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Guitar String Replacement

"Finally! A guitar string replacement page with so many tips (a video) that are actually useable..."

Changing a string is not really a hard maintenance job once you've learnt how...and had a little practice:)) I like relating an ancient Chinese proverb to all my guitar activities including changing a guitar string. You've probably heard it before, but it'll do no harm repeating...

"I hear I forget...I see I remember...I DO I UNDERSTAND!"

Like most things in life, we have to "get our hands dirty a little" before we get good at something, so don't be afraid to make mistakes. Stringing a guitar is no different and it's one of those jobs like guitar tuning that you just can't avoid.

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If you still have trouble with replacing a guitar string after you've read this page I recommend this cheap and handy little guide to help you.,

This chart is the definitive resource guide for putting strings on the guitar. Clear photos and detailed description show you step by step how to change strings on steel-string and nylon-string guitars. The chart also contains information regarding when to change strings and what strings to use. It's the Guitar Stringing Chart...

So, where do we start? Well, before you read any further here's a little video to help you learn to change your own strings...

Now a few little tips before we begin the text..

When replacing a guitar string you should really change one at a time, not all of them at once. It is not good for the neck of the guitar to have such a release of tension and then to have it applied so forcefully later. It easily could lead to distortion of the neck and permanent damage.

Another tip when changing a string is never tune the strings more than a tone above its normal pitch. If you do it could lead to breakage.,  Sometimes if, you tune a little sharp, say 1 semitone above normal concert pitch, it can make your guitar sound just that little bit "brighter" in performance, and this can be a good thing. To go beyond this is risking breakage, so take it easy.

Also, NEVER put steel strings on your classical guitar because it is not constructed to take such exertion and can be very easily damaged. I remember a student of mine several years ago did just this and the neck broke away from the body of the guitar at the heel and completely ruined it! Nuff said?

When I'm changing a string, whether it's a student's or my own, I always start with the 1st "E" treble one. I use my tuning fork to get the "A" note (440 Hz) on the 5th fret and am then able to tune the others as I go. If you've got an electronic tuner, then I suppose it doesn't matter which one you start with. First of all, unwind the old string until the tension is completely released and it's quite "floppy". Then un thread the string from the Capstan in the Headstock. Next, untie it from the bridge and discard it.

Who said changing a guitar string couldn't work up a sweat? Phew! :))

Guitar String Sidebar

Did you know that in Fernando Sor's time that guitar strings were called "catgut"? They were not actually made of cat gut as such but were made mainly from the intestines of sheep! Using sheep intestines for a string? No way!!!


Take the new string (making sure it is the right one!) and thread it through the "eye" or hole in the bridge. Then you need to tie it so that it won't come loose or slip when under tension. There are several ways to accomplish this when changing a string including the following two ways. Here is a graphic of what it shall look like when completed...

Stringing A Guitar - Tying At Bridge

After threading the string through the eye you extend it about 10 to 12 cm beyond the bridge. This will allow you to wind it around itself 3 times before you pull up the slack. I feel it is more secure because, as you can see from the picture, it is wound around itself 3 times. Be careful you don't have too much overhang as it tends to rattle and vibrate annoyingly against the body of the guitar top.

The next step is to thread the string through the hole in the Capstan in the Headstock. I like winding the it once around closest to the outside of the headstock and on the next "turn" cross it over to the inside of the Headstock.

Then I keep winding the slack on this side until it's wound to its proper tension. Make sure you "feed" the string through the little slot in the Nut, so it is in the proper position when you tighten it up.

Here is what it looks like when complete...

Stringing A Guitar - Tying Strings

The second method of changing a guitar string (above on the right hand side of the graphic) is a little safer as you tie the string in a little knot then wind the rest of the slack around until tuned. When you become experienced at stringing a guitar you'll notice that it becomes much easier, and less time consuming to do. There is no rush! Take your time and do it slowly at first because it is well worth learning properly.

You'll have much less slippage and breakage or even tuning problems if you learn to put your guitar strings on properly in the first place. Be advised that they'll take some time to "settle in" as the strings continue to stretch as you use and tune it. It all depends on how much you tune and play your guitar as to how long it takes for the them to stay in tune. As a rough guide,  it usually takes my new ones between 2 to 5 days to settle down.

A good tip if you're regularly replacing a guitar string is to stretch the strings yourself. This is achieved by pulling them outwards from your guitar along the length of the string from Nut to Bridge. I then play all the semi-tones (fret by fret) along the string length then re-tune them. This technique should stretch them more quickly and so make it settle down and stay in tune.

I hope I have helped you to master changing a guitar string or at least made it more approachable :))

Good luck!!!

For more information on strings go here...

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Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...

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