you perfect tune, then you need to change them. Here are the simple steps on changing the strings of your classical guitar:

1. Find a flat surface where you can lay your guitar.

It is good to do the changing of the strings of your classical guitar in a place where you will not be disturbed by playing children. Hence, look for a place that is quiet and free of distraction. It should provide you with enough space to work on without bumping your guitar. It can be a sturdy table of a comfortable height. Also, get yourself a cushion that you can place underneath your guitar while you change strings.

2. Loosen the strings one by one.

Loosen all the strings until you hear a deeper sound. Once loose, you can then slide it out of the post. This is a safer way to do it. But if you want to speed it up, you can get cutters and immediately cut all six strings at the same time. But I won’t suggest this to you. You can instead undo the knot at the bridge and remove the String.

Once loose, you can untie the knot at the bridge by pushing the string back to where the knots were. Then, completely pull the string from the hole. Afterward, you can dispose of the old strings.

3. Clean the Guitar using a lint-free cloth.

The best time to clean your classical guitar is right after you have removed the strings. Make sure you wipe the surface with a clean cloth. This is the best time likewise to polish the surface of your guitar with a proper solution.

4. Unpack your new strings

Check and recognize all the strings that you have. Don’t use acoustic strings on a classical guitar for these strings will ruin the guitar as they create bigger tension.

5. Install the New Strings

You start with the “E” string. Insert the string to the hole in the bridge that corresponds to that string. Be sure that you get the right set of string. The strings for classical guitars include three metallic strings for the base and 3 bottom nylon strings.  

Since the 6th string is very thick, you can loop it around once. Steady the string with your forefinger and thumb as you insert and loop it around the bridge hole. Afterward, you can knot the string. Under the loop, you can tuck the string and tighten it up. You should press the string down against the soundboard to prevent it from sticking out. If it sticks out, the string would tend to be undone. Ensure that the string’s tail is press down over the white lip when you tighten the knot as you pull both ends. Repeat this process for other strings.

6. Lock the string

Now that you have firmly attached the strings to the bridge, you can then lock the strings to the tuning peg. Start with the “E” string. Grab the tip of this string and pull it up to the neck towards the tuning peg. Align the holes of the posts upward. Run the 6th string into the hole that corresponds to the 6th string. Push the string several inches to pass the hole so that you can grip it on the other side. Then slide the string through the gap below the post. Pull the string either below or above the capstan (white plastic part). Leave a slack of around 4 inches in the middle part of the neck. Then slide the string through the loop right above the capstan. You can either do this twice to keep the string secure before winding it up.

7. Pull the string up as you wind it

You can use a peg winder to tighten up the strings. Press the string down with your index finger as you wind each string. Remember that at this point, you are not yet tuning your string. Ensure that you wind each string nice and even. Maintain a certain good tension as you wind the string. Don’t apply too much pressure as you wind.

8. Tune the Strings

Once you have completely locked and attached all strings to their corresponding tuning pegs, you can now start tuning your guitar. You can use a chromatic tuner for this purpose. At the onset, several times, your guitar strings will get out of tune. This is but natural for new strings are adjusting to the tensions. Pull the strings than an inch above the guitar surface. You will notice that the strings usually change their pitches. Then, tune again your guitar until it perfectly stays and does not deviate from the right pitch.

The best time to cut the excess strings is right after you have tuned your guitar. This is to prevent overcutting the strings prior to installing them. Hence, you can now get hold of the wire cutter and cut the excess strings. Afterward, you can start playing your classical guitar.  

If you found this article useful you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board

Jacob

I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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