Is It Time to Change Your Guitar Strings?

How do you know when it is time to change your guitar strings?

And, do you know HOW to change your strings?

Don’t let the prospect of changing your strings scare you! It’s a basic guitar-maintenance process that you can learn to become perfectly comfortable with.

And, you will LOVE the results!

Old strings get tired, and lose their sparkle

Tired old strings sound dull, muted, felty. They also tend to loose flexibility, and are harder on your fingertips. But how did they get so tired and old?

Strings can become tired from being played a lot. Sweat from your hands, dust, and other sources of schmutz collects on the strings and causes them to lose their sparkle.

Strings can become tired just by being on your guitar for too long. Metal fatigue sets in and they loose their resiliency.

If you notice your strings sounding dull, or, if they have simply been on your guitar for several months (or more), it is time to swap them out for a shiny new set.

How do you remove your old strings?

There are a variety of opinions on the exact right way to change your strings, but I will talk you through the method I have used for years, which has served me and my guitars just fine.

The basic idea is simple: you want to loosen the old strings by turning the tuning peg to the point where the string becomes slack and you can remove it from the tuning peg. You can use a string-winder tool to do this, or, just your hands.

Following down to the other end of the string, where it attaches to the bridge, you want to remove the end pin. Sometimes this takes a little cautious elbow grease. Pretend you are a dentist pulling someone’s molar out, and you’ll get the idea. (gingerly¬†yet, determined!)

If you have a string-winder, it should have a groove in it designed to pry the end pin out of its hole. Or, you can use a set of needle-nose pliers. Just be super careful not to damage the bridge by being clunky with the pliers.

Once you have the string removed, coil it up and discard it.

How do you put the new strings on?

Start by uncoiling the new string, and inserting the ball-end into the hole in the bridge where the end pin will go.

Find the groove in the end pin, and align the groove so that it points towards the body and neck of the guitar. Put the end pin into the hole, allowing the string to nestle into the groove, and allowing the tip of the end pin to hold the ball-end of the string in place. Press the end pin down so it is solidly situated in the hole, holding the string in place.

Take the free end of the string and thread it through the hole in the tuning peg. Begin tightening the string by turning the tuning peg with your hands or string winder.

TIP: make sure the string goes up the center of the headstock and then coils up and over the tuning peg, NOT down and under. This will ensure that all your tuning pegs will turn in the same direction to tighten or loosen strings.

Tighten the new string until it is close to the desired note. You will fine tune the tuning later.

Continue this process until you have changed all six strings. Some people prefer to do this one string at a time, while others may opt to remove all the strings first, then put all the new strings on.

The advantage to this second method is that it gives you a great opportunity to clean the fretboard and headstock, without any strings being in the way.

How do you know what kind of new strings to buy?

Experienced guitar players will become connoisseurs of strings, and favor a very particular type of guitar string.

For starters though, I recommend you buy a set of Acoustic Light Gauge strings (assuming you are on an acoustic guitar). My personal favorites are Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light Acoustic. They are a ‘coated’ string, which means they will last a lot longer than regular strings. A bit pricier, but well worth it, in my opinion.

How do you get the new strings in tune?

Brand new strings will take a little while to adjust to their new situation of being stretched tight on your guitar. The most common symptom is that they will go flat, as they loosen slightly due to the process of stretching out.

You can manually give them a helpful stretch by grabbing each string one at a time, near the sound hole, and gently pulling at it so as to stretch it.

Use a tuner to monitor how in-tune your new strings are, and keep stretching them until they are able to hold the desired note even after a stretch.

Enjoy the fresh sparkle of your brand new strings!

You should find that your guitar sounds much better, and feels easier to play once you have put your new strings on. Remember this sweet moment, for when you are tempted to procrastinate next time your strings start to sound old and tired!

Watch Lisa’s string-change video here.

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