How To Change Guitar Strings

Want to know how to change guitar strings? Our step-by-step guide will show you how to change guitar strings quickly, correctly and safely.

How to change guitar strings – Step #1: Get the right tools for the job.

If you want to learn how to change guitar strings there are a few tools you will need:

string winder, a set of pliers and a guitar tuner. (And of course, a new set of guitar strings.)

The string winder isn’t essential, but it’s useful to have because it saves so much time.

Sometimes called ‘pegwinders’, these little gadgets are cheap and useful. Some even have pliers build in. (Handy!) This model is one of our favourites.

How to change guitar strings – step #2: Take the old strings off.

Ideally we don’t want to take all the strings off at once because this sudden change in tension can upset the balance of your guitar’s neck.

While learning how to change guitar strings, you are also learning some important pieces of general guitar maintenance:

  • Going from holding the tension of six strings to having zero tension is a big change for a humble piece of wood!

It’s ok to take all the strings off occasionally (e.g., when periodically cleaning the guitar neck and rubbing lemon oil into the wood) but this should be the exception to the rule.

Most of the time, do it one string at a time.

It doesn’t matter what order you change the strings in, but if it’s your first time, we strongly advise you start with the 6th string (the thickest string), as this is the easiest one to change.

The 1st string (the thinnest string) is the hardest to change because it is slippier and more likely to unravel as you attempt to wind it up.

Learning how to change guitar strings is mainly learning how to stop strings unravelling and driving you insane.

how to change guitar strings for beginners

Watch this video to see our step-by-step guide:

How to change guitar strings – step #3: Slacken off the old string at the neck end of the guitar.

It’s very important to do this. If you try and remove a string that is still tight it will spring off the guitar and possibly cut you or catch you in the eye.

Make sure the string is slack before you try to remove it from the guitar!

All we need to do to loosen the string is detune it by turning the tuning peg until it no longer plays a note. (When it’s just flapping and not making any discernible sound, it’s ready to come off.

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How to change guitar strings – step #4: Uncoil the string from the tuning peg.

So now your string should be nice and slack.

  • The next step is to simply uncoil it from the tuning peg.
  • Slowly unravel it. It should come away fairly easily now the tension has been taken out of the string.

The final tip of the string may take a little persuasion as it is usually kinked in order to keep it in place.

If that’s the case, just bend it back a little to straighten out the kink and give the string a gentle tug to free it from the tuning peg.

Important safety tip: the ends of guitar strings can be very sharp (especially if they were snipped with pliers). Handle them with the same caution you would a pin or a needle. If you have kids around, take care. 

Working out how to change guitar strings is quite straightforward, but you must use some caution too. Don’t forget that guitar strings are pieces of metal. Jagged and splintered metal can hurt!

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How to change guitar strings – step #5: Remove the old string from the bridge end of the guitar.

Now we’ve freed the string at the headstock end of the guitar, we need to free the other end, at the bridge.

This is where our approach can vary depending on the type of guitar.

With a steel string acoustic guitar, the strings are usually fixed to the bridge using ‘bridge pins’. (These things are basically little pegs, with a groove running down the inside.)

how to change guitar strings

To remove the bridge pin of the string you can either use pliers, or the string notch on your string winder (which is sized perfectly to help you lever out the pin).

If you don’t have either of those things at hand, you can use a spoon to work out the bridge pin . Two points here:

  • Take care to ensure the curved spoon back doesn’t dent your guitar.
  • The best way to prevent this is to put something like a cloth or towel under it while you lever the bridge pin out.

Interesting fact: Some bridge pins can be quite loose. These can be lifted out with your bare hands and won’t require any tools.

how to change guitar strings

Once we’ve worked the bridge pin free, the string should lift out of the bridge quite easily.

If you have a nylon-string guitar (a classical or flamenco guitar) then there will be no bridge pins. The strings are held onto the bridge by a loop that’s been threaded through itself. Simply untie the loop.

how to change guitar strings

With electric guitars, there are two main ways the strings can be threaded through the bridge: ‘string-through‘ and ‘bridge-mounted‘.

If you want to know how to change guitar strings for your specific guitar you will need to pay attention here…

‘String-through’ is what guitars like the Fender Stratocasters use. This is where the strings are fed in through holes in the back of the guitar body and poke out through the bridge at the front. It looks like this:

how to change guitar strings

Guitars like Gibson Les Pauls on the other hand are ‘bridge-mounted’. This means the strings feed in straight through the bridge at the front. (No need to feed them through the back of the body.)

It’s the same with bass guitars: Some are ‘string-through’, some are ‘bridge-mounted’.

how to change guitar strings

In both cases, the old string should simply slide its way through the bridge once you’ve taken care to ensure that it’s loose and slack.

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