Changing Acoustic Strings

In this guitar lesson we are going to take a look at how to change acoustic guitar strings. Changing strings is a skill that every guitarist should have. This lesson will let you know when you should change your strings, what you need to change your strings, and how to change your strings.

Knowing when to change your strings is something that a lot of beginners don’t know. What your strings look like and what they sound like are the two basic indicators that you should go by when deciding when to change them. If your strings are rusty or really discolored, that is a good indication that you should change your strings. More importantly, if your strings sound muddy or lifeless, you should go ahead and change them. Some people change their strings every few days while some people go months between string changes. How often you change your strings can depend on how humid your climate is, how much you play, and how clean you keep your strings. Two things that you can do to make your strings last longer are washing your hands before you play and wiping down your guitar after you play.

When you get ready to change your strings it is a good idea to have a string winder and a string clipper. I like to use the Planet Waves Pro-Winder because it is a string winder, peg popper, and clipper all in one tool.

The next thing that you will need is a new set of strings. When you go to buy new acoustic guitar strings you have to decide on what particular gauge, or thickness, to go with and which brand to buy. You can buy acoustic guitar strings from .010 inches all the way up to about .014 inches. The gauge is just a measurement of the thickness of the high E string. It is most common to see .012 gauge strings on an acoustic guitar. The thicker the gauge gets the louder and more full sounding your acoustic guitar will sound but it will be harder to play. Thinner gauge strings will be easier to play, but the tone will not be as full sounding.

There are many brands of acoustic guitar strings to choose from. I prefer D’Addario EXP11 acoustic strings. D’Addarios are great because they are inexpensive, rarely break, and the balls on the ends of the strings are color coded so that you always know what string you are grabbing. These strings are also coated so that the tone will stay bright for a long time. Coated, or treated, strings are more expensive but you don’t have to change them as often as non-coated strings.

Learn about the basic parts of the guitar with this guitar lesson!

The first step in changing strings is to take off one of the old strings. If you have a string winder, place it on the tuning peg for the high E string and start to turn it until the string is loose. Once it is loose you should be able to just grab the string, unwind it off of the post and take it off. Be careful not to poke yourself with the sharp loose end of the string that you just loosened.

Now we have to get the string loose from the bridge of the guitar. Most acoustic guitars have bridge pins that have to be pulled out in order to get the string out of the bridge. If you have a string winder, odds are that there is a small notch on the end that can be used to pry out the bridge pins. Use the winder to pry the pin out and then pull the string out of the hole. Some acoustic guitars have pin-less bridges that simply load from the back of the bridge. Breedlove and Ovation guitars usually use this type of bridge.

Once you have the string off it is time to put the new one on. If you have a set of D’Addario strings, the high E string will have a silver ball on the end of it. Put the ball end of the string down the hole and followed by the bridge pin. Be sure to line up the groove on the bridge pin with the string. Push the bridge pin down and pull up on the string until you feel it catch. Sometimes a string peg can pop up a bit when you start to put tension on the string. If this happens just push it back down and keep winding the string.

Bring the loose end of the string down to the tuning peg for the high E string. Put the loose end through the hole in the peg. Try to leave enough slack on the string to have about three or four wraps around the peg. Put the string winder on the tuning key and start winding. Make sure that the string is going on the same side of the tuning peg that it was before you took it off. The first wrap should go over the top of the loose end of the string. All of the following wraps should go under the loose end of the string. Once you have the string up to tension clip the excess string off with the string clippers.

Continue this process for all six strings. It is a good idea to stretch out your strings a bit once you get them on. Don’t be afraid to change your strings. You can never learn how to change your strings unless you try it for yourself. The worst thing that can really happen is a broken string or two. This lesson did not really cover tuning up your guitar after you get the strings on, but if you need help with that you can go to the lesson on How To Tune A Guitar.