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Restring an Acoustic Guitar

Updated on May 23, 2016
She Loves Her Guitar!
She Loves Her Guitar! | Source

Do You Love Your Guitar?

Do you change the oil in your car? Do you change your clothes? Do you change your mind? Change is good, change is refreshing and new! The same care and attention paid to our vehicles, clothing and psyche should be applied to our guitar. If you play a guitar, you probably love that guitar, so take good care of it and it will last you a lifetime.

Guitar strings wear out just like oil, clothes and minds. When they do, we need to replace them, or retire them. If you don't know how to replace the strings on your guitar, you can hire someone at the local music store to do it, and pay them for a job so simple you'll wish you had changed your mind along with your guitar strings!

A fresh set of strings is music to my ears, sweet, clear, clean notes coming off the stings. When the strings wear down the notes aren't as crisp and clean. You'll hear more vibration or the string will sound dull or muted. The metal wrapped around the three low strings, E, A and D will eventually separate and the nylon inside will ground to the guitar and sound very dull. In some unfortunate cases the string will break, sending a whip of metal or nylon flinging in the direction of your face!

A new set of strings is very, very inexpensive. The strings are purchased separately or in a replacement pack of six (6). I order a pack of each chord, they come in packs of ten or more, and it costs less than $15.

Let me walk you through the steps of replacing guitar strings. There are several identifying photo's so there's little chance of becoming confused.

Acoustic Guitar Diagram

Acoustic Guitar Diagram for Reference
Acoustic Guitar Diagram for Reference | Source

String It!

First you'll want to purchase the strings. When I replace one, I replace them all, it just makes good sense to me. The music store, record stores like the Warehouse and online like Amazon all sell guitar strings.

Now that you have your guitar strings in hand, let's re-string your guitar!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Locate the nuts at the headstock of your guitar......each nut has a hole with the guitar string strung through it......twist the nut in such a fashion that the string unwinds, when it's unwound use tweezers or the like to pull it out of the hole.
Locate the nuts at the headstock of your guitar...
Locate the nuts at the headstock of your guitar...
...each nut has a hole with the guitar string strung through it...
...each nut has a hole with the guitar string strung through it...
...twist the nut in such a fashion that the string unwinds, when it's unwound use tweezers or the like to pull it out of the hole.
...twist the nut in such a fashion that the string unwinds, when it's unwound use tweezers or the like to pull it out of the hole.

Start at the Headstock

  1. Start at the headstock. Choose either the low E string or the high E string to start with. It makes it easier to keep track of which one you've done if you start at either the high end or the low end as opposed to in the middle somewhere.
  2. Twist the nut in a fashion that unwinds the string from the nut.
  3. When the string is unwound, use tweezers or the like to pull the string out of the nut hole.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Head down to the other end of the strings......the bridge & saddle......a loop at the end of the string......or a bead at the end of the string.
Head down to the other end of the strings...
Head down to the other end of the strings... | Source
...the bridge & saddle...
...the bridge & saddle...
...a loop at the end of the string...
...a loop at the end of the string...
...or a bead at the end of the string.
...or a bead at the end of the string.

Head Down to the Bridge

Now that you have the string unattached from the nut at the headstock, head down to the bridge where the saddle.

There are several ways the string can be attached at the saddle. Some are looped around onto themselves and others have a small bead that prevents the string from sliding through and so on. I will go over the two types I mentioned above.

  1. Lift the loop at the bridge enough to be able to slide the string through it. For the type with a bead: slide the string through with the bead still attached.
  2. Once the string is clear of the loop, slide the whole string through the hole or untwist the loop and slide that side through. Either way, slide the string through the hole on the bridge so it is free of the guitar.
  3. For the bead type: once the string is free of the guitar, un-twist the string from the bead and keep the bead for the new string.

Choose Your String

OK, so we have the string off the guitar. Select a new string that is the same as the one you just removed. The packages are marked either with a 1 - 6 or their note ie: E, A, D, G, B, E respectively.

Guitar strings are made of nylon and steel now-a-days. Have you ever heard of the term "cat gut"? Before 1946 guitar strings were made of just that; cat gut. Someone that really wanted to get hold of that old style surely could. Run a search on the Internet and someone, somewhere, will have it.

Today we'll be stringing with nylon and steel. Simple observation will alert you if you're about to put the wrong string on. The nylon strings are very different in texture and appearance from the metal strings.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Slide the string through and loop it back on itself then twist several times......after it's twisted, thread the string through it and pull it up towards the headstock until the loop is snuggied down. The red dot is the bead.  It stops the string from sliding through.Wrap the string around the bead and thread the string back through the hole.The hole will hold the tail of the thread from unwinding.
Slide the string through and loop it back on itself then twist several times...
Slide the string through and loop it back on itself then twist several times...
...after it's twisted, thread the string through it and pull it up towards the headstock until the loop is snuggied down.
...after it's twisted, thread the string through it and pull it up towards the headstock until the loop is snuggied down.
The red dot is the bead.  It stops the string from sliding through.
The red dot is the bead. It stops the string from sliding through.
Wrap the string around the bead and thread the string back through the hole.
Wrap the string around the bead and thread the string back through the hole.
The hole will hold the tail of the thread from unwinding.
The hole will hold the tail of the thread from unwinding.

String it Up

First I'll go over the kind that loops back on itself, then the kind with a retaining bead. Follow along with the photo's at the right.
Let's string it up with the following steps:

  1. Take either end of the string and slip it through the hole on the bridge.
  2. Pull enough string through to form a loop; a short length should do.
  3. Twist the loop around itself four or five times.
  4. Take the opposite end of the string and thread it through the loop you just made without letting go of the loop (it will un-twist if you let it go).
  5. Pull the thread through the loop and continue pulling until all excess string is pulled through and the loop can be placed on the bridge and pulled snug.


Follow steps one, two and three above, but when you get to number four:

  • wrap the string around the bead and slip the loose end back up through the hole.
  • pull the bead up tight against the bridge to secure the string.

Back up to the Headstock

Bring your string back up to the headstock and the same nut that it was removed from.

  1. Put the end of the string through the hole in the nut.
  2. Pull it through the other side.
  3. Bring it back and pull it through the hole again.
  4. Turn the nut in a fashion to tighten the string. Preferably in the same direction as the others.
  5. As the string tightens the knots you created will tighten.
  6. Don't over tighten the string. Just make them taunt.

The animation below may make this part clearer.

Go on to the next string and do it all again. You'll get faster as you go along. When all the strings have been replaced you'll need to tune the guitar. Here's a link on using electronic tuners

String the Nut Hole - Simple Animation

Your guitar is ready to go for a few more rounds now. Enjoy the crisp clear notes. Until next time, thanks for reading!

Comments

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  • Msmillar profile image
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    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Thank you Lorne Hemmerling! There's so much that can be said about stringing a guitar, such as the set-ups offered in the previous comment by Fiddleman, I tried to keep to the basic how to of it. Thanks for stopping in!

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Right on Fiddleman! Between the two of you it sounds like you have a few fine axes! I'll have to try the reverse-wind on the E sometime, see how it sounds.

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Hi Tom Schumacker, I believe I offered a link to electronic tuning in this hub, I'll check. You're so right and the tuning devices take all the frustration out of tuning for beginners and old strummers like me.

  • Msmillar profile image
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    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    I'm glad it was helpful! Awwww, the saxophone, second runner up to the guitar in my favorite instruments list.

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Your welcome whonunuwho!

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Did you really chuckd7138?! That's great! I am a guitar noodler too. I have played multiple instruments over my years and the one thing I learned for certain is take care of your music maker.

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Hi Keith Ham, it is hard to twist that dial knowing the string could break.

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Thank you for stopping in! I'm glad I was an inspiration for you. Happy Strumming!

  • Lorne Hemmerling profile image

    Lorne Hemmerling 4 years ago from Oshawa

    Excellent hub! Nylon strings on a classical are definitely a pain to change. This is chock full of useful information. Voted up and useful!

  • Fiddleman profile image

    Robert Elias Ballard 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

    Great hub and new strings bring new life. My son and Iplay acoustic Martins. My son owns 2, a D18 and a D42, mine is a HD28. We play bluegrass and always wind the E's counterclockwise to get a straight pull on the tuning machine over the nut. This is something a luthier friend of ours recommended and it does work.

  • Tom Schumacher profile image

    Tom Schumacher 4 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

    Nice hub! I highly recommend D'addario guitar strings. For beginners, I suggest using a tuning device as you tighten your new strings, otherwise you might end up breaking a string during install. Voted up!

  • moronkee profile image

    Moronke Odugbesan 4 years ago

    A very useful hub for my brother who loves the guitar and saxiphone.

    You put in a lot of hard work writing it. Thumbs up for you

  • whonunuwho profile image

    whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

    Thank you for this hub and its message of maintenance of our favorite instrument. whonu

  • chuckd7138 profile image

    Charles Dawson 4 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA

    I've been "playing" guitar (actually just noodling in moments of boredom) for over 27 years and even I learned something new from this hub. Great writing!

  • Keith Ham profile image

    Keith Ham 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, Ontario

    As a musician I can say this is very helpful, in the beginning, to know. Also, it is very hard to find the confidence to restring and not be afraid of the strings breaking. I'm voting up for awesome.

  • pinto2011 profile image

    Subhas 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

    Hi Msmillar! Going through your hub is especially helpful to me as I am a proud owner of a guitar for 20 years and just after reading it, I am going to buy a new set of string and strung it. Thumbs up!

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Hi baja2013! Thank you! I love playing the Rolling Stones songs too. I don't sound a bit like them, but its fun!

  • baja2013 profile image

    Bajazid 4 years ago from Sarajevo, Bosnia

    Thanks for this hub, voted interesting and useful. I have guitar on my own so this is quite good guide for me.

    Love to play "Wild Horses" from the Rolling Stones :)

  • Msmillar profile image
    Author

    Joanna 4 years ago from Valley Springs

    Wow, that's great. I've been plucking on my guitar for many, many years and it still surprises me how nice a new set of strings sounds! It's a must do and now there's no excuses, lol! ( :

  • dubmakers profile image

    dubmakers 4 years ago

    VERY useful resource here - thank you!

    This is going to help out many more aspiring guitarists, I'm sure!

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