How to Change the Strings on Your Acoustic Guitar

No matter how careful you are with your guitar, one thing is for certain, you can never get away from having to change your strings. Even if your guitar is just for show, strings become oxidized and wear down over time. With that in mind, Steve is here to take us through the simple process of changing the strings on your acoustic guitar. Is it difficult to do? No way! It just takes lots of practice. Once you’ve done it a few times, and more regularly, you’ll see how simple and rewarding it can be to change your strings yourself. There’s always a sense of pride that comes over you when you look at your guitar after finishing a repair job, and knowing you did the work yourself.

Before You Start, Know This:

There are many different ways to change your strings and everyone has a different opinion. I’ll be adding more details in my notes with hints that Ive picked up over the years from working with amazing guitar techs and acoustic guitar vendors. There’s no right or wrong here, as long as your guitar gets strung up securely and ready to play. We just want to give you a good place to start on your journey of guitar repair.

The Necessary Tools

   

The Workflow

  1. Find yourself a nice flat surface large enough to accommodate your guitar. Make sure you have something soft to rest your guitar on so that you don’t scratch the body (preferably a guitar mat).
  2. Using your string winder, unwind all of the tension from the tuning pegs and remove the strings from your guitar.
  3. Use this time to clean up your guitar. It’s always a good idea to keep polish and nice cloth handy. Wipe down the neck and body and get all the dust and crud off.
  4. Seat each new string inside the bridge with the pin on top. Push the pin into the bridge and give the string a tug so that you know it’s seated into place. You don’t want the string to sit at the bottom of the peg inside the bridge. When you give it that tug, you should feel it pop up to the top of the peg and sit closer to the bridge. Your guitar may not use this style of bridge. Yours may load from the bottom of the bridge closer to the body through 6 small holes. In that case, carefully pull the strings through the bridge being careful not to hold the string as you do so because when you let go it could snap down and damage your guitar. Just let it gently slide across the body.
  5. Once you have your strings in place, it’s time to wind them up. Start one string at a time with the Low E string and finish with the High-E string. Take your Low-E, pull it taut across the fingerboard, and for the low strings (E, A, D) cut it one full tuning peg ahead of where you’re stringing it. For instance, in the case of the Low-E, cut it just after the tuning peg of the A string. Now, feed the string into the eyelet of the tuning machine until it’s just sticking out of the other side, and then carefully hold the string tightly as you wind it up. The string winds should move downward as the tension is added to the string. Tune to pitch, and cut off the excess string from the tuning machine. Repeat this process for the A, and D string. In the case of the treble strings (G, B, High-E), you’ll want to do the exact same steps except in this case, the strings are much thinner in diameter; so, you’ll want just a little more slack before you wind it. The idea here is to give the thinner strings enough winds to cover the hole in the tuning machine. This will keep the string from accidentally breaking on you. So pull these strings a peg and a half before you cut instead of just one peg.
  6. So at this point your guitar should have a fresh set of strings on them. The last step is to give your strings a gentle stretch all the way up and down the guitar. The idea here is to help the strings stretch out as much as possible so that your guitar will stay in tune. Stretch each string up and down one at a time, then tune back up to pitch. Repeat this process at least 3 times, and even more if necessary.

Conclusion

6 simple steps and one short video later, and you’ve got yourself a fresh set of strings! We hope your guitar is playing beautifully now. Keep practicing and these string changes will become second nature to you. And please don’t forget, if you have any issues or run into any snags, head down to your local Sam Ash and talk to anyone in the guitar department. They’ll be happy to help you out.

 

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Dave Stutts
Dave Stutts is a native of the greater Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He received his Bachelors of Music degree in Theory & Composition from the prestigious Christopher Newport University music school. He is a music composer living and working in New York City. He specializes in orchestral/symphonic work as well as pop and digital music. His scoring work has ranged from Chamber Ensemble pieces (String Quartets/Brass Quintets), larger ensembles compositions (Wind Ensemble/Symphony Orchestra/String Orchestra), as well as short film and video game work.He is also a songwriter and a regular gigging musician in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. He refers to his style as Pop/Rock and Blues. His musical career began when he started playing guitar at age 5. He later progressed to Bass in middle school, Drums in High School, and finally Percussion and Piano in college. When asked, he has cited Michael Giacchino, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams as his major film and video game inspirations, and John Mayer as his primary pop inspiration.