Your Steel-string guitars need to have their strings replaced periodically. This guide will give you all the information you need to replace your acoustic guitar strings in 6 easy steps. A new set of strings will make your guitar sound like new again.
There are lots of ways to replace the strings on an acoustic guitar. As a matter of fact, some methods work better than others.
When to replace your acoustic guitar strings
The strings of your guitar have a finite lifespan and will need to be replaced occasionally. Lots of variables determine when the strings need renewing. OK, so what are those factors?
Some of the give-away signs the strings need renewing.
- Your guitars tone is not what it was
- Your strings are showing signs of corrosion or just plain dull looking.
- The strings feel stiffer than usual (corrosion can be a culprit).
- The strings have a dirty feel and look to them.
- High humidity can shorten the life of strings due to corrosion.
Coated strings will, under normal conditions, last longer than uncoated strings.
With experience, you, as a guitar player, will notice when the strings need changing. Experienced guitar players know when their guitars strings need replacement. However, keep the strings fresh if you wish to hear the best possible tones from your acoustic guitar.
Replacing acoustic guitar strings
You will need
- Wire cutters
- Clean rag (to wipe down the guitar after the strings are removed).
- A fresh set of suitable strings for your guitar.
- Neck support (optional)
- String winder (optional)
- Guitar tuner
1. Put the guitar on a workbench
First of all, place the guitar on a workbench where you can work comfortably. Ideally, a dedicated workbench would be ideal. However, a lounge or table would be OK also.
If you don’t have a commercial neck support, no problem, roll up some old towels or use a suitable cushion to ensure the guitar is stable.
2. Remove the old strings
Now, release the tension from all strings. Note: It is perfectly acceptable to remove and replace all the strings together instead of one by one. Most reputable guitar builders, including Martin and Taylor, recommend this method.
Next, remove your old guitar strings by loosening all the tension from all six strings by turning the tuners in a clockwise direction and keeping a little pressure under the string with your finger.
After loosening all the strings, remove the six bridge pins and put them to one side. Preferably where they can’t go missing. Now, If any of the pins are difficult to remove with your fingers, take your wire cutters and use a pivoting (cantilever) action on the saddle; gently apply a small amount of upward pressure on the pins.
They usually pop up quickly, allowing you to take them out with your fingers. Pull out all the strings and tie them together into a loop. That will stop the strings from going in every direction and minimize the chance of scratching the guitar.
Next, pull the other end of the strings out of the pegs and put them to one side. Then. Dispose of the old strings. See photo.
Turn all the six tuners so the hole is at a 45-degree angle. See photo.
3. Clean the fretboard
Now is the time to clean your fretboard with a bit of Naphtha (lighter fluid) and a clean paper towel. There are lots of commercial products available to clean and condition the fretboard.
4. Fit the new strings
Refer to the photo above. Now, insert the ball end of the 6th string called the high E (thickest bass) into the bridge hole and secure it with one of the bridge pins.
New, hold the bridge pin down and pull the string up until you feel it’s firm. Taking this action will lock the ball into the pin as intended.
Again, refer to the photo above for reference. Pull the string across the peghead and cut it at the 5th string peg ( 1 post to post length). Make sure the bridge pin does not pop up. If it does, push it back down. See photo.
Now, Insert the end of the string into the peg hole. The end of the string should exit about 1/8th from the hole of the tuner. (refer to the photo above)
Fitting the strings
If you have a string winder, wind the tuner counter-clockwise until the string is only very lightly tensioned. Three wraps are ideal for the bass strings.
Now repeat the last step for the remaining bass strings, the 5th A 4th D strings.
Please take note; It is vital to ensure that the strings are attached to the tuning peg correctly. Consequently, failure to do this properly might result in strings being prone to breaking, especially if they are not wound on tightly enough. For this reason, strings that wrap excessively around the post should also be avoided.
Now trim the 4th D string the equivalent of one post to post length. See photo.
Next, trim all the remaining strings, the G, B, and high E (treble) 1 1/2 tuner post lengths past the post that it will be fitted to. Also, note that the treble string tuners need to be tightened counter-clockwise.
Furthermore, the treble strings need about six wraps ideally. See the photo above.
At this point, ensure the string wraps wind down below the tuner peg hole. In doing so, you will avoid a kink in the string and avoid breaking it.
5. Stretch the strings
This is an important step. Make you stretch all strings by running your finger from end to end 6 to 8 times per string while maintaining some tension. As a result, this will help keep the guitar in tune during its break-in period.
Now, for 12 string acoustics, the re-stringing process is the same for the six-string guitar except for the following. You will need to cut the bass strings E A and D, two full tuner post to post lengths, from where they passed the post, as shown in the photo above.
Also, in a similar way as for the last step. You need to cut the treble strings G B and E, two full tuner post lengths from the post they will be installed.
Slot Head guitars
Suppose you have a slot-head guitar like a classical guitar. You will find it has nylon strings rather than steel.
In a similar fashion to steel strings. Trim the strings for a slot head guitar 1 1/12 post to post lengths.
6. Tune all the strings to the correct pitch.
Now ensure you have stretched all the new strings as recommended. You can now tune all the strings to pitch. New strings will often lose their tune after a new set of strings is fitted. However, it won’t take long before the new strings settle in and require tuning at regular intervals.
Great, you have now learned how to replace your acoustic guitar strings; it’s pretty easy after you have performed the task a couple of times. Make it a habit and wipe the strings often with a good quality rag kept only for this purpose. A good time to wipe the strings is after you have finished playing the guitar for the day.
So, enjoy your new guitar, well hopefully, it will sound like new again. (smile)
1. Changing Steel Strings. Taylor Guitars. https://www.taylorguitars.com/support/strings/changing-steel-strings. Published in 2020. Accessed May 1, 2020.