Your Steel-string guitars need to have their strings replaced periodically. This guide will give you all the information you need to replace the strings on your acoustic guitar in 6 easy steps. A new set of strings will make your guitar sound like new again.

There are many ways to renew the strings on an acoustic guitar. Some methods are better than others, and the crucial steps are how the strings are attached to the posts.

It is vital to ensure that the strings are attached to the tuning peg correctly. Failure to do this may result in strings which are susceptible to breakage, particularly if a string is not wound on enough. Excessive string wraps around the post should also be avoided.

1. Preparation

Replacing guitar strings-What you need

Replacing guitar strings-What you need

You will need:

Wire cutters
Clean rag ( for wiping down the guitar when the strings are removed)
A fresh set of suitable strings for your guitar.
Neck support (optional)
String winder (optional)
Guitar tuner

Place the guitar on a work area ( a workbench where you can work comfortably and the guitar will be safe would be ideal), a lounge or table would be OK also.

If you do not have a commercial neck support, roll up some old towels or use a suitable cushion, ensure the guitar is stable.

2. Remove the old strings

Remove all the Strings & Clean the Fretboard

Remove all the Strings & Clean the Fretboard

Release the tension from all strings. Note: It is perfectly acceptable to remove and replace all the strings together as opposed to one by one. Most reputable guitar builders, including Martin and Taylor, recommend this method.

Remove your old guitar strings by loosening all the tension from all six strings by turning the tuners in a clockwise direction and keeping a little pressure under the string with your finger.

Remove all the bridge pins

Remove all the bridge pins

After loosening all the strings, remove the six bridge pins and put them to one side. If any of the pins are difficult to remove with your fingers, take your wire cutters and using a pivoting (cantilever) action on the saddle, gently apply a small amount of upward pressure on the pins.

They usually will pop up quickly, allowing you to take them out with your fingers. Pull out all the strings and tie them together into a loop, this will stop the strings going in every direction and minimize the chance of scratching the guitar.

Pull the other end of the strings out of the pegs and put them to one side. Dispose of the old strings. See photo.

Guitar strings - Hole is at a 45-degree angle

The hole is at a 45-degree angle

Turn all the six tuners, so the hole is at a 45-degree angle. See photo.

3. Clean the fretboard

Clean the fretboard with a little Naphtha on a paper towel

Clean the fretboard with a little Naphtha on a paper towel

Now is time to clean your fretboard with a little Naphtha (lighter fluid) and a clean paper towel. There are many commercial products available to clean and condition the fretboard.

Note: Before fitting the new strings to your guitar, this is an ideal time to consider some additional steps, performing a thorough cleaning and maintenance if required.

4. Fit the new strings

Guitar strings - Lock the Strings Into Place

Lock the Strings Into Place

a. Insert the ball end of the 6th string called the high E (thickest bass) into the bridge hole and secure with a bridge pin.

Hold the bridge pin down and pull the string up until you can feel its firm; this action will lock the ball into the pin.

Trimming the E bass string

Trimming the E bass string

Pull the string across the peghead and cut it at the 5th string peg ( 1 post to post length). Make sure the bridge pin does not pop up if it does push it back down. See photo.

Guitar strings - Insert the String Into the Post

Insert the String Into the Post

Insert the end of the string into the peg hole. The end of the string should exit about 1/8th from the hole of the tuner.

Guitar strings - Tune E String To Pitch

Tune E String To Pitch

Wind the tuner counter-clockwise until the string is only very lightly tensioned. Three wraps are ideal for the bass strings.
b. Repeat the above process for the remaining bass strings, the 5th A, 4th D strings.

Guitar strings - Trim the D String to size

Trim the D String to size

Trim the 4th D string the equivalent of one post to post length. See photo.

Guitar strings - Cut and Install the Treble Strings

Cut and Install the Treble Strings

c. Trim the all the remaining strings, the G, B and high E (treble) 1 1/2 tuner post lengths past the post it will be fitted too. The treble string tuners need to be tightened counter-clockwise.

Guitar strings - Treble String Wraps

Treble String Wraps

The treble strings need about six wraps ideally.

String Wraps around the post

String Wraps around the post

Ensure the string wraps wind down below the tuner peg hole. In doing so, you will avoid a kink in the string and possibly breaking it.

5. Stretch the strings

Stretch the new guitar strings

Stretch the new guitar strings

Stretch all strings by running your finger from end to end 6 to 8 times per string while maintaining some tension. This will help keep the guitar in tune during its break-in period.

12-string guitars

Trimming the E bass string

Trimming the E bass string

The re-stringing process is the same as it is for the six-string guitar except for the following: You need to trim the bass strings E A and D, two full tuner post to post lengths from the post it will be installed too.

You need to cut the treble strings G B and E, two full tuner post to post lengths from the post it will be installed too.

Slot Head guitars

Slot Head - Trim the Strings

Slot Head – Trim the Strings

Trim the strings for a slot head guitar 1 1/12 post to post lengths.

6. Tune all the strings to the correct pitch.

Tune all strings, and the guitar should now be ready to go. Be sure to wipe down the strings regularly after playing your guitar especially when you have finished playing it for the day.

Chat with other guitars players about replacing your guitar strings in our community chat forum for guitars.

Resources

1. Changing Steel Strings. Taylor Guitars. https://www.taylorguitars.com/support/strings/changing-steel-strings. Published in 2020. Accessed May 1, 2020.