How to change a guitar string

2024-06-20

If you are a beginner guitarist, you may be wondering: can I change the guitar strings myself? Yes, you can. Although the process is a little different depending on whether it is an acoustic or electric guitar, you’ll get the hang of it quickly and it will soon become second nature. Check out how in our step-by-step guide, including a free video tutorial and some handy tips and tricks.

JUMP TO SECTION
  • Can I change just one guitar string?
  • Considerations when changing strings
  • What tools do I need to change a guitar string?
  • Free Video Lesson: How to change an electric guitar string
  • Replacing a guitar string: step-by-step
  • Is it OK to reuse guitar strings?
  • Can I use a D string as a G string (or as an A string)?
  • Tips and tricks for changing a string
  • Learn more about playing guitar

Can I change just one guitar string?

Yes, you can change just one guitar string if necessary. This situation often arises when a single string breaks or is noticeably underperforming compared to the others.

When to change just one string

  • Broken String: The most common reason

  • Wear and Tear: If one string shows signs of damage or wear significantly more than the others.

  • Tuning Stability: A single string that frequently goes out of tune may benefit from replacement.

Considerations when changing strings

  • Tonal imbalance: New strings have a brighter sound compared to older, played-in strings. Replacing just one string can result in a slight tonal imbalance (more noticeable with recording than casual playing).

  • All strings age: Over time, all strings will lose their tone and playability. If your strings are old, it might be worth replacing the entire set to ensure consistent sound quality and playability.

What tools do I need to change a guitar string?

Stringtools.webpFundamentally, all you really need is a spare guitar string, but as you develop as a guitarist you’ll definitely want to add a few things to your toolkit to make it even more effortless.

Tools needed

  • New guitar string

  • String winder (optional but helpful)

  • Wire cutters

  • Tuner (optional but recommended)

Free Video Lesson: How to change an electric guitar string

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Replacing a guitar string: step-by-step

STEP 1 — Remove the old string

  • Loosen the string: Use a string winder or your fingers to turn the tuning peg, loosening the string until it's slack.

  • Unwind and remove: Unwind the string from the tuning peg and then remove it from the bridge. For an acoustic guitar, you may need to use a pin puller (often part of a string winder) to remove the bridge pins before sliding the string out.

STEP 2 — Prepare the new string

  • Unpack the string: Carefully remove the new string from its packaging. Make sure you're using the correct string.

  • Insert into bridge: For an acoustic guitar, insert the end of the string into the bridge hole and replace the bridge pin to secure it. For electric guitars with a bridge that requires threading, feed the string through the appropriate hole or slot.

STEP 3 — Thread the tuning peg

  • Guide the string: Pull the string towards the headstock, guiding it through the corresponding nut slot.

  • Wind the string: Insert the end of the string through the hole in the tuning peg. Leave enough slack to enable a few wraps around the peg. For most guitars, winding the string so it wraps from the inside out is recommended.

  • Keep tension: Hold the string taut with one hand while you begin winding with the other. This helps ensure the string wraps neatly around the peg.

STEP 4 — Tighten the string

  • Use a string winder: A string winder can significantly speed up this process. Wind the string around the tuning peg, making sure each new wrap falls below the previous one. Aim for even, tight wraps without overlapping.

  • Trim the excess: Once the string is securely wound and tuned to pitch, use wire cutters to trim the excess string from the tuning peg. Leave about an inch or so to allow for some re-tuning as needed.

STEP 5 — Tune the String

  • Initial Tuning: Use a guitar tuner to get the string to the correct pitch. Strings will often stretch a bit when new, so you may need to retune several times until it maintains its pitch.

ARTMASTER TOOLS: If you don’t have a guitar tuner handy, just use our free guitar tuner. And be sure to check out our guide on how to tune a guitar.

STEP 6 — Stretch the string

  • Stretching: Gently pull the string away from the fretboard at various points along its length, then retune. This helps the string settle and reduces the amount of tuning adjustment needed later.

STEP 7 — Repeat for other strings

  • One at a time: If you're changing all strings, it's generally best to change them one at a time. This maintains tension on the neck and helps keep the bridge and saddle in place, especially important for acoustic guitars.

Is it OK to reuse guitar strings?

We would never generally recommend reusing guitar strings. An older string will have poor sound quality, won’t stay in tune well and be likely to break at the worst moment. But obviously, if there is no other choice at that moment (during a performance or band practice and you’ve left your spare strings at home) — it will work as a temporary fix.

Can I use a D string as a G string (or as an A string)?

This is a surprisingly common question. But avoid this, unless their is no choice or you are just experimenting. You also have to take into account the string gauge and type.

Tips and tricks for changing a string

  • Always keep a spare set of strings (and tools) in your instrument bag / case

  • Use the chance to wipe down your instrument.

  • Aim for tight, orderly wraps on the tuning pegs.

  • After putting on a string, gently stretch it to help stabilize tuning.

  • Inspect the frets and nut for wear during the string change.

  • Change strings every 3 to 6 months for the best sound.

Learn more about playing guitar

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