After decades of playing guitars, below is what we feel is the best way to string your acoustic guitar.
Remove old strings.
To get new ones on, you’ve got to get old ones off.
- Loosen the strings, free of all tension.
- Snip the strings in half at the sound hole.
- Pull strings through the holes in the tuning posts.
- Roll them in a small circle and tuck in the ends.
- Use your string winder’s peg loosener to pop up the bridge pins. Your string winder should have a U-shaped notch in the head of the winder. Wriggle it under the bridge pin head, and gently pry it out.
- Pull pin and string out. Set the pin in a cup or someplace safe.
- Roll strings in a tight circle and tuck in the ends.
This is a great time to:
- Check for worn frets.
- Inspect the bridge saddle for burs or wear.
- Polish up the frets with a fret polishing kit.
- Clean the fretboard.
- Clean hard to get places: where the nut meets the headstock and fretboard, end of fretboard at the body, where the bridge meets the body, and the headstock.
- Replace the battery in your internal pickup if you have one.
- Secure pickup wires if they are rattling against the body.
- Generally inspect your guitar inside and out.
Installing the bead end of your new strings.
Some string sets come individually wrapped and in order of size. Others come with strings paired off in an envelope.
It doesn’t matter where you start. We’ll start with the low E (the sixth string).
- Line up strings according to size on your table or mat.
- Find the low E, the thickest string.
- Put a very slight bend in the bead end in the double-wrapped area. 15-degrees maximum.
- Insert bead end in the bridge pin hole with the slightly bent angle towards the head of the guitar. The bottom of the slight V should point to the back end of your guitar.
- Place bridge pin in the hole. Make sure the fluted area of the pin receives the string.
- Lightly snug the pin in the hole while pulling up slightly on the string.
You should feel the bead snug between the inner bridge plate and the pin, not just the end of the bridge pin.
If the bead snags on the end of the bridge pin, it will pop it out when tuning to tension. This is why we put a slight bend, to ensure it clears the end of the bridge pin.
- Lightly tap the top of the bridge pin by flicking your fingernail against it and snugging the string in position.
Avoid pounding the bridge pin in hard. Over time it will widen the hole, Then, it’s “pay the repair shop” time.
Installing the headstock end of your new strings.
- Make sure the hole in the tuning post is parallel to the neck of your guitar.
- Insert the end of the string, and snug up the tension.
- Pinch the string between thumb and pointer finger about an inch above the tuning post.
- Slide pinched string back towards the sound hole until thumb and finger touch the tuning post. This will give you enough for a few wraps around the tuning post to prevent slippage.
- Wrap the loose end around the tuning post inward towards the center of the headstock, continue until it passes back underneath the string.
- Fold the loose end around the main string until the loose end is 90-degrees to the length of the neck (pointing to the tuning peg for the high E string).
- Pinch the string in that position while turning the tuning knob so the string wraps the tuning post from the inside of the peg.
The tuning post should rotate counterclockwise on strings E, A, and D. Then counterclockwise for strings G, B, and e.
This will lock the string on itself preventing strings from slipping when using alternative tunings.
- Crank the tuning knob so tuning posts rotate as noted above, bringing it to a moderate tension but not to full tension yet.
Be sure strings wind down the tuning post and do not overlap as you wind towards full tension.
- Snip off extra end of string dangling to prevent getting poked–not a pleasant experience.
- Repeat this process with all strings.
- Tune up to standard tuning. See our article on how to tune your guitar.
- Lightly pull on each string and retune. This helps the break in process. Don’t pull too hard. About one inch from home position is enough.
- Repeat stretching and tuning if necessary.
The goal here is to stretch strings just beyond going out of tune with your regular playing style, and no more.
You’re ready to go.
That’s it, time to jam!