How To Change Strings On An Acoustic Guitar

Restring your acoustic guitar is easier than you think. If you're still taking your guitar to your local store to do your string changes - now is the time to learn how to put a new set of strings on your guitar yourself! :) YOU CAN DO IT!

In this lesson, I'll guide you through all the steps you need to know to change your acoustic guitar strings. It's easy, and when you get used to doing it, it gets faster as well. The sound of new strings can be pretty rewarding and exciting by itself!

Before I show you how to restring the guitar, I ask you to be careful. There is a lot of tension on guitar strings, and if they come loose or snap, it can hurt you. Also, be the disposal of your old set of strings should be careful. Cats and dogs like to chew on them, and it can be dangerous. 

Now let's get started! I recommend you watch the video for a full step by step. Here are my general recommendations:

Get your string change tools ready!

You should have at least two sets of strings because a string may break, and you'll need to replace it. You'll also need a tuner – check this lesson to find out which one is better for you.

You can definitely change the strings of your guitar without any tools, but I recommend using a string winder to save time. I also take advantage of having the strings off to clean the fretboard, so I always have my cleaning stuff in hand. ;)

TIP: Make sure you know where you should place your bridge back into your guitar. It's not uncommon that the bridge gets out while you are removing your old strings. 

Remove the old strings

It may seem obvious when you read this but amazing how many people cut the strings with tension on, or don't coil the strings and have them making a mess of poking through your bin liner.... so...

  1. Slacken each string by at least 5 or so turns, until they are slack enough to not really make a note.
  2. Cut the strings around the 12th fret.
  3. Remove the strings from the tuning pegs.
  4. Remove the String Pins using the cut out in your Winder Tool, or fingers, or pliers if you need to.
  5. Remove the rest of the strings.
  6. Wind up the strings and put them in the bin!

If you broke a string, the ball on its end might have fallen into the body of the guitar. Shake the guitar to get the ball out by the soundhole, or maybe you'd like to check my stupid video about getting a pick out of an acoustic guitar. ;)

Cleaning your acoustic guitar

This is an optional step, but it may be worth taking a few minutes to do it. I usually don't polish my guitars, but I like to keep my fretboard clean and the wood healthy. I recommend you do the same! My to-go for the neck is lemon oil, but there are many other things you can try. For the body of the guitar there are many types of guitar polish available!

Getting the Strings In The Bridge Correctly

With the right technique, putting a new set of strings on your acoustic guitar is easy. Take your time to properly place the strings in the bridge - it's not difficult but many people don't know this trick - even professionals!

  1. Kink each string about 2-3cms from the ball.
  2. Put the ball end of the string 10cm (ish) into the hole
  3. Replace the peg with the slot in the peg facing the neck.
  4. Then slowly pull the string while keeping some pressure on the peg until the string is tight. Although this may look a little insecure, if done correctly it will be very strong.

Watch out if the peg seems to be coming out, just keep pushing it in (quite hard). Once pulled tight it should not have any give.

Winding the Strings Onto The Tuners

This part is the same for most types of guitars (except classical guitars). It's important to get the string on the correct side of the peg, and here is how to do it:

  1. Line up the hole in the peg so it is facing straight down the neck.
  2. Put the string through the hole and pull it back so you have some slack. The amount of slack you need will vary, depending on the thickness of the string. The 6th string only needs about 5-7cm but the 1st string can take up to 10cm. It takes a little practice (and getting it wrong!) to get it right most times!
  3. Now take the live string and wrap it around the top of the peg as I show you in the video. TIP: For most Fender guitars and all pegs with winders on the left, you put the wind on Clockwise. For all the pegs with the winders on the right (the three facing the ground on Gibson style guitars) you'll wind on this first wind Anti-Clockwise).
  4. Now hold the live part (the part you'll play) right down onto the wood and start winding the tuner so the live string wraps UNDER the dead string (the slack). This will make it lock onto the string as it gets tighter. All the wraps should go under, and you should aim for at least 2 wraps on the 6th string (thickest) and 4 wraps for the 1st string (thinnest). More will not hurt, but less may cause the string to start to slip. Try not to let the string overlap itself, as this may make it easier to break.

Tuning your acoustic guitar 

I recommend a clip-on tuner, but you can use whatever you prefer. Also, be aware that you may have to use your ears to get the strings closer to where they should be.  

Important! Usually, you have to tune your guitar a couple of times after putting on a new set of strings. Watch the video to learn how to stretch in the strings so they go less out of tune. ;)

Which strings should you use on your acoustic guitar?

I get many questions about which strings are best. I guess that's a personal preference, but for me, the best ones are made by D'Addario. The gauge will depend on what you’re looking for – the lighter ones are better for beginners! :) The same is true for coated strings – they will be worth the slight extra cost for most people. I chat more about it in the video.

How often Should You Change Acoustic Guitar Strings?

If I can see visible much on the strings, then it's time for a change. You could scrape your fingernail under the string and if black gunk comes off (bit gross!) then it's certainly time for a change.

If you break one string I suggest changing them all so that they remain tonally consistent!

If you practice for 30 mins most days then you will probably want to change your strings every couple of months even if you have not broken any. After a few changes, you will start to recognize when the strings start to sound 'dead' and you'll want to change them!




Guitar Maintenance 1