How to change your guitar strings

When To Change Strings
Q: I purchased my first acoustic guitar about 3 months ago. When should I change the strings?

A:
When you change strings is dependent upon how often you play, your playing style, your care of the strings, and the effect your hands have on the strings. The short answer to this question is between 15 to 30 hours of play! Here's why: As you play, the strings will collect dirt and oils from your hands. This causes the the strings to become dead and to vibrate unevenly along their length (also causing tuning problems). Dirt and oils get into the windings and down inside to the core of the strings where it can cause corrosion of the core. If your hands are dirty or if your hands perspire when you play, this will shorten the string life. Wiping the strings off each time you are finished playing will help prolong their life. Also if you bend strings or play hard this will cause flat spots on the strings especially at the fret locations, shortening their life.


 A WELL STRUNG GUITAR
A Special Lesson On How To String a
Steel String Acoustic Guitar


Thank you to C.F. Martin & Co. for their help.


Note: Unless you have a specific reason for taking all strings off at one time - like total cleaning or waxing of the guitar - replace only one string at a time. This keeps the proper tension on the neck. Loosen and remove one string. Do not cut it while it is under tension, as that is a jolt to the neck.

 




Step 1
Step 1
Starting at either the treble or bass side, loosen and remove the first string to be replaced. Take note of how the bridge pin is positioned in the bridge saddle slot.

Insert the string in its proper hole in the bridge. Keep the heaviest portion of the double winding facing away from the sound hole.


Step 2
Step 2
The string should be positioned into the front edge of the bridge pin hole and the corresponding notch in the bridge pin. Push the ball end of the string down into the hole approximately 1 – 2 inches.


Step 3
Step 3
The string is held in place at the bridge by a small notch in the front edge of the bridge pin. Push the bridge pin all the way into the bridge. Then pull up on the string to make sure that the ball end of the string is pulled tightly up against the inside of the top of the guitar. (Older guitars may have small slots in the front of the bridge pin holes, but these are no longer necessary with these new style bridge pins.) After inserting the string and pin, a firm push with your thumb on the pin is all that is needed to keep it in place.


Step 4
Step 4
Note: Most bridge saddles are not glued to the bridge saddle slot. The tension of the strings will hold the saddle in place and the strings in their proper alignment.


Step 5
Step 5
Be sure to attach each string to its correct tuning peg (as shown in photo). The string is passed through the string hole located near the top of the tuning peg. Leave enough slack in the string so there will be 2 or 3 wraps around the tuning peg when tuned to pitch.


Step 6
Step 6
After coming through the string hole, the end of the string is wound one-half way in the reverse direction around the tuning peg (clockwise for the three bass strings; counterclockwise for the three treble strings). This will enable you to form a lock on the string to avoid slippage. (See to next step.)


Step 7
Step 7
(Note: The position of the guitar is reversed to show how the string is locked onto the shaft.) After passing under the longer part of the string, the short portion is bent back over the long part. As you tune up the string, you will notice that this step forms a lock that will prevent string slippage.


Step 8
Step 8
After the string is brought up to pitch (standard A-440 tuning), the extra length of string may be clipped off, usually about 1/4" above the last bend. Note that a string should pass around the shaft at least two to three full times. Each winding should be under the previous one, or closer to the base of the peg. This holds the strings in tune better and looks much neater.


Step 9
Step 9
You might occasionally encounter an older guitar with a thin bridge or a string with a longer double winding adjacent to the ball end. As contact with the bridge saddle by this winding is not recommended, we have shown an old luthier's trick or remedy. An extra ball from an old string is placed over the string and drawn against the first ball. This will effectively back the string into the bridge, removing the heavy area of the string from direct saddle contact.

That's it! You're done. Tune it to pitch and enjoy!

 



Thank you to Martin Guitar for this article. Copyright © 2002 C. F. Martin & Co.