Changing strings on an electric guitar may be intimidating for some new guitarists. They may feel like they could damage their guitar, or never get strings back on again! But, it is not actually that difficult of a task and will make a big difference in your playing if your strings are worn down. It is also useful knowledge to have, so you can put a new string on if one breaks!
So this week, we will go over how to change out the strings on your electric guitar. With some helpful tools and preparations, changing strings is not as scary as it may seem.
First, pick up the following supplies. While the wire cutter and new strings are the only truly mandatory items on the list, having these other things on hand will make changing out the strings much easier for you.
- String winder (click here for a good multi-purpose string winder)
- Wire cutter
- Any tools specific to your guitar model
- Fretboard cleaner (if removing all strings at once)
After you have your supplies on hand, you’re ready to start!
Prepare to remove the strings. If this is your very first time de-stringing your guitar, it might be a good idea to take a quick photo of how things looked before you removed the strings. This will give you a good idea of how things are supposed to look if you get lost or if you just simply need a reference, and it will only take a second of your time to do.
Pick the first string you want to remove and loosen it with a string winder. You can also do it by hand, but using a string winder is much more efficient and will save you a lot of time. If this is your first time changing strings, you should remove only one string at a time to make things a bit easier. Once you have had some practice from changing strings a few times, you can remove all the strings at once and use the opportunity to clean your guitar with cleaning products.
Remove the string. You can do this by either loosening the string enough to just pull it out, or you can use your wire cutters and chop it in half once it is loose enough. Generally, you can remove the string by turning your guitar over and pulling it out through the back. With some guitars, you may pull the string out in the front. If you choose to not cut the string in half first, take your time with this step to make sure you do not damage anything. If you have cut the string, this step becomes easier, as you can just push the string through the hole.
Get the new string ready to put on. Remove it from its packaging, and check that you have the correct string for the hole; usually you can tell by the color-coded ball ends. Go ahead and insert the string into the bridge entry where you pulled out the old string. Take your time with this step as you guide the string through, and try to keep it from grinding too much on the bridge hole.
Now that the string is on the guitar, we need to get it into the tuning post. Turn your tuning post so it is parallel to the frets. This will make getting the string in there properly a little easier. Once that is done, go ahead and pull the string through the post, making sure it is facing downwards along the post. Be careful to not pull it too tight just yet.
Bend the string against the tuning post so it stays in place. Then, to really hold things down, wrap the loose end of string clockwise around the post and under the string where you fed it into the guitar. Then, bend the loose end over the string tightly and pull it towards the top of the guitar, essentially creating a loop. This will help keep things from moving around. Still be careful to not over-tighten the strings.
You’re almost there! Check over the string for any twists or bends that may have appeared while you were putting the string on. This might also be a good time to take a look at your reference pictures.
Grab your string winder and start winding. Gently hold the string in place as you wind it, and make sure it is winding in a uniform manner. You’ll want to be turning your tuner counter-clockwise. Go as slowly as you need, and don’t wind the string too tight.
Use a tuner to slowly tune your string. Be gentle to make sure the string doesn’t break. It may take several attempts before the string holds its tone over the course of a couple of days as the strings stretch. You can also tune after you finish swapping out all the strings instead of tuning one at a time.
Cut off excess string from the tuning post. You can leave a little bit extra if you want to be able to down tune your guitar.
Repeat these steps for each string, until your guitar has a shiny new set of strings on it!
Here is a great video for reference if you need a visual guide, along with a few alternative techniques.
Congratulations, you successfully changed the strings on your electric guitar! Be sure to tune the guitar frequently for the first couple of days to minimize issues with tuning as the strings stretch. Now, you can get back to rocking out in no time.