Re-stringing your guitar is a task that all guitar players will come across at some point. If you don’t know how to do this, it’s a terrific skill for you to develop as a guitarist, and will save you taking the guitar down to a music store to have it restrung. In addition to being useful, it’s a fun skill to develop, and will allow to you really get to know your instrument. Here are some simple instructions for you. If you are unsure about any of the steps, feel free to contact us or schedule a lesson with us to teach you how to restring.
1. Before you start – make sure you have everything you’ll need to change your strings. You will need a new set of strings. The kind of strings you buy depends on what style you play, and also just your personal preference. I use .009 – .046 gauge strings to give me a solid tone but also to make bending easy. You can opt for thicker strings if you want a richer tone, for example .010 – .046, but remember that these will be more difficult to play and to bend.
In addition to your strings, you will need a couple of handy tools to make life easier, including a set of wire cutters to trim the ends of your new strings (Bunnings Warehouse sells these for around $7.00) a microfibre cleaning cloth and a fretboard polish (Kwik Fret string lube works well) and a string winder to wind your new strings on quickly and easily. You will also need a guitar tuner to tune your guitar once it has been restrung.
2. Using your string winder, loosen off your old strings so they are no longer under tension. At this point if you think you won’t remember how they are meant to go back on – change one string at a time so you can use the other strings as a guide. Using your wire cutters, cut the old strings in half around the 12th fret. Next, unwind the old strings from the machine heads. Then thread the other half of the string out through your bridge.
3. Now that your guitar is stringless, it’s a great chance to give your fretboard a quick clean – grab your microfibre cloth and Kwik Fret and give it a good polishing. This will ensure that the wooden neck is clean and well maintained. Grab your new pack of strings – each string should be labelled or colour coded so you know which is which – depending on which brand of strings you use this will usually be the case, however it depends on the brand. Remember – the 1st string is the thinnest one, and the 6th string is the thickest.
4. Unwrap your E 6th string (the thickest string) and unwind it. You’ll notice that one end of the string has a metal ball on it. This is what holds the string in your bridge. Take the other end of the string and thread it through your bridge, up over your saddle and up towards your machine heads. Thread the string straight through the hole in your machine head.
5. Flatten your hand and place it upright under the string at the 12th fret. This will give you the proper amount of winds around your machine head. Too many and you decrease sustain, too little and your guitar will struggle to stay in tune.
6. Guiding the string near where it goes through the hole in your machine head, begin to wind it on with your string winder. For guitars with 3-a-side machine heads (such as the Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul), your string should always go around the machine head from the inside to the outside of the headstock. In other words – to the left for the E6, A5 and D4 strings, and to the right for the G3, B2 and E1 strings. For guitars with 6-in-line machine heads (Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters) your string should always start on the inside and go to the left. If you’re unsure of how this works – have a look at your strings before you change them as a guide. Your string windings should also always start at the hole in the machine head and work their way down.
7. Once you have wound the string to a point where it starts to make a ‘note’, grab your guitar tuner and tune it up. Be careful not to over tune the string or it’ll snap under too much tension. Once you have all your new strings on and tuned up, carefully and gently stretch each one a little, then re-tune your guitar. This will help the strings settle in and hold tune better. Once you’ve done this, snip the ends of your new strings off and your guitar is ready to go!