You likely haven’t changed the strings if you are new to playing the acoustic guitar. Or, at least you haven’t done it yourself, and you have asked other guitar players to do it for you. But, believe it or not, it isn’t all that difficult to change acoustic guitar strings once you get the hang of it. And, it only takes a few minutes to have new, lovely sounding strings in place of strings that are worn and dull-sounding. So if you are wondering how to change acoustic guitar strings yourself, this article will discuss the process and how often you should do so. Let’s get started.
When Should You Change Your Guitar Strings?
Obviously, you will need to change strings when you break one. It is a good idea to change all the strings, even if it is only one that is broken because the strings all wear as you are playing. This will ensure that the tone is consistent.
So, if you don’t break a string, is it necessary to change them? The answer is yes. The more you play, the more often the strings should be changed.
Now, if you are only playing for an hour or so each day, you can probably go two to three months. After a while, they get dirty and begin to feel stiff. If you are playing for several hours each day, you will likely need to change the strings every few weeks.
If you haven’t played in a while, you might want to consider changing the strings anyway. They will get dirty and corroded simply with air contact, not to mention dust and other dirt.
Changing the Strings
So, it’s time to change your guitar strings. If you don’t know how to do this, it is something that you should learn, especially if you are going to be playing the instrument a lot.
It really isn’t worth the time or money to keep getting someone at the music store to change them for you, and your musician buddies are going to become tired after doing it for you for a while.
First, find a relatively clean location so you don’t lose any of your tools or strings while you are in the process of changing the strings. Choose an area that is quiet as well because you will need to tune the guitar once you restring it.
Next, collect everything you will need for this operation. You will need the following items:
- Wire cutters
- Spray cleaner
- Lemon oil
- Steel wool
- Headstock stand (not necessary but beneficial to keep the guitar steady and balanced)
- String winder (also not required, but very handy)
- Two sets of strings (just in case a string breaks while you are putting it on, and yes, this does happen often)
Once you are all set up and ready, it is time to start the string-changing process. The steps to do this are as follows:
- Secure the neck and headstock. If you don’t have a headstock stand, find something else that you can use to secure the neck and headstock while you are working. For example, a piece of curved Styrofoam will work, or if absolutely necessary, you can use a pillow.
- Loosen the strings. Turn the machine heads (tuning pegs) to loosen the strings. If you have a string winder, the job will go much faster. Turn the tuning pegs counter-clockwise with your left hand while holding the string with the right hand to keep the tension. Begin with the bottom E string, and work your way up to the top E string.
- Begin removing the strings. Once the strings have been loosened, use the wire cutters to snip each of them right above the soundhole. Be careful in doing this because if you are rough, it could affect your guitar’s tuning; this is frustrating for guitar players from every level – from beginner to professional.
- Remove the bridge pins. If you have a string winder, it will come in quite handy at this stage. There is a notch built into the tool, and you can use this to remove the bridge pins located on the guitar’s ball end. As you remove the bridge pins, be sure to keep them in order, as they are specific to the strings. Also, never pull out the pins at an angle because this could cause them to break. If you don’t have a string winder, you can also use a pair of pliers for this.
- Remove the strings. Now it is time to remove the old strings. It is a good idea to get into the habit of removing at least two at a time rather than individually.
- Clean the guitar. Once all the strings are removed, it is an excellent opportunity to clean the fretboard. This can get pretty dirty with use. Using .0000-gauge steel wool, rub it on the fretboard to clean it. It won’t hurt the fretboard if you are rubbing roughly. Just make sure that the steel wool doesn’t come into contact with the guitar’s body. Also, cover the soundhole with a towel, so no dirt gets inside.
- Apply lemon oil. The fretboard will dry out after a while, so it needs to be conditioned. You can wipe it with special fretboard conditioning oil, or if you don’t have any, use lemon oil. Pour a little bit of the oil onto a piece of cloth, and wipe it over the fretboard.
- Put on the new strings. Now you can start putting on the new strings. Open the package and take out the sixth string (Low E). Insert it into the ball end, followed by the bridge pin. Push down on the bridge pin while pulling up on the ball end of the string. Once the string catches in the bridge pin, you can push the pin in to lock the string into place. Pull on the string gently to make sure it is secure. If the bridge pin pops out while you are working, simply push it back into place. Repeat this step for the remaining strings.
- Insert strings in the machine heads. Slide the end of the strings through the machine head, so there is a length of about three inches. Next, pull the strings to the bridge plate, and cut the string, so it is only about two inches past the machine head it goes into. Repeat this step for all strings.
- Tighten the strings. Use the string winder on the right key for the string you are tightening, or just pull it tight if you don’t have a string winder. Begin winding each string, making sure you are winding in the right direction. Next, tighten each string and ensure all the strings are where they should be. Make sure that they are tightened and nice and firm. There is an order to do this: Begin with the Low E, then work your way up to the High E. The strings will also need to be stretched and then retightened.
- Snip off excess string. There will be a bit of extra string at each machine head. Use the wire cutters to remove this excess, which can be damaging and make it difficult to tune and play the guitar.
Now you can tune your guitar. Of course, you can do this by ear, but it is much easier and more accurate if you use a chromatic guitar tuner. You can also find guitar tuning apps online.