DIY: Install Strings on your Guitar (any guitar)

January 09, 2015

Changing strings on your guitar is never the most interesting activity for most of the guitarists. It’s that one thing that we all procrastinate, especially with the lack of option available in physical market (check our online collection though) and not having right tools. However it’s not a tricky deal if you know a few hacks mentioned in this blog and have some tools. People who strive for perfection and want their guitar to look just perfect, this guide is definitely for you.

Well there are a few tools that are required to complete this “herculean” task:

  1. String clipper

  2. String winder (Optional)

  3. Cleaning cloth (Optional)

  4. Fretboard cleaner (Optional)

  5. Fretboard conditioner (Optional)

  6. Ruler (Optional)

Well there are two ways of doing it; one when you remove all the strings at once, and second is when you replace one string at a time.

The general suggestion is to always go string by string, especially in case of electric guitars with floating tremolos. The reason being, its just an easier way to do it and there is no chance of neck damage. However if you do choose to remove all strings and restring, it gives you the benefit of cleaning hard to reach spots on the fretboard and pickups that have accumulated some dirt, skin oil, etc. So without further ado, lets get to it!

Step 1:

The first step is to obviously remove the old strings. This innocuous task, if not done correctly, can damage your guitar’s neck. The right way to do is to always lower the string tension to sloppy level first and then clipping them off. If you try to clip off a string that is in tension or has enough tension left, first of all it might hurt you, and secondly with sudden change in the tension of the neck, the neck is likely to get damaged. Removal of strings is pretty easy task, after clipping them, you should remove the rest of the string to make way for new (removing old string from both ends). Yeah… not that easy in case of a Floyd Rose bridge. Nothing is easy when it comes to a Floyd Rose bridge. I’ll talk about Floyd Rose at the end so you may want to head there first if your guitar is fitted with one.

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Step 2:

Clean the fretboard and guitar body with a soft cleaning cloth with some fretboard cleaner sprayed on. After this, a fretboard conditioner can be used to condition the wood if required. The point to consider is different wood need different conditioner, never use anything on the fretboard without being sure about compatibility with your guitar’s neck wood.

Step 3:

Now we are all set to install new strings. This can be done in two ways, start from lower E to higher e or vice versa. To fit them nice and snug with 3-4 turns per tuning machine, you’ll need a ruler. First set up the string in saddle (ball end of string) to fit (opposite of how you removed it), and then insert it in the tuning machine.

For classical guitar insert string at the saddle end in the following way, rest is similar to acoustic guitar.

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Step 4:

Now take up the ruler and pull the string to about 5-5.5 inch at the 12th fret. With keeping slight tension in the string, bend the string coming out of the tuning machine (free end) to opposite direction so that it doesn't comes out while tuning. While keeping slight tension in string, wind the string with the help of string winder, to the point where tension begins to increase. Now you should leave the string and tune it to a slightly sharp tone.

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Repeat the process with all strings.

All new strings take about few hours to set in, wherein they keep elongating and that’s why the guitar will keep detuning initially. A common practice is to give the strings a little pull one by one after tuning to speed up the process.

Step 5:

Clip off extra wire hanging out, and if directions are followed correctly, each tuning machine should have about 3-4 turns and your guitar will look professionally restrung.

Floyd Rose

Insert over-rated "roses come with thorns" quote here

If you purchased a floating bridge equipped guitar just for easy vibratos, you are definitely not prepared for the maintenance it demands. Any guitarist who uses a floating bridge can tell how tricky the tuning scenario is, and you can bid occasional drop tunings goodbye. Changing strings is no easy task too. But like always, there are few hacks that can help you shine in that department. It’s very important to know the stock gauge of the strings, otherwise the bridge will not stay parallel with the body if gauge is lighter or heavier.

Step 1:

Never remove strings without locking the bridge in place. The moment you decrease the tension, the bridge will start to dip. If you want to change all strings… the amount of time bridge stays dipped is just not good for the system. So to fix this, the first step to restringing a Floyd Rose (floating bridge) guitar is to first lock the bridge in place, so that it doesn’t falls back down. To do this, the hack is to put a eraser below the bridge such that bridge stays parallel to body, this will keep the bridge in place and bear the pull from the bridge springs. Another way is to put the tremolo arm all way towards the end pin/strap button and then putting something between the arm and the body such that the bridge stays parallel to the body.

Now you can go ahead and remove the strings easily with the tools included with the guitar. A few trials should be enough to find out which allen key goes in the locking mechanism.

Step 2:

Unscrew the locking mechanism.

Release the tension in strings by unwinding the strings.

Clip the string when the tension is lower; again... it’s a good practice with a floating bridge to replace strings one by one so that the makeshift tension mechanism doesn’t fails.

Step 3:

Remove the strings from the saddle. To do this find the right allen key to fit the screw and then unscrew it and pull the string out.

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Step 4:

Install new string. Take the ball end and clip the ball end from it leaving only the uniform string behind. It’s to be noted that while securing strings in saddle, one should not over do the turns with the screw. A good way to do is to insert the string into mechanism and keep them perpendicular to the bridge. Start with a free hand and screw it until you can’t go any further without increasing torque. Then go about a quarter rotation more.

Step 5:

Allow the strings to set in for a couple of hours before locking them up. Locking mechanism follows the same rule, never over screw them. Follow the same steps as saddle screws to lock strings up.

Step 6:

Nail the performance!

We hope this comprehensive guide left no questions unanswered.

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