September 16, 2016
If there’s one thing every guitarist should know how to do, it’s changing strings! It’s one of those jobs that is easy once you have the knack, but if you haven’t restrung a guitar before it can be an intimidating proposition. In our next few blogs we’re going to show you how to go about it. We’ll start with a steel string acoustic.
1. First of all we need to take off the old strings. You can change strings one at a time or all at once on a steel string - it really doesn't matter. We tend to do all at once so we can give the guitar a quick clean whilst the strings are off.
2. If you're lucky the bridge pins will easily lift out of the bridge as soon as the string tension is reduced. Often though they can be quite a tight fit, so in this photo we're using the pin remover part of a string winder to pull them out. If they're really firmly in place you can push them out from underneath - just reach into the soundhole whilst you have the strings loosened and use something with a hard, flat surface to push up on the bottom of the pin. Pulling too hard from the top to loosen a stuck pin can result in snapping off the head on the pin, so be careful!
3. Since the strings are out of the way it's a good idea to get rid of all that dust and grime that accumulates behind them!
4. Ok, we're ready for the new strings. This is a quick look at how the ball end of the string is going to fit into the peg. Note that the string curves through the slot in the peg and out again: when the string is tightened the ball will push against the side of the peg and lock it in place. the slot needs to be facing in the direction of the string. Some older guitars have solid pegs with a slot in the bridge itself but the principal is the same.
5. Here's the string going into the peg slot. I'm pulling up on the string whilst pushing gently on the peg to help it lock into place. Remember the last photo? That ball needs to be resting against the side of the peg: if it gets caught underneath the peg will just pop out as you tighten the string, so quick tug with a finger over the top helps prevent that.
6. Now the headstock end. There are a few ways to do this and there isn't really one way that's better than the others, but this is how we do it. The string end goes through the hole in the tuner and we're going to keep some slack in it to feed onto the post.
7. Now we're going to feed the string onto the post. The first wind goes over the top of the loose end of the string, and subsequent ones will go under - and you want the string to turn into the inside of the headstock. I'm keeping tension on the string by trapping it between middle finger and thumb - it will stack onto the post far easier under a little tension.
8. A string winder helps a lot in getting the string up to pitch quickly but it's not essential. Again, if you look at my left hand I'm keeping the string under tension whilst winding it up to pitch with my left hand
9. Finished! The string is held in place by being trapped between the coils. Too many coils underneath looks untidy but can also cause tuning instability, so I usually aim for one turn over the top and two underneath for the low E, three underneath for the others.
10. We'll just take a moment to cut those string ends short - don't be that guy that leaves them jiggling about ready to take someone's eye out at the next open mic! Wire cutters from Maplin or any hardware store will do the job, and be careful when using them to avoid touching the headstock as it's very easy to dent the edge if you press into it.
11. I think we're done... just needs tuning up (note the cheeky product placement of our ever handy Snark tuner - we are a shop after all!)