Restring your Guitar the Easy Way
Not stringing a guitar properly can not only limit its ability to stay in tune, but can also cause string buzz and seriously impact its general sound quality.
This tutorial will show you, step-by-step, how to properly restring a guitar the easy way. This method will work on acoustic and most electric guitars as well as ukuleles etc. Classical guitars require a slightly different approach as do instruments with floating bridges.
Ultimately though the objective is the same, fit the string so it doesn't buzz and has enough wrap on the tuners to not come out, but not so much that the string slips.
Restringing a guitar is the perfect time to give it a clean, particularly the fretboard. With that in mind, at the very least have a piece of cloth to hand, possibly even some lemon oil to replenish the fretboard. A small decorators paint brush is a great tool for quickly dusting off the more awkward areas, like between the machine heads.
Make sure you have plenty of space if you're not using a workbench. It's very easy to damage a guitar when you're having to keep turning it round, don't have much space and have tools scattered about.
What You'll Need
- A set of new strings
- Wire cutters
- A string winder (optional)
Although string winders are optional, they are very useful, make winding the string quicker and more consistent. Some have string cutters built in and all have bridge pin pullers. The top string winder (see Image 1.) is attached to a motorised screwdriver, a luxury but very handy if, like me, you string guitars all day.
Removing the Old Strings
First slacken the string and remove it from the tuner, then:
Electric and classical Guitars: As the string passes through a hole in the bridge, it's generally a good idea, AFTER slackening the string, to cut the string in the middle to avoid pulling the coiled end (from the tuner) through the bridge slot and possibly scratching the bridge.
Acoustic guitars: Remove the bridge pin, ideally using a bridge pin puller, and simply lift the string out. Take care pulling the bridge bin as they can be quite tricky.
Make sure you have somewhere safe to put the old strings and off-cuts from the new. Steel strings can be quite dangerous, especially off-cuts from the higher ones, they are like needles and will easily pierce skin or slide up under a fingernail.
Also, for guitars fitted with Pietzo pickups in the bridge, it might be necessary to change the strings one at a time as opposed to all at once. This is because they can move, if there is no tension on the bridge, which may impact performance.
Finally, always use the correct type and gauge of strings for your guitar. Using steel strings on a classical will damage the neck for example. If in doubt a quick search on the manufacturers website will provide the information you need.
2. Fix the String at the Bridge
Electric Guitars: First thread the string through the bridge then run it over the saddle making sure it sits correctly.
Acoustic guitars: Insert the bridge end of the string into the slot, keeping it pressed toward the neck side of the slot, and make sure the nipple catches the inside of the slot by pulling gently. Next, gently insert the bridge pin with the groove also pointing toward the neck.
Make sure the string is seated correctly by gently pulling on it. If the bridge pin starts to move out, the string has not caught on the inside of the slot. Once you're sure the end of the string is catching correctly, push the pin with enough pressure to seat it correctly.
Classical guitars: First, thread a couple of inches of the string through the neck side of the bridge hole toward the back. Next fold string back over the bridge toward the neck, thread it behind itself and back away from the neck. Then thread it twice through itself toward the back of the guitar. The second time the string should sit trapped under itself where it come out of the bottom end of the bridge hole.
Generally it's a good idea to avoid trimming the string until it has be brought up to tension.
For all types of guitar it helps a lot at this point to use a capo, somewhere around the 7th, fret to trap the string with enough tension to stop it moving around. This makes fitting it to the tuner and bringing it up to tension a lot easier.
3. Fitting the String to the Tuner
First, pull the string tight at the headstock.
If you're using a capo to hold the string in place, you may need to loosen it while pulling.
Make sure the string is seated correctly in the nut slot.
Next, make a kink in the string 1 tuner past the capstan (the part of the tuner that you wind the string around) you will be winding the string on to.
Next, pull the string through the capstan hole to the kink you have made.
Next, start winding the tuner so the string gets tighter.
The first wind goes above the captain hole and the rest go underneath.
This locks the string in place and makes sure the string doesn't slip and go out of tune.
keep winding the tuner button until the string is up to pitch then give it a good stretch.
This helps the new strings hold their tune quickly.
New strings have a lot of elasticity and will keep going out of tune unless they are stretched.
Finally, trim the string to fit.
Cut the excess as close to the tuner as you can taking care not to damage the tuner with the cutters.
For classical guitars you will also need to cut the excess from the bridge. Leave about 5mm to avoid the string being able to unwind itself.
Repeat for the rest of the strings and play!