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Changing Guitar Strings is a Fact of Life

By: Pat Newsome


It might seem unnecessary to frequently change guitar strings, but when you've heard the difference a new set can make when replacing an old set, you'll join the ranks of frequent changers.  Old strings get dull sounding, but new ones can make your guitar sound brand new.  Many pros change strings every couple of weeks.  A rule of thumb is to change after 30 hours of playing. 

If you like to sound good, learn now how to change those strings quickly and efficiently. First, remember to change them one at a time.  If you take the entire set off the guitar and proceed to put on the new set, the tension changes will not be good for the neck of the guitar.  Leave the old set on while changing.  It's probably easiest to start with the low E, or sixth string.

Loosen up the tuning peg until the old string is very loose.  Unwrap it from the post carefully and remove it.  The ends of guitar strings are very sharp, and you might draw a little blood from time to time, but if you're aware of the potential you can avoid this.  When the string is removed from the peg, take a small pair of pliers and pull the post out at the bridge.  (If you have a classical guitar that uses loop end strings or some other variation, this step will be different, but most basic acoustic guitars have posts that hold the ball end of the string.)

The steps are reversed when putting on the new string.  Put the little stopper at the bottom of the peg and let the string come up the slot in the peg.  Push the peg down into the bridge.  If you are using a guitar you bought used, you may find the pegs are broken.  They can be purchased inexpensively at any music store and replaced easily.  If you use one that is broken, it may not hold the string in securely.

When the string is attached at the bridge, thread the loose end into the post on the headstock.  It takes practice to figure out exactly how loose to leave the string and how far to thread it through.  If you don't leave enough slack, you won't have enough string on the post to keep it tight, but if you leave too much, you'll have too much string wound up on the post.

Usually, about 5 inches of string on the outside of the post will be enough to provide the right amount of string to be wound on the post.  Now turn the peg until the string is more or less in tune.  Repeat the process for each of the strings in turn.  Be sure you attach them in the right direction on the headstock.  They should wind up and over the post.

When all the strings are changed, tune them up.  You'll have a bright new sound.  You may have to tune frequently for the first few hours of play on the new strings.

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