Beginner stuff > Changing Strings

Changing Strings

Guitars are used in a variety of music styles and the strings you choose will effect how well your guitar can perform certain techniques. Firstly, you need to choose which type of strings you are using (electric guitar, acoustic, classical or bass), making sure that you have the right number of strings as some basses come in five or six string varieties.

Secondly, you will need to decide which gauge (thickness) of string you will require. Light to medium strings are usually used for rock and blues, heading towards mediums for most rhythm guitarists. Heavier gauges give more volume and stronger tone, which is why acoustics have a huge range of gauges. For blues, lights will offer easier string bending. However, finger pickers may find that medium lights are more appropriate.

Gauges*
Light 0.010 - 0.047
Medium-light 0.011 - 0.052
Medium 0.012 - 0.056
Heavy 0.013 - 0.062

*Manufacturers may vary gauges slightly according to brand.


Standard electric guitars

  1. Unwind all of the machineheads and remove the old strings. This can be made easier with string winders and string cutters.
  2. Place the new string through the hole in the bridge. This is usually accessed on the reverse side of the body.
  3. Thread the string through the string-post then cut the string, leaving 5cm (approx.) of length spare.
  4. Wrap the string around the tuning peg then tighten the machinehead, leaving some slack on the string. Tighten until the string supports itself.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for all of the strings.
  6. Tune each string to the correct pitch.
  7. Stretch each string by pulling it away from the fretboard.
  8. Tune each string to the correct pitch again. If you find that the strings are slipping out of tune repeat steps 7 & 8. This should stabilise the tuning.

Locking tremolo systems

  1. Loosen the nut locks and put them somewhere safe.
  2. Follow steps 3-10 for each string, making sure you only change one string at a time.
  3. Loosen the machinehead and remove the string from the string-post.
  4. Loosen the lock bolt on the saddle of the bridge. You will find a metal block in the saddle, make sure you keep it safe.
  5. Remove the old string.
  6. Take the new string a cut off the string ball at the end. These are not needed for locking tremolo systems.
  7. Place the string into the saddle and tighten the bolt. Do not over-tighten to the point of crushing the string.
  8. Thread the string through the string-post then cut the string, leaving 5cm (approx.) of length spare.
  9. Wrap the string around the string-post then tighten the machinehead, leaving some slack on the string. Tighten until the string supports itself.
  10. Make sure the fine tuning knob is in the middle position.
  11. Follow steps 3-10 for each string, making sure you only change one string at a time.
  12. Stretch each string and tune to the correct pitch using the machineheads.
  13. Put the nut bolts back on and tighten firmly.
  14. Stretch the strings again.
  15. Tune to the correct pitch using the tuning knobs.

Note - some people choose not to use there locking nuts. This is okay only if you have no intention of using the whammy bar or playing a lot of bends.


Acoustic/classical guitars

Classical guitar strings are usually nylon or wound nylon (for the lower strings). They are also categorised by tension not thickness (gauge). Light tension strings give a looser tone and are more suitable for beginners. Moving up to a higher tension would be advised as your playing style improves and relaxes because better tone is achievable. Classical guitars usually have a higher action for longer sustain and more resonance.

  1. Unwind one of the machineheads and remove the old string. This can be made easier with string winders and string cutters.
  2. Tie the new string to the bridge, making sure you mimic the method used to tie the old strings (this is why you should change just one string to start with).
  3. Thread the new string through the string-post then cut the string, leaving 5cm (approx.) of length spare.
  4. Wrap the string around the tuning peg then tighten the machinehead, leaving some slack on the string. Tighten until the string supports itself.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for all of the strings.
  6. Tune each string to the correct pitch.
  7. Stretch each string.
  8. To ensure stable tuning repeat steps 6 & 7.