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(Pictures) Step by Step Guide to Changing Guitar Strings

By Edited Dec 6, 2015 2 1

Time to Replace Those Strings!
Time to change those strings!

Has the sound of your guitar been sounding dull, bland, and flat? Did you snap your high e or just bought new strings? Well, it is time to replace those old ones! It can be a bit tough the first time learning, but once you have done it one time it is like riding a bike, you don't forget! This guide will be as detailed and comprehensive as possible.

 

Step 1 : Cut Off The Old Strings
Cutting Off Old Strings

Now, there are two ways to take off your old strings. Personally, I choose method 1 when replacing mine as it is quicker. But, if you are planning to keep any as back-up replacements, go with method 2!

 

Method 1: Simply take scissors and cut all six in the middle of the guitar (as pictured above). This will render each of them unusable, not being able to use ever again. Once you have cut them, they will snap into two parts. Just take the bottoms and un-thread them at the bridge of the guitar. Then for the tops, simply unravel the string and it will come off easily (Pictured Below). The second option is to loosen each by taking the tuner peg at the top of the guitar and twisting it, then once loose enough unravel and take it out of the tuning peg and out of the bridge (the bottom of the guitar).

Unwinding Strings

Method 2: This method requires more time, but if you want to keep your old ones incase the new ones manage to snap while tuning them or simply from playing, choose this approach. You will need to loosen all 6 by hand, 1 by 1 at the top of the guitar. Simply unwind , by turning the pegs in the correct direction, the pegs can be seen in the above picture. Once loose enough you can just take it and twist it around until it comes out.

 

Step 2: (Optional) Clean Your Guitar
Perfect Time to Clean Your Guitar

Now that your guitar is complete bare, it is open to being cleaned at spots that were very hard to reach before! I always take this opportunity to clean my guitar and get it shining like new! 

Planet Waves Shine Guitar Spray
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I clean my guitar a few times a week, and over the past year I have only needed TWO bottles total! I am still in the middle of the second bottle with it being more than half-full ."

 

Step 3: Take Out Your New Pack of Strings

New Strings

Sounds simple enough, right? 'Just take them out and put them on!', you may be thinking. Not so! You want to be very careful with each selection. You also want to know which color corresponds to which string (E, A, D, G, B or e) and where to put each. 

Personally, I choose D'Addario, though it all comes down to your own preference. Sometimes I will buy Ernie Ball  for a change of sound. If you are first starting guitar, the brand and size generally make no difference to you.

IMPORTANT!! There are DIFFERENT SIZE GAUGES! You DO want to find which 'gauges' are best suited for your playing needs. They will range from .9 to .13, this goes by the thinnest of the 6, so when you ask for a new pack for example, you should say something like ' Electric, 9 gauge D'Addarios / Ernie Balls '. It is also VERY important that you ask for electric specifically, you don't want to come home with acoustic instead of electric or vice-versa!

This guide explains the differences between string sizes and will help you narrow down what you should purchase. If this is your first time, maybe try each of the different sizes and see which you prefer.

 

D'Addarios'

D'Addario EXL110-3D Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings, Regular Light, 10-46, 3 Sets
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"This is my go to brand for new strings, every time. They are perfectly priced for the high-quality."

My Rating For D'Addario Brand

D'Addario Brand Guitar Strings KarmaMusic 2013-08-25 5.0 0 5
5/5

 

Step 4: Start Re-Strining The Guitar

Putting In The E

You can choose between starting with either the thickest 'low E' string, in this case it's colored bronze, or you can choose to start with the thinnest, 'high e', which is colored silver. I choose personally to start with the thickest  and work my way to the thinner ones.

This part is very important that you have your new string packaging next to you while putting them on. You want to make sure that you put the right size in it's correct spot. The above picture shows the bottom of the guitar toward the top and starting with the thickest low E (bronze) . The thickest one will always go in the far most left hole and brought all the way to the top to the tuning pegs.

Don't worry if the bridge falls off! You did nothing wrong, this will happen as when there is no tension keeping it in place.

 

Step 5: Have Each String In The Right Spot

Winding/Tightening First String

If you are following this guide with my replacement order, the thickest string first, you will have it brought all the way to the top to the tuning pegs. It is very important that you turn/tighten every one of them, on the left or the right side, the correct direction.

The picture above shows how the left side (E, A, D) should be turned, which is AWAY from the body of the guitar. The importance of this will be shown later in the "V" shape picture on step 6.

Step 5B: Leaving Enough Slack

Leaving Slack

This sounds tricky, but in-fact, very easy. When you are changing a string you need to be careful that you don't pull it entirely through to the tuning pegs without leaving slack in-between the bridge and the top of the fretboard (white arrow above).

In the picture above you can see exactly what you need to do. I am still on the 'low E', and what I am doing is pulling the string all the way through. Then once I have done that, I will slowly take the 'slack' out and lift it up (while holding my thumb down to keep it in the correct spot) to approximately the necessary length needed.

The amount of slack that you leave is not a huge deal, if you do less or more than what mine looks like, that is fine. Just make sure you leave some! It will make a difference when tuning the guitar at the end. If you leave less slack, it will be very sensitive when tuning and it will be less sensitive with more.  Just be sure to also hold down the right amount by putting pressure down where you see in the above picture.

Step 5C: Tightening Each String The Correct Way
Left Side Fully Strung

As you are holding down your finger at that spot, start tightening the string the correct direction, as it winds around the peg you will begin to notice that the string is gaining tension. Eventually, it will have enough tension that you release your thumb and finishing tightening with no pressure needed.

Once you have completed each of the strings on the left side, the E A and D, it should look like the picture above. Notice the arrows. They show how all three are winding around COUNTER-CLOCKWISE.

All of them are evenly spaced apart and going from the inner portion of the head and down. Make sure you also have each of them, in it's little, cut on the bridge, this is that white piece on the far right of the picture above, at the top of the fretboard.

Step 6: Stringing The Opposite Three

Strings The Right Side

Now that you have successfully strung the entire left side, and it's time to start on the other side, beginning with the G (4th thickest).

In the picture above you will see that the G is NOT going to the lowest peg on the right side, but the top. Make sure you don't make the mistake of putting the G in the wrong spot!  You want it to go right where I placed the white arrow in the picture. Then, you will continue doing what you did on the other side and tightening each string. 

Remember! This is a new side, which means you will need to tighten the strings by turning the peg the OPPOSITE direction. On the left side you turned each away from the body of the guitar, on this side you want to turn each towards the body.

Fully Strung

Once you have finished putting on and tightening each six in the correct spots, it should look like the picture above. If it isn't, it is okay but if you want to have it 100% properly re-strung, find your fault and re-do it.

Each string is coming out from the inside of the head of the guitar and going downward making a 'V' shape. Every one of them should be parallel, aswell as the same distance apart from one another. If it DOESN'T look like this, you turned one side or one string the wrong way.

 

Step 7: Tune All The Strings Properly

Tuning The New Strings

Easy enough! All you need to do, now that you have all of your strings in the correct spots and replaced them in all of the appropriate ways, is tune your guitar!

When tuning the guitar, generally everyone starts from the top (thickest) , the low E. If you do not have a tuner I highly recommend purchasing a Snark™, they are incredible. You just clip it on to the end of the guitar and pluck each string, and it will tell you how flat or sharp you are and what key it is in. 

Snark Tuner

Snark SN-2 All Instrument Clip-On Chromatic Tuner
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The order of strings, from thickest to thinnest are E , A , D , G , B , E . So your top-most string will be the low E and your lowest (and thinnest) will also be an E, just called the high E and has the B above it.  When tuning with fresh strings, don't worry if you go through each one and put them in tune then you go back and they are no longer in tune. This happens every time. You will need to re-adjust the tuning about 2 or 3 times before it will be stable. 

Step 8 (Final Step!) : Cut The Excess String Off
Cutting Off Excess String

You are finally finished! You have replaced your old and dull strings with crisp new ones that are now properly tuned and in the correct place. All that is left to do is cut off the excess. It is easy and can be done with scissors or pliers, anything sharp, it can get annoying when cutting the thinner ones. Just leave a little bit of excess incase you may need to re-do that particular string for whatever reason.

You have now successfully re-strung your guitar and ready to play!

 

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Comments

Sep 4, 2013 2:27am
The_Roller
Thanks, very informative article. I'm a keen guitarist but it's always good to refresh the memory on something like this.
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