So many people screw up when learning how to string a guitar.
Guitarists might think they know how to string a guitar but haven’t learned the proper way.
They’ll say, “I’ll just wrap the strings around the tuning machines, and it’ll work.”
If only it were that easy…
If you want to have fun while playing the guitar, you must set yourself up for success.
Otherwise, you’re going to be out of tune constantly, compromising your guitar technique, breaking strings, and seriously not having fun…and I don’t want that happening.
Today, I will show you how to string a guitar like a pro. It’s a method that guarantees your strings won’t slip out of tune as much and won’t lead to unnecessary broken strings.
Have more fun on guitar: Request an invite to learn proven methods that will improve your guitar practice habit.
Keep reading to learn how to string a guitar like a pro…
Originally published on April 6th, 2022, this article was republished on June 10th, 2023.
Why You Should Learn How to Change Guitar Strings?
Guitar strings, like most things in life, wear out over time.
When you can see dirt, rust, or “funk” on your strings…it’s time to change your strings.
If you look closely in the picture above, you can see the dirt on the string — especially on the 1st fret area.
As a rule of thumb, change your guitar strings once a month. If you play frequently and for long periods of time, consider changing your strings every two weeks.
What Are the Strings on a Guitar?
A standard guitar has six strings made of various materials such as nylon, steel, or a combination of both (classical guitars, for example, would typically use nylon).
The top three strings, also known as the treble strings, are typically made of plain steel, while the bottom three strings, also known as the bass strings, are made of a steel core wrapped in a thin layer of metal such as bronze or nickel.
The thickness of each string determines its pitch, with the thinnest string producing the highest pitch and the thickest string producing the lowest pitch.
The strings are stretched over the guitar’s fretboard and are held in place by the guitar’s tuning pegs, which allow for the strings to be tightened or loosened to adjust the pitch.
What Do You Need to String a Guitar?
- Pack of strings
- String cutter
- String winder
- Flat surface
- Your favorite record/album (for listening, of course)
- A soothing beverage (be it water, whiskey, coffee, or tea)
As far as picking the right set of strings, that’s a whole other issue you can read about here.
For learning how to string a guitar, I’d use a light-gauge string that doesn’t cost too much — just in case you accidentally break a string while putting it on!
When to Change Guitar Strings
How often you change your guitar strings depends on a number of different factors including your playing style, the type of strings you use, and how often you play guitar.
As a general rule, I recommend changing your guitar strings every second or third month, or after approximately 40-60 hours of playing time.
That being said, if you notice a significant decrease in tone quality or lose “brightness” in your sound, it’s probably a good time to replace them.
You can get more longevity out of your strings by regularly cleaning and maintaining them, but at some point, they will definitely have to be replaced – here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Loosen the Strings
Start at the high E string (the thinnest string). Use your string winder to loosen the tension on the string.
- If you aren’t sure which way to turn the tuner, try plucking the note and turning.
- You’re going the wrong way if the note gets higher in pitch!
Working from the high E string down to the low E string, loosen each string until all six strings are slack and resting on the frets.
Step 2: Cut the Strings
If you have any pent-up anger, nows the time to get it out…
Use your string cutters to snip each string just above the soundhole.
- Cut the strings above the soundhole so your hardware doesn’t scratch the finish on your guitar!
- Cut the strings one at a time so you can savor the moment…it’s not every day you get to cut guitar strings!
Step 3: Remove the Strings
When learning how to string a guitar on your steel-string acoustic guitar, you will most likely have bridge pins that hold the strings in place.
Bridge pins are the little pegs on the bridge of your guitar.
Use your string winder to remove the bridge pins.
- Most string winders have a notch in them that can safely remove the bridge pins without hurting the guitar.
Pull straight up when you have the bridge pin secure in the notch of the string winder.
DO NOT pull on the bridge pins at an angle! This will most likely snap the bridge pins.
As you remove the ball-end of the strings from the bridge, make sure to put the bridge pin back in its hole — that way you don’t have any missing bridge pins.
The next part of learning how to string your guitar involves removing the strings from the headstock (where the tuning machines are).
Caution: the tips of the strings are sharp, so make sure you don’t accidentally stab yourself!
- One safe way to manage all these strings is to coil them around each other so they don’t stab you or an innocent bystander!
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Optional Step: Clean the Guitar
Once all the strings are off of the guitar, you have the opportunity to clean tough-to-reach spots.
For some of you, you won’t need to do this. But as a good habit, I always like to run a clean cloth across the fretboard, headstock, and near the bridge.
- These places like to accumulate dust, so it’s always nice to clean them when you have the chance!
Once you’ve cleaned those spots, let’s get back to learning how to string a guitar!
Step 4: Assemble the NEW Strings
Every package of strings has a different naming convention to help identify which string is which. Make sure to read the packaging to learn that convention.
If there isn’t a way to identify the strings, just look at the numbers on the packaging: the higher the number, the thicker the string.
If you’re looking for recommendations on strings, just know that this is the cheapest way to experiment with your guitar’s tone.
Packs of strings can be dirt cheap, or wildly expensive…but almost always strings are cheaper than a new guitar.
Once you find the low E string, open the packaging away from your face.
If you aren’t careful, the string can uncoil and accidentally stab you in the face…I don’t want that.
Uncoil the strings and lay them out on your work surface.
Step 5: String Your Guitar!
Take your low E string, and hold the ball-end against the bridge pin to create a little bend in the string (as seen in the picture above).
- This will help the ball end sit against the bridge plate inside the guitar — total pro move!
From there, place the ball-end of the string into the hole where the low E string goes.
Finally, press the bridge pin inside the hole to secure the string.
- It might be a little sticky, so don’t be scared to use some pressure.
- Alternatively, if it’s taking too much force to press the bridge pin in, take it out and try it again.
Repeat this process for all of the strings.
At the end of this step, your guitar should look something like this:
Step 6: Thread and Secure Strings
You’ve completed 50% of the tonal transformation that happens when you string a guitar with new strings.
This next part, the final 50%, leads to endless debate amongst guitarists.
- How do you thread and wind the strings on the tuner posts?
I’m going to show you a popular way that works for almost everyone.
Start by using a pencil to lubricate the nut slots (I like to use a carpenter’s pencil because the graphite is nice and soft).
Using the graphite allows the strings to pass through the nut smoothly and will prevent tuning issues once you string your guitar.
You’ll need 20 minutes
How to string your Guitar at the tuners
- Pass the low E string through the tuning post
Pass the pointy end of the string through the hole in the middle of the tuning post.
- Pull the String Tight, Then Add Slack
Pull the tail end of the string all the way through the hole in the tuning post. Make sure the string is in the correct nut slot.
After the string is tight, use your hand near the fretboard to create slack on the tuning post.
- Start Winding the String
As you wind, make sure the first revolution of the tuning post goes over the free end of the string. This will ensure the string locks into place.
- Make Corrections as You String the Guitar
It’s extremely important that the string first wrap around the tuning post goes over the free end of the string; but, make sure the first wrap doesn’t slip off the top either.
- Ensure Proper String Winding Direction
As you turn your tuning peg, make sure the string is winding toward the center of the headstock.
- Continue Winding the String
Each successive wind after the first one will go under the tail end of the string toward the headstock.
- Clip the Tail Ends
Don’t forget to clip the tail ends off with your string cutters. Try to cut the tail end as close to the tuning post as possible so it doesn’t snag on anything!
- Stretch and Tune the Strings
After you’ve learned how to string a guitar, you still have to stretch and tune the strings.
Place a finger on the 12th fret and give the string a little bend. This will help stretch the string and help it acclimate.
Now You’ve Got Fresh Strings – Here’s a Great Next Step!
It’s essential to change your strings frequently.
When you don’t, your tone can suffer, and you might not have as much fun playing your guitar.
And isn’t that what it’s all about? Having fun and learning an awesome instrument?
Speaking of which, I highly recommend that you check out Tony’s Acoustic Challenge if you’re looking for more ways to have fun on the guitar. You’ll learn many awesome skills like playing power chords while you significantly improve your technique simultaneously.
Now that you have a brand new set of guitar strings, it’s time to learn the three things that will help build a life of consistent guitar playing in just 10 minutes a day. It’s free – watch guitar class now!