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Change Guitar Strings

It happens to all guitar players at some point..you break a string. Gasp! No need to worry. Learning to change guitar strings on your electric or acoustic guitar is relatively easy. In this blog I will discuss the proper way to change guitar strings (whether they are old or broken) to keep your guitar sounding and playing the best it can. I will also show you a step-by-step guide to proper string changing with accompanying videos. This article will focus on steel-string electric and acoustic guitars, but not nylon-string classical guitars, which require a slightly different technique.

Change Guitar Strings

Guitar strings can break for many different reasons. Sometimes, for example, a string may have a manufacturing defect that causes it to break prematurely. It’s even possible that the guitar itself has a structural or mechanical issue that can cause a string to break. Most commonly, however, strings break when they have been used for an extended period of time and become old and worn out. You may even experience difficultly keeping your guitar in tune when they reach this point. They may not break, but they will not sound as good as a fresh set.

Some people like to change guitar strings one at a time while others prefer to remove every string before adding new ones. I prefer the latter approach as it allows me to clean the fingerboard and other parts of the guitar that are difficult to access when the strings are on.

To begin, loosen each string to the point that they are completely out of tune and floppy. Next, cut each string at the midpoint and remove from the bridge (on the body) and the tuners (from the headstock). At this point I like to clean up the frets, pickups, etc. with a soft rag. Now you’re ready to put the new strings on. Strings come in different sizes, or gauges, so it is wise to do a little research before you choose your new strings. Generally, the new strings should be the same gauge as the old set.

The new strings are labeled so you know which one is which. I typically begin with the low E string and work up to the high E string, but you could work from high to low if you prefer. The ball-end of the string is anchored in the bridge of the guitar while the skinny end is wound around the tuning peg. Once the string is secure in the bridge, it can be placed in the tuning peg and tuned to pitch. See the video for the proper winding technique. Placement into the bridge may vary depending on the guitar. In the video I will show placement into a standard 6-saddle electric guitar bridge, as well as a typical 6-pin acoustic guitar bridge.

It should be noted, if you only need to change one string, rather than all six, you can follow these same steps for that individual string. In addition, these steps also apply to guitars with more than the traditional six strings, such as 7 and 8 string guitars.

Once each string has been replaced and tuned, you will want to stretch them several times. This will help keep them in tune once you begin playing. Again, see the video for instructions.

Now you have a fresh set of strings and are ready to rock!

If you would like personal assistance with any of the blog concepts, online and on-location lessons are available from Let’s Play Music and Make Art, LLC located in Derry and Londonderry, NH. www.letsplaymusic.com

Daniel Saunders

Daniel Saunders

Daniel is the Guitar Program Supervisor at Let’s Play Music and Make Art, LLC. He holds a degree in Music Performance from the Musicians Institute in California where he taught for nearly ten years. He is also published through Hal Leonard for Guitar World Magazine Video Lessons.

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