Replacing Your Guitar Strings (Part 2 of 3)

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

You have begun the process of replacing the strings on your guitar by removing the 6th string on your guitar. We will now continue with the process.

As a reminder, it is highly recommended that you remove and replace only one string at a time. Removing all of the strings at once and then replacing them all at once can cause undue stress on the guitar and warp the neck.

Buying Replacement Strings

Before we continue with the process, let’s discuss the purchase of your replacement strings.

As you are looking to replace your strings, this may be a good time to do some serious comparison shopping. If this is your first time replacing strings, you may have started off with the stock strings that were shipped with the guitar. While these may have been great strings, and you may ultimately wind up replacing them with an identical set, now is a great opportunity to try something new.

No matter whether you play acoustic, electric, or bass guitar, there is a huge variety of brands, types, and gauges of string available. Brands such as Ernie Ball, Fender, D’Addario, Dunlop, Elixir, and many others are vying for your attention. The gauges range from ultra-light to extra heavy and are wound in different ways. Which ones should you choose?

Ask yourself some questions: What is my preferred genre of music? What is my playing style? Am I applying too much pressure on the strings or not enough? Am I looking for a heavier tone or a lighter one? Do I want strings that “ring” or “jangle” when I play? Am I looking for something a bit more deep and rich? Do I like the sound my guitar makes right now? These questions will help you determine what you are looking for. Once you have a better idea, check with your local music shop to see what will best suit your needs.

Continuing the Process – Electric

Take the 6th (the thickest) string out of the package. Feed the string through the holder (in most cases the tailpiece, although some models differ). Pull the string up through the bridge of the guitar. Turn the tuning peg so that the hole is 90 degrees from the neck of the guitar. Pull the string fairly taught, and using your eye to estimate, measure about one-and-a-half inches past the tuning peg you’ll eventually be feeding the string through. Crimp the string lightly at that point so the end of the string points out at a right-angle. Slide the string through the hole in the tuning peg, up to the point where the string is crimped. The end of the string should point outwards, away from the center of the headstock. Begin turning the tuner in a counter-clockwise direction, making sure the string is properly seated in the bridge. (If your electric has 3 tuners on each side, the last 3 tuners will turn clockwise to tighten.) As you tighten, hold the string down on the neck to provide extra tension while removing extra slack. Ensure that there is plenty of string around the tuning peg, and that it is secure.

Replacing the Strings – Acoustic

The process for replacing acoustic strings is similar. Place the 6th string over the hole in the bridge, and replace the bridge pin holding the string in place. Make sure it is secure. Work the string up through the bridge and replace it in the tuner. Turn the tuner in the opposite direction with which you de-stringed your guitar. As with the electric, reduce slack as much as possible.

An Often-Overlooked Step

Now that the string is in place, pull up on it for several seconds to stretch it out, then wind the tuner again. Repeat this several times. This will help properly wind the string and keep the pitch. Snip off the excess string.

Once you have completed this, move on to the next string. After a while, you will be able to replace a string within a few minutes. The next article will contain the final steps, along with tuning and maintenance tips.

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