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How To Restring An Acoustic Guitar

Ok so I know some of you will laugh at this but I do know people who have played guitar for a while now and still waste their money taking their guitar to a music shop to have it restrung. This is a terrible waste of money for a job that takes 15 minutes max once it’s been mastered.

I also feel that as this is the first of the How To series it should start at the beginning with the basics that everyone should know.

Choosing your strings

Your choice of strings actually has more of an impact than you might think on the overall sound of your guitar. The different types can seem quite confusing at first but we’ll start with the obvious; if you have an acoustic guitar buy acoustic strings, if it’s an electric buy electric guitar strings. There is a huge difference between the two believe me, you can’t just slap any old strings on there. And yes I have seen this before so apologies if this sounds patronising.

Now you want to think about what type of strings you want; the sizes generally range through regular/standard/medium, light and extra light. These terms refer to what is called the ‘gauge’ or thickness of the strings so the lower the gauge the lighter the string and vice versa. You want to think about what sort of sound you prefer or what your playing style is like; if you do a lot of picking then light strings would be better whilst if you mostly use chords then standard strings will add more impact to your sound. If you’re a beginner then just mess around with different types for a while until you find some that work for you.

As for the make that’s entirely up to you. Do bear in mind that you get what you pay for though. Slinky strings are at the lower end of the scale and as a result they can sound a little flat, Martin strings (the strings I use) are a good middle ground both price and quality wise. D’Addrio strings are at the higher end and sound great but I rarely have the money to buy them. Take this information as a guide and just go with your instincts. The longer you play, the clearer idea you’ll have of what works for you.

Also, try looking on a website like Amazon to get cheap deals on strings, especially if you happen to be ordering something online anyway.

Removing the old strings

Right, you’ve made your choice and you’re itching to get those strings on there and see what they’re like. Whoa there! First we have to whip those old manky ones off and dump them like an unwanted Christmas sprout. A few quick technical terms: those six metal keys at the top and the metal bits the strings are attached to are called the ‘tuning pegs’ and that bit at the top of the fret board that the strings are resting in is called the ‘nut’ (don’t know why). See picture below. Also click the picture of the guitar at the end of this article to get a full diagram of the parts of an acoustic guitar, just to be sure.

To get the strings off turn the pegs until the strings are loose enough for you to unwind and detach them from the guitar. Couple more technical terms: at the other end of the guitar beyond the soundhole is the ‘bridge’ and the bit of plastic the strings are resting in is called the ‘saddle’. Again, see the picture below. The strings are being held in at the bottom by some pegs, usually made of plastic. These are detachable and sometimes they’re a pain to get out. Use something to gently lever them out, gently mind! I use a blunt knife myself being very careful not to scratch it. Once the plastic pegs are out keep them to one side because you’re going to need them again in a second.

Attaching the new strings

When you open the packet of new strings you’ll often find that they’re colour coded to represent standard tuning going from low EADGBE. Obviously the thicker strings are the lower notes. Depending on the make, the strings might be slightly mixed up and separated into separate packets. Just try your best not to get confused.

It’s easiest to start with the low E and work across. Take the string and feed the end with the little circle on it into the corresponding bridge hole. Then take one of the plastic pegs you detached earlier; there should be a ridge going down the ‘tooth’ of it, this is for the string to go through. Press the peg into the hole with the ridge facing towards the tuning pegs and keep your finger pressed down on the plastic peg. Now pull the string up until it’s tight. Done? Good.

Take the other end of the string and wind it from right to left onto the part of the tuning peg that it was wound onto earlier at the top of the fretboard (see the side note below if  you’ve forgotten where the strings went). Make sure you pull it tight before you start winding it and also make sure the string is resting in the corresponding groove on the nut at the top of the fretboard. If the plastic peg at the bottom keeps coming out gently tap it with something until it’s tightly stuck in there.

Wind the string round the tuning peg about two to three times. Then feed the end through the little hole in the middle of the peg and pull it tight. Now start turning the tuning peg but keep a hand on the plastic peg at the bottom to dissuade it from popping out. Once the string is nice and taut the plastic peg will hold it in place. I would recommend not tuning up until all the strings are on there.

–         A side note: attach the low E string to the bottom tuning peg on the left, A string to the middle tuning peg on the left, D string to the top tuning peg on the left. Then the G string to the top tuning peg on the right, B string to the middle tuning peg on the right, E string to the bottom tuning peg on the right.

That’s essentially it. It took a lot longer to explain than it does to actually do as I’m trying to be as clear as possible. Remember that once the strings are on there and you’ve tuned them up they will keep going out of a tune for a short while until they’ve stretched out. One last thing; you should try to change your strings at least every two weeks or so but it’s understandable if you can’t afford that or they just don’t get that much use. It’s up to you how often you do it.

Good luck and happy stringing.

Jamie Jolley

I will be adding more pictures and possibly a video when I re-string my own guitar. Hopefully this will suffice as a guide for the moment

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