Restringing Your Guitar

This is a necessary task for any guitar player, from time-to-time. It’s time-consuming & tedious, but also delicate & important, and one that can’t be rushed– otherwise the instrument becomes less playable. The best person to do the restringing is the owner/musician.

Serious musicians are intimate with their instrument, therefore if they are to master it, they must be able to properly maintain it. Anything more complicated than restringing, including electronics and repair work, can be deferred to a trusted professional. But restringing needs to be done by the musician, because it allows them to own their instrument.

Start by slackening the strings, and then pulling the wire off the headstock for all 6 strings. Once the old strings are detached, use a pliers to remove the pegs/pins past the bridge (above in white). Keep the pegs in order, so they can be placed back into their respective pin holes.

Be professional, by cutting the old strings into small lengths with a wire cutter, so no one gets stabbed later. Any guitar player should always have an extra set of strings & a multi-tool instrument as part of their rig. No excuse for a ruined gig, because you couldn’t change a string.

An acoustic guitar has a fixed bridge, which makes restringing and tuning to pitch a little more arduous. You have to be patient, and commit yourself to several days of guitar downtime, as the strings need to stretch out. Temperature & humidity also matter, the main point is to try to keep things stable.

The strings (and your guitar) will not respond well to cranking everything up to pitch all at once. Most decent acoustics have an adjustable truss rod these days. It’s always better to set the truss rod correctly at the initial stringing (and it’s best to let a professional do that, if you are not experienced), and then maintain it thereafter.

The clip-on tuner is one of the great modern troubleshoots in popular music. Restring right & left, from bottom-to-top on the headstock, meaning outside strings first (low E & high E),  next the middle strings (A & B), then finally the inner strings (D & G). This keeps the tension more even across the neck & bridge, to prevent warping.

Put the wire button and bridge pin in first. Push the pin down as far as you can. Then feed the other end of the wire through the tuning machine, and then use a pliers to grab the string tight against the headstock, as you begin to turn the tuning pegs. Pulling the string tight with a pliers in tis manner, prevents loose windings or kinks in the string.

A loose (or poorly positioned) winding can be corrected– if caught early. Just loosen and then re-tighten. Any kink, even past the nut, kills the string. You should have an extra set of strings on hand, in case this happens.

Be patient. Keep tuning up to pitch, and then let things “breathe” for a few hours. The strings need to be gently stretched, for best playability and longest life. After a day or two, you’ll finally get near the proper pitch for each string. At this point. the strings will tend to detune quickly, or a peg may pop up– slackening the string. Continue to push the pins down, while tuning the string up to pitch.

Practice lightly when pitch is finally held. Barre chords and riffing are the best ways to test out the new strings. Notice that your guitar sounds different!  Each stringing has it’s own unique set of qualities. Once the guitar holds pitch consistently, snip the excess wire as close as possible to their tuning pegs, and you’re good to go.

Maintain better life in the strings by making it a habit to wipe them down with a cotton rag after each playing session. Otherwise, the oils, grease & sweat from your hands will corrode the strings. This is intense, but it makes sense– not dense…