Restringing an electric guitar AND restringing an acoustic guitar – Kind of important? YES! Fresh strings are the greatest thing on a guitar and a sure way to improve your existing gear.
How do you know when to change your strings? Well, they should be shiny and metallic looking. Compare your old strings to your new strings. If they are obviously, vastly different in colour, that’s usually a good sign! Also, if you’re having problems with your guitar staying in tune, new strings can help..or if you’re just looking at improving the way your guitar sounds, then look no further!
First things first is to get those old nasty strings off of the guitar. But wait! Don’t snip them off when they’re at full tension. Flexed wood doesn’t like that too much. Loosen all the strings so there completely saggy and use whatever means necessary to get them off. Snip them with wire cutters or whatever. Just take them all off and put them in the garbage or some kind of metal recycling system you may have implemented. Some People believe that you shouldn’t entirely relieve the guitars neck of it’s strings tension and will remove one string and replace one string at a time. This takes a bit longer, and I haven’t had any problems with the steps that I have for you here in all the years of changing strings my 8 guitars that I own (most are $2000 +).
This would be a good point to give your fret board a wipe down using a clean dry cloth to remove any gunk. Make sure to dig around each side of the frets, as this is an area prone to gunk buildup.
THE ONLY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE 2 STYLES OF GUITARS:
For Electric guitars:
So you just have to ask yourself one question…and it’s not – ‘Do I feel lucky?’….It’s – Do I have a Fender style Bridge or a Gibson style bridge?
At the end of the day, we’re just tightening strings around a post but these different style bridges are can certainly send us for a loop. A sure way to tell is: Do you insert the strings through the backside of the guitar and the strings actually go through the guitars body? If yes, this is a Fender style bridge, commonly used on Strats and Tele’s. So you’ll probably have to take that white rectangular piece of plastic off (and many people leave them off). Basically, if you don’t have this kind of setup, you have a Gibson style bridge, which is more self-explanatory.
For Acoustic Guitars:
The only difference with acoustic guitars is those weird looking nubs that hold the strings in – the string pegs. Once you’ve loosened off your strings, sometimes you can use your hands but if you can’t get the strings detached from the guitar, just use any means necessary. One is to reach your hand inside of the guitar and find the string pegs and push upwards on them so they pop out. Another is to use a set of pliers and pull them up and out. The most convenient way though, is to use a string winder tool and they all have a little area on them designed exactly for this purpose! Just insert the area into the string peg, and pull up to pop them out of the body. Similar to using pliers, but it won’t chew up your string pegs.
When we move on after this paragraph, the remaining points are the same whether you’re re-stringing an acoustic or electric guitar! woot!
Put the string ball into the hole, insert the string peg with it’s notch in the forward position so the notch points toward the direction of the string. We wanna get this string tightly in there so it doesn’t move when we start tightening the string – so grab the loose string, pull on it and simultaneously hold the peg into place by pressing down on it. You’ll feel it snug into place, you can even tug on it a bit to do so. Once it doesn’t shift any more, that string is ready to be tightened up to pitch!
So, lets get those new strings on, shall we? So, before you take the guitar strings out of the package, you should know they come in a specific order and they come organized in the box so you don’t have to guess where the .036 size string goes and nonsense like that. If you jumped the gun on this and strings are out of the package and dangling everywhere, looks like you’ll be using your eye to gauge which string goes where! Lesson learned! (strings always follow big to smallest in order).
I like to do each stage to all 6 strings so the first one would be putting all the strings through the bridge (electric) or put them all in the string pegs (acoustic) so all you have to do is grab individual strings and wind them up. So since you have your fresh strings in the same order they came out of the box, just take each string, guide it through the bridge holes and move on to the next until you have all 6 strings dangling from the bridge system.
Now, lets wind ‘em up. This is a finicky area and you will get some different opinions on this. I personally use extremely thick gauge strings so the idea of winding up my size 60 string to the tension of an E note is a little bit hard on the neck of the guitar, so it’s a good idea for me to evenly disperse the tension of the strings.
So, how about we tighten the strings in this order: D, E , B, G, A, e
But wait! Before you do that there is The most important thing ever that you must remember. We NEED to have several string wraps around those winding posts! Why? Well, this helps keep the guitar in tune. If you can imagine, the more wraps you have, the more solid the connection the string has to the guitar so we run a very minimal chance of string slippage.
Before you tighten the strings, you need to have a certain amount of slack for each string to allow 2-3 wraps around the string post. Your middle finger is good for a few things including a measuring stick for this purpose. Put the string through the winding post. Touch the tip of your middle finger in the middle of the fret board (about 10th fret) and pull the string out of the winding post until it’s reached the other end of your middle finger. This is roughly about how much slack you need on the string before you start winding. Wind away! To ensure nice clean wraps, you can guide the string using your hand while your other hand is winding the tuner with that handy string winder you bought!
So how much do you tighten the strings? First, just get them all tightened to the point where they’re making clear sounds, or even a bit tighter than that. Stop tightening once the strings are all making audible, clear sounds. Use your handy dandy electronic tuner (you can download the Will Ripley tuner by searching Will Ripley in the App Store!) to tighten each string up to pitch. Don’t over tighten and snap a string!
Wow! What a fiasco, you’re done! But not quite.. These are brand new steel strings that have never been put at this tension before in their life. They need help to stretch out! You can help this process by pulling up on the string at the 12th fret and the bridge of each string, retuning your guitar and repeating this process until it seems the strings are staying in tune. sometimes you’ll actually feel the strings get looser as you pull on them.
I hope you found this article helpful. After doing this process many times, it will be a very quick and easy process! By the way, when your strings become discolored, don’t sound as good as they used to and get buildup on them – It’s time for a change!
Keep on rippin it up,