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Replacing your electric strings

How and How Often to Change Your Electric Guitar Strings

Your electric guitar needs to be re-stringed more often than your acoustic. If you are about to go on stage, you may want to change your strings right before the gig, just to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

When should you change your strings?

Strings wear out and it is pretty obvious when they do. When you see any buildup of rust they feel sticky or just “not right”, or if they are simply falling out of tune more often, you most likely need a new set. You will get a feel for when your strings are old. If you are a typical player, you will most likely need to change your strings every three to four months. If it has been several months, you most likely need new strings.

Take a good look first

Before you begin the process of taking the strings off of your guitar, take a good look at how they are stringed now. If you are a novice, you most likely had your guitar string by a professional. You want to learn as much as you can from that. It may be in your best interest to take a picture of the strings to refer to later.

Take a good look at the pathways they take, their spacing, and how they are wound. Do not begin to remove the strings until you are very familiar with how they are strung.

Get the Right Stuff

For most purposes, you should purchase regular weight or light strings. Double-check what type of strings your guitar actually takes. Typically, your E should be .008–.0011 thickness. If you have any special needs, such as drop tuning, talk to your music store staff for recommendations.

Loosen Down

You will begin to loosen your old strings the same way you would as if you were down-tuning them. Use a tuning machine to loosen each string. As you begin, pluck the string to ensure that it sounds deeper rather than higher. You typically should not cut your strings because you do not want to ease the tension that quickly and possibly damage your guitar’s neck. Also, if anything should go wrong with your new strings, it is nice to have an old string in decent condition in a pinch.

As a beginner, loosen and replace one string at a time. This will significantly decrease errors. Most guitarists start with the heaviest string, which is most likely your E.

Pull Through in Time

After you have loosened string, pull it through. For most models, remove the string from the bridge by pulling it through the back of the guitar’s body. There is a small, round piece of metal at the end that will help you get a grip. Take your time, and do not pull or yank your strings too hard. You do not want to damage your guitar by being too rough.

Use the Opportunity

Now is a great time to thoroughly clean your guitar. For tips and tricks on cleaning, please see our articles on the topic.

Make Yourself Comfortable and Begin

You are now ready to put on the new string. You want your guitar and yourself to be in the best position to do so. Make sure you have plenty of room and light to see. Cover a flat surface with something soft so you do not scratch your finish. Lay the guitar flat, face up. Turn the tuning post so that the hole faces you. This hole should point away from the string so that it is parallel to one of the frets. (If you were playing, the hole would be pointing up toward you.)

Start Threading

Thread your first string through the bridge and into the tuning peg, going from the inside of the guitar out. (In other words, slide it the opposite way you used to remove the string.) Grab the string on both sides of the peg and crimp both sides of the string along the tuning post. Leave a couple of inches as of slack so that you have room for tuning.

Take the end of the string and pull it under the side being fed into the tuning post. After you go underneath the string, bring the end back over the top and pull it taut towards the top of the guitar. This will create a loop with the end of the string around the rest of the string so you’ll have a small coiled bit of string right where the string meets the tuning peg.

Lightly hold down the string as you slowly tighten it. Slowly turn your tuner counter-clockwise. Make sure that your string is winding around the peg uniformly. Do not over tighten, or you will break the string. Pluck it now and then until it sounds close to in-tune.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat (or Cut and Tune)

Once all the strings are replaced and you are close to being in tune, use wire cutters to remove the excess string at the end. If you plan to allow deeper tunings for later, you may want to leave ½” or so.

Keep an Ear Out

The strings will slowly stretch, so you will need to re-tune frequently after replacing them. This will only be for the first couple of days, so have patience. Soon, restringing your guitar will become second nature.

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

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