The following instructions relate to changing the strings on an acoustic guitar. If the acoustic guitar is a classical guitar, ask for classical guitar strings or nylon strings, otherwise ask a retailer for acoustic guitar strings, metal strings made from bronze wound steel. Furthermore, make sure the gauge thickness suits the skill level of the player. Ordinarily a beginner would work with light-medium weight strings as thicker strings, although they offer better tone, are more difficult to master.
Factors Affecting String Choice
The shape of a guitar affects the string choice for many players. The two main body shapes of acoustic guitar are dreadnought and grand auditorium. String gauge will affect the tension on the neck of the guitar and the overall sound. Dreadnought guitars are capable of handling more tension than the narrow-waisted grand auditorium style guitars.
Not only do strings affect the guitar, but they also affect the player and their style of play. Guitarists who like to strum find their action is heavier handed than finger pickers, so for them, medium gauge strings work better whereas those who lightly pluck their guitars are happier with light strings. However, the heavier the strings the harder they are on the fingers. Also, the sound quality may help determine the string choice for an acoustic guitarist. Lighter strings usually present brighter sounds and medium or heavy strings emphasise bass and booming.
Regardless of the gauge or the preference of the guitarist, the strings are fitted in the same manner. Regular practice and play results in deposits on strings. Oil, dust, and skin cells all gather in the fibre of strings and even those with coatings to repel such dirt wear out over time. Coated strings tend to be less squeaky than uncoated new strings though they are more expensive. Some players prefer their mellower tone compared to regular strings’ brighter sound.
One String at a Time
As the neck of a guitar responds to the strings and carries tension, changing the strings ought to be done one at a time. This prevents any problems that arise from a change in the tension of a tuned, stringed instrument such as strings sitting off the fingerboard too high.
Beginning with the Sixth String (Low E)
Some tools are required to undertake the task. Organise them beforehand and make sure there is space to work on a flat surface which can take the size of the guitar. Wire snips are essential for the metal strings of an acoustic guitar. Pliers can be a useful tool to have at hand along with a string winder and if going to the bother of restringing a guitar, giving it a clean and polish will complete the job so have a suitable cloth and guitar polish nearby.
Slacken at the Neck
Lay the guitar on a flat surface like a table. Face the guitar so that the guitar body is to the right and the headstock and tuner pegs are to the left. In this position, the sixth string, low E, will be closest to the body. Begin slackening the sixth string by giving the bottom tuner key a turn. Clockwise will usually release the tension, but check to see which way the tuner turns. Also, a check can be done by plucking the string after a turn of the tuner. If the pitch grows lower, the string is slackening and this is a sign it is being turned in the correct direction.
Take the String from the Instrument
After it has been totally slackened, release it from the peg. Down at the body end, remove the string where it connects on the bridge. Release the sixth string’s bridge pin, coaxing it out with pliers if it is reluctant to yield. Set the pin safely aside and discard the string. While the area is string-free, take the opportunity to give the guitar a wipe and polish with lemon oil if desired. Dust and grease build up beneath the strings and can affect overall tone so keeping the instrument clean helps retain a pure sound.
Slot a New String in the Bridge Hole
Take the new string and uncoil it. Slide its ball-end a couple of inches into the bridge hole. Retrieve the pin and return it the bridge hole with the string aligned in the pin’s carved slot. While replacing the pin, gently draw the string without deforming it until the ball slips into place. This step may require some practice but keep repeating the process if the pin pops back out, ensuring only a light pull on the string until the ball is in position.
Bring the String to the Headstock
Ease the string up to the headstock with enough force to remove any visible slack, but not too hard. Allow a good inch of string beyond the peg where it will be fed and then crimp it at 90 degrees by bending it with fingers. The string end should now point towards the tuning peg.
Feed the String Through the Tuning Peg Hole
Prepare the tuning peg to receive the string by turning it so that its hole is in position for the string to feed straight through from the inside to the outside edge of the guitar. The string should slide in easily until the point where the crimp occurs. Manually draw it as tight as possible to create tension and bring the string back around the peg and then under itself. Loop the string over itself and give the peg an anti-clockwise turn to tighten slightly. Push the excess string down and trim with nippers or wire cutters.
Ping the String to Pitch It
New strings need relaxing before tuning. Stretch the string slightly for a few seconds by pulling it upward above the sound hole. The pitch will drop and the tuning peg will require tightening to bring the pitch back up. Do this a few times until there is no significant sound difference between successive pings. Fine tuning can wait until all the strings have been replaced.
Five More Strings to Fit
Repeat the removal process for each of the five remaining strings. Treat the A and D strings (5 and 4) in the same way, lining up the strings to their correct tuning pegs. When addressing the G, B and high E strings (3, 2 and 1) their tuning pegs are on the other side, so bend the strings accordingly to slide into the tuning peg holes.
Tune the Newly Strung Guitar
Once all six strings have been replaced, the guitar will need more frequent tuning until the strings have settled. Make sure they are tuned to E and follow instructions from a manual or a video to learn how to do this quickly and effectively. Take particular care when tuning the fine high E string as it can break easily, and do not pluck the strings too hard.
How to Find Guitar Strings on eBay
The home page on the eBay website offers All Categories for exploration. Choose Musical Instruments and within that category, to find guitar strings, click on Guitars. Once the new page opens click on Accessories in order to return an option for Item Type from which can be chosen Strings. Check the box for the type of guitar the strings are to fit, for example Acoustic Guitar and browse the results eBay finds. A search is capable of further refinement by choosing brand, if known or preferred, and also by Condition, Price, Seller and Categories. Location, Distance and Format are also available as check boxes to suit requirements.
New listings are made daily at eBay. While browsing, a search can always be conducted by typing in a phrase or keyword that best describes the required product into the search box at the top of any page.
Guitar strings need frequent replacement for an instrument to sound its best. Once the skill of re-stringing has been mastered, there is more time for performance and composition and probably more renewal of strings required. Keeping a guitar clean will help prevent premature string wear, so it is important to keep a guitar in its case or cover to protect both the strings and the wooden body. Different sounds are achievable with different weight strings so it is worth exploring the possibilities of the new noise an instrument could make with this small change. Manuals and videos, or DVDs, are a great means of learning new skills, especially for beginners who might need a ready reference for reminding them how to change strings if it is not a thing they do regularly. Remember the types of sound desired and purchase strings to suit. Remember also, how much strain fingers can take and fit strings appropriate to the skill level of the guitar player. Lighter strings are easier on fingers than heavier strings and until competence is achieved and calluses have developed they are a preferential choice for beginners.