If it is your first time changing all your guitar strings at once, you might feel a little overwhelmed. Once you’ve done it a few times though you will be an old pro.
This is how I personally change my strings every time. Note the trick I use to keep from having to re-tune my guitar over and over again after changing my strings.
Here are the basic steps to changing guitar strings:
- Gather all needed supplies
This will usually include: anew set of guitar strings (duh!), something to trim the strings with, a rag to clean with, a string winder and a comfortable chair (or a carpeted floor if you are a bit of a klutz like me).
- Put your guitar in a secure position
Make sure you aren’t going to drop or scratch the guitar while changing the strings. Laps can be good if you are steady but often it is easier to do on the couch, a carpeted floor or even if you have a left over piece of carpet or a thick blanket to pad it, the kitchen table.
- Remove all of the old strings
Remove all the old strings from the guitar and throw them out. My wife hates finding old strings laying around the house cause I forgot to throw them away. Do your wife, or mom or sister a favor and get rid of those rusty old things.
- Clean the guitar before putting on the new strings
Now is a great time to clean all that grime from the fret board and to get into places that you can’t normally when the strings are on. Try to get as much dust, dirt and crud out now.
- Put on the strings
Put on the new strings one at a time. Make sure they are laying in the saddle and nut properly.
- Tighten to half tension and PULL! (this is a personal trick that keeps new strings in tune the first time you tune them up)
Only tighten the strings to roughly half tension for now. Now put one finger across the nut to keep the strings from popping out and grab one string with your other hand right around where you would strum it. Pull away from the body. Do this up and down the string a few times. Do each string individually. Stretching the strings like this will keep them from having to be tuned over and over again when you start playing. Don’t be shy, you can tug pretty hard without hurting them.
- Tune up!
Now tune up to regular tuning
Play something with lots of hard strumming and bending, this should put the guitar a little out of tune and get the rest of the slack out of the strings.
- Tune up again
Tune up one last time
- You’re done!
That’s it. Now instead of having to re-tune 3 or 4 times within the next hour, your guitar should stay in tune pretty well.
There you go, my 10 steps to changing guitar strings.
If you are anything like me, this happens most often when you are with your friends screwing around, playing a lot harder than you really should and BAM! You are out one, single, guitar string. For me it is usually an e or a B, sometimes a G… but you are faced with a decision now: should you change one guitar string or all 6?
Changing a guitar string isn’t all that much work. Once you have changed a few you start to get the hang of it and you can do it with your eyes closed in 2 minutes or so but the real question is why would you want to change just one? Well here are a few things to consider:
- If the guitar strings are old, changing just one can be a waste since you are going to have to change them all soon anyway and then the one string will be out of sync with the other 5
- Changing just one makes for an incomplete pack that is left over
- The one string will be too bright and ring out differently than the others.
Then again if the strings are all mostly new, it would be a waste to change all of them since the remaining 5 still have quite a few songs left in them before they will go bad. Then again you might be in the middle of a gig and need to change as quickly as possible so changing a guitar string is the most viable option.
I guess the best way to sum it up is this: If they are old, change them all. If they are new, change one and keep the other 5 for backups. Or if you have all the time in the world I guess you could go to a little shop and buy a single string… LOL, I haven’t done that in years!
This of course depends on many different factors.
- Do you live in an especially humid climate?
- How often do you play?
- What kind of strings do you use?
- How important is tone to you?
Moisture, dirt and oils are all big contributors to the fast wear of your strings and your hands have no shortage of any of them! The corrosive effect of the salts in your sweat also play into the factor.
If you are a light player and only tend to pick up your guitar a few times a month, you will notice that the e and B strings tend to corrode the most since they are usually made of plain steel (unless you play with Stainless Steel strings) and the lack of use allows them to degrade quickly. In this case changing the strings can be more of a comfort issue than a tone consideration. Changing your strings every 3 to 6 months would be reasonable… though I can tell you that I have gone as long as 1 year on guitars I don’t play often and they still sounded ok. Just remember that those e and B strings can be murderous when sliding with all that corrosion on them.
If you are a more advanced player and play every day, changing your strings will be more a consideration of tone than playability. Changing your guitar strings once a month or once every other month will keep them sounding bright and clean. Due to the dirt and oils come off your hands and fill in the spaces of the string windings, regular players tend to hear the tone get murky and muddy much sooner than they notice the strings getting corroded.
Players that play gigs regularly, record or do tours will want to change their strings before every show or every other show. There is nothing worse than breaking a string in the middle of a gig and changing them very regularly will keep the strings strong and ready for your intended abuse.
Strings can get expensive if you change them more than you need to so experiment and find exactly what makes you happy. Remember, people can tell you what to do but in the end, it’s your guitar!