How To Restring A Guitar – 4 Step Plan
Under: Guitar Gear
As a guitarist of over 20 years, one thing never changes. A few times a year, I’ll sit down and restring every guitar I own. If you’re not used to changing strings, here is a simple and easy to follow 4 step plan for how to restring a guitar.
These steps work for any style of electric or acoustic guitar. Nylon strung guitars typically use a slightly different system at the bridge. So you’ll want to modify these steps a little, but the overall process is still the same.
After a few goes, you’ll be an expert at changing strings and be able to do it in your sleep! Here’s how to restring a guitar in 4 easy to follow steps.
Step 1: Remove old strings
Start by taking off the old strings. Some find it easy to grab a string winder and unwind the tuners. Next, coil the old string up and bin.
Others do this by hand, while some prefer to cut the strings and deal with each end differently. Just make sure you get the whole string off the guitar.
If you play a Strat or Tele style guitar, find a set of small screwdrivers. They cost a few dollars from your local hardware store. That way you can either push or pull the lost ball ends out and check that each string hole is empty of debris.
So we have removed the old strings. Clear out any left-over string parts and made sure everything is empty.
Step 2: Clean guitar
Get a cup of warm water and a cloth. Damp the cloth to just moisten it.
Starting at the head, remove all dust, marks, and gunk. Next, work down the neck and make sure that you get in between the frets and scrub really hard.
Finally, you want to polish the body and the hardware. Finger marks never look good, so you’ll want to polish the guitar to remove them.
Ensure the tuners are moving without any problem. If you have a floating bridge, now is the time to test that it still moves as it should.
Use fret polish cloths to clean your frets. It’s a good way to protect your frets further.
Step 3: Lubricate and Restring
While using lube is optional, it will keep the nut working. So, you might want to consider that. I recommend Big Bends Lil Luber Ultra Nut Sauce Applicator ($10 at Amazon).
You’ll want to move the tuners so that they are placed with their opening facing down the neck. This way there are in the right spot to accept strings (so you don’t waste time).
Now there are many ways to restring. The kind of guitar you use will influence how you restring.
Some prefer low to high or high to low, and others prefer to work their way inwards in pairs, like so: 6 and 1, 5 and 2, and finally 4 and 3.
You can either restring straight through (just like it sounds) by going up over the bridge, through the nut, and into the tuner and tighten. Next, repeat.
Or when you get to the nut; go round the top of the tuner once, before going into it under this first wind. Don’t worry as this first loop will tighten as you start to wind.
Check your nut! Some nuts are self-lubricating, so you don’t have to worry about lubrication!
Step 4: Stretch – Tune – Snip
Last step in my how to restring a guitar plan! When you have added all the strings you need to bring them up to tune. At this point, it’s good to get a really precise tuner.
While you can use any tuner like the Boss TU-3 (my favorite), consider investing in the Peterson VSS-C Strobo Series Stomp or any Peterson tuners.
Start with one string. Tune it to the correct pitch. Once at pitch, place your finger lightly over the 12th fret and plug the string again (called a harmonic).
You want to check that this is in tune as well. If it’s not, you need to get your guitar set up by a good local tech.
Next, you need to push down on the string from the top of the fretboard. This will cause the string to lose tuning but will remove any slackness in the string and help to tighten it around the tuner.
After you have stretched, you will need to retune. Once at the pitch, stretch again, and bring it back up to pitch. You’ll need to repeat a few times until it holds its tuning. If you do this now, you’re less likely to have tuning issues in the future.
You next need to snip off the excess string at the top. Once you’ve snipped, either bend what’s left or just leave it short enough to be useful when restringing. If you leave them too long, it’s likely to get caught in your case.
When stretching the thinner strings, go carefully or you’ll end up breaking them and having to buy a few sets.
That’s how to restring a guitar!
You know now how to restring a guitar. None of the four steps are difficult. But, take your time to properly stretch out the strings to avoid any surprises.
Even the more experienced of us still break a string playing or when restring. So don’t worry if you occasionally snap one.
I’d love to know what is your favorite brand and gauge of strings? Do you have a particular string brand you can’t live without?