How to change guitar strings
Basically, the job is loosening the strings, take them off, put new ones on, and tune. I’m going to show you a few tricks that make it easier and better. I’ll show you how to change an acoustic first, then address differences with electric and classical guitars later.
Before you start you will need:
A clean flat place to lay your guitar
peg puller/string winder (you can change strings without this tool, but it’s the best $1.50 you’ll ever spend on your guitar habit!)
trash can (String changing generates a lot of small pieces of waste material Pitch it while you work to keep it out of your way. This avoids scratching your guitars finish and screaming in the middle of the night when you step barefoot on the sharp end of an old guitar string.)
I always change one string at a time. This minimizes the change in the tension on the guitar neck and helps keep the guitar in tune.
Use the string winder to loosen the low E string. You don’t have to play it while you do this, but it lets you know that you’re turning the crank the right way and I like the sound.
After the string is unwound from the post, work the end free from the post. If it gets stuck, use your wire cutters or needle nose pliers to gently work it loose. At the bridge end, use the notch on the string winder to pull out the peg. If the peg puller won’t grip the peg or it feels jammed you can use the wire cutters to pry it loose but BE WARNED: every time you do this brings you closer to the inevitable moment when you WILL scratch your guitar with the pliers. Roll up the old string, run the ends through the center a few times, and throw it away.
Open the new string. When it’s installed on the guitar you want the little cylinder (call the ball end for some reason) to pull up against the side of the peg so that they wedge together in the hole. Put the ball end in the hole, insert the peg part way and pull the string up until you feel the ball pass the end of the peg. Insert the peg fully, pulling up on the string as you do.
Insert the other end through the hole in the tuning post. Leave enough slack for two turns, usually about three fingers between the fingerboard and string.
Using the string winder, crank the tuning key to tighten the string. Hold the string in place with your right hand, pushing it down on the headstock so the string winds on the post from the bottom to the top while holding the rest of the string taught so it tightens into the right position on the nut.
Tune the new string, then press down on it with your left hand and pull gently up with the index finger of your right while pushing down with the palm heel of the right. The idea is to stretch the string without pulling out on the neck. Don’t pull out like a bow and arrow; hold down so it stretches lengthwise. All strings stretch after they have been tightened the first time. This helps settle the string into the proper tension quicker and stay in tune sooner.
Repeat this process through the rest of the wound strings.
The highest strings tend to slip on the tuning post because they’re slicker than the wound strings. To fix this we’ll tie a little knot. Push the rabbit, I mean the end of the string through the hole. If your guitar has the usual headstock with three tuners on each side, the plain strings wind clockwise. Take the end of the string COUNTER clockwise around the post and under the string. make sure you have the right amount of slack and bend the end of the string straight up away from the headstock where it crosses the string at the post.
Hold it there while you crank the string and the string will wrap around the post over this bend and secure the string on the post.
This reminds me: if you’ll bend all your string ends up at a right angle from the headstock before you wind them you’ll avoid thwapping yourself with the string as you wind it.
This may seem overly complex, but after doing it a few times it will make sense and you’ll wonder why you ever had trouble changing strings.