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Change your guitar strings in 5 easy steps

By Micha, published on 09/05/2017 Blog > Music > Guitar > How to change the strings on your guitar

Being a musician means always hitting the right notes to achieve the sound and tone that you want.

Of course, it requires work to achieve your desired sound all of the time, and it also requires that your instrument be properly maintained and tuned. The strings on your guitar are a good place to start.

When do you need to change your guitar strings? How do you know if a string needs changing?

Are there guitar tutorials for changing your strings?

How do you change the whole set of strings on your guitar?

We’ll answer all of your questions and walk you through the steps you need to take in the article below.

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Selecting new guitar strings

Once your strings are on the point of fraying, they’re all used up, or they constantly need re-tuning and tightening whenever you play guitar, it’s time to replace them.

Different methods for changing guitar strings. Different methods for changing guitar strings.

But do you know what your guitar strings are really made of?

What are the different types of guitar strings?

Do you know how to choose the right kind of string for your guitar?

The type of string

Strings are characterized by their winding – that is, the way that the metal is actually wound around the string’s core.

There are three kinds of winding:

  • Round wound – this is the most popular type of strings today, as they produce a brighter sound and have more grip.
  • Semi-round strings – this type of string is softer to touch and produces a warm sound.
  • Flat wound strings – these strings have a very smooth surface texture and a warm, vintage sound. These strings are very popular with jazz and acoustic musi

Guitar string materials

Each type of guitar has its own type of guitar string, and it’s important to make sure that you do not put nylon strings meant for a classical guitar on an electric guitar, or vice versa. Knowing your strings is essential for any budding guitarist, and something that should be covered in guitar classes or during your first couple of private lessons.

All kinds of strings in order to play well on the guitar. Different materials bring different sounds to your guitar.All kinds of strings in order to play well on the guitar. Different materials bring different sounds to your guitar.

If you want to know everything there is to know about guitar, you should know that there are different types of guitar strings which can be categorized according to their material and their use.

  • Stainless steel strings make an impact and are very precise. However they will wear out your frets quickly!
  • Nickel-plated steel strings – these have almost all the same benefits as stainless steel strings, but are a bit softer and less clear.
  • Nickel strings – this metal isn’t very strong on its own, so it is often mixed with steel to create an alloy. Nickel strings give you a warm, round sound, but are a bit less precise than stainless steel.
  • Nylon strings – made especially for classical and traditional guitars. Make sure that you know which type are for you – each manufacturer has their own slightly different style of nylon strings.
  • Silk and steel – these strings are made especially for folk guitars. These have a soft and delicate tone, and are perfect for playing harmonies.
  • Bronze strings – for folk and electro-acoustic guitars. These strings produce a warm and fairly well-balanced sound – bring on the arpeggios!

Tightening your strings

The tension of a string should correspond to its gauge.

String gauges are often described as extra light, medium, heavy, or as a decimal figure that represents the diameter of the strings (.014 or .059 for example). The lower the number, the finer the string.

The tension of your strings will help define the sound and the kind of feel that you have.

Traditional gauges range from extra light to heavy, and though the differences may seem bewildering to a beginner, choosing the right strings can transform your playing.

The higher the gauge, the thicker the string, and the higher the tension will be when the string is tightened.

Essentially, strings with high gauges could hurt your fingers and make it difficult to play, especially for beginners.

Low gauges won’t hurt your fingers as much and will make it easier to play (perfect for students working on their finger vibrato), but they will make it more difficult to play certain techniques.

Generally, beginners should start with lower-gauge strings as they develop their fingers and explore different musical styles.

Different signs that it’s time to change your guitar strings

When do you need to change your guitar strings? How can you tell when they’re damaged or used up?

Here are some of the different signs:

  • A broken string – obviously, in this case you need to replace the string in order to keep playing guitar. It’s nothing to worry about, because a broken string is fairly normal, but if it happens to you a lot you probably need to get your guitar checked to make sure that there aren’t any problems. Tightening your strings too much or too little can also damage them and cause frequent breakages.
  • Oxidized string – oxidization will occur on all metal strings, even on heavy gauges and acoustic guitars. If you’re sweating a lot as you play, that will also contribute to the oxidization.
  • The sound just isn’t the same – often a new string will have a bright, clear, tone that quickly disappears as it’s played. Over time, the sound will become more muted and the notes cut abruptly as the strings vibrate less. If this happens, it’s time to change your strings.
  • You’re hitting the wrong notes – you’ve maintained your guitar, tuned it and adjusted everything, but it just doesn’t sound right. Some strings will loosen faster than others, which is why some notes sound wrong, but others are still ok.
  • Your strings are poorly made – it’s a common problem with new guitars, and not just for those on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Manufacturers tend to put cheap strings on their guitars to keep costs down. We’d recommend changing the original strings with some higher quality ones to get a better sound and style.
  • Are your tab readings confused because of the sounds coming from your guitar?

As you can see, there are many different reasons that you may need to change your strings and each guitarist will need to do so with a different frequency.

Don’t let worry about changing your strings stop you from playing. While some guitarists change their strings every month, others may go a whole year between sets.

A step by step guide to changing your guitar strings

Changing your guitar strings isn’t very difficult, but it can seem like a challenge, especially for novice guitarists.

It’s a basic skill that every guitarist must learn as soon as he picks up his first guitar and accessories.

It’s a necessary skill for any regular guitarist!

Various accessories to optimize your playing. Here is the complete equipment to change your guitar strings. Various accessories to optimize your playing. Here is the complete equipment to change your guitar strings.

Here are the basic steps to change your guitar strings.

Loosen the strings and remove them from the bridge

There are two different ways to do this, and they always cause debate – is it better to take your strings off one by one, or remove all of them at once and replace them all at the same time?

Whichever way you choose to change your strings, neither will damage your guitar.

You just need a bit of motivation with your guitar!

If you do decide to change all of your strings at once, it’s a good opportunity to properly clean your guitar, especially the frets, where sweat and dust tend to accumulate.

1/ Undo your strings

Begin by loosening your strings completely until they sag by turning your tuning nuts counterclockwise.

Then you can cut the strings with a pair of pliers, or pull them out completely by totally loosening the tuning nuts and pulling the strings out from the holes of the bridge.

2/ Redo the bridge

The bridge of your guitar has little tips that look like black or white buttons and allow the strings to cling to the inside of the guitar.

If possible, use a bridge remover to clean this area.

3/ Clean your guitar

This is your opportunity to really clean your guitar – make sure that you cover all of the bases including the neck, frets, and headstock.

Don’t ever use shoe polish or a glass cleaner – they could damage your guitar.

A simple cloth moistened with a bit of chamois or a microfiber cloth is all that you need.

Changing your strings

4/ Prepare your strings

Some strings are color coded at the ends to tell you which note they should play and where they should go.

5/ Put the new strings on

The most common method is to start with the finest string, and then do the largest one, continuing to alternate from low to high gauges until they’re all on.

This way, you can keep the tension consistent.

 How to adjust your guitar? The tension of the strings is also very important for the sound of your musical instrument.
How to adjust your guitar? The tension of the strings is also very important for the sound of your musical instrument.

Start by putting your strings through the hole in the bridge, and then fix it immediately.

It is important to keep some tension in the string while you perform this step.

Try some different guitar chords.

Next, tighten all of the strings on the guitar, and then pick the next string you want to add. Check the color on the tip, and put it in the corresponding hole.

Make sure that you always wrap the string to the right – it should always go clockwise.

Put your string through the hole and pull, but always make sure to leave a bit of slack to wind around the tension key.

Don’t fully stretch your strings to the proper notes now; you need to finish restringing your guitar before you tune it.

Repeat these steps for each string until your guitar is completely restrung.

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