How To Change Your Guitar Strings | Hub Guitar

How To Change Your Guitar Strings

Photo by Hub Guitar LLC

This is a “how to” guide. If you’re not sure how often you need to do this, check out our other article on how often to change your guitar strings.

Note: in the very unlikely event that you somehow injure yourself or property, Hub Guitar assumes no responsibility. This advice is ex gratia, without liability.

Step 1: Gather The Tools

Step 2: Loosen the Old Strings

Turn the tuning peg clockwise to loosen the string.

You may have heard that it is best not to take off all strings at once. Take off all of the strings, the theory goes, and your guitar neck will get all messed up because now there’s nothing to counter act the tension from the truss rodA steel rod in the guitar neck that counteracts the tension from the strings.

Malarkey! Take 'em off. How else are you going to clean the crap off of your fretboard?

To take a string off, pluck the string and then follow the string to the tuning machineThe chrome or brass-colored moving parts mounted to the guitar headstock which allow the strings to be tightened or slackened. on the headstockThe “head” of the guitar, and the portion where the tuning machines and nut are mounted. of the guitar. Wind that tuning machine in the direction that loosens it, normally clockwise. You should hear the string dropping in pitch as you unwind it.

Be sure to listen to the string as you unwind it. Without this feedback, you wouldn’t know whether you’re winding up or down. And if you wind it up, it'll snap!

Either continue unwinding the string until it can be removed completely, or simply cut it once enough tension is released. Now remove the string from the tuning machine and from the bridgeThe typically dark mahogany-colored piece of the guitar fixed to the body of the guitar. The saddle and bridge pins are mounted on it. of the instrument.

To remove from the tuning machine, you should be able to pull in a circular motion and remove the string once it’s loose enough. If it gets stuck, a pair of pliers will help you finish the job.

Step 3: Remove the String Ends

Steel String Acoustic

Once loosened, pull up the bridge pins to remove the string from this end.

On steel-string acoustic guitars, the string wire is normally attached to a ball-end which is secured in the bridge by one of six small pins. The pin must be removed to take out the string. Highly recommended is the Snapz Bridge Pin Puller[?]Affiliate Link, which does a fine job at pulling these out.

Some acoustics use a pinless system. If so, you just need to push in the opposite direction of the ball end.

Sometimes a piece of string gets stuck in the hole. If this happens, you can cut a small piece from one of the big strings and use it as a ream to push out the stuck string from the other side.

Nylon String Acoustic

Nylon strings come off the bridge easy enough, once the other end is free.

On nylon-string acoustic guitars, the string is commonly tied through the bridge by feeding one end in and then creating a small knot. Simply pulling on the knot is enough to untie it once the string is removed from the tuning machine.


On electric guitars, the method for stringing the guitar into the bridge varies. Sometimes it is fed in through a hard-stop tail, such as on a typical Les Paul. Other times it is fed in through the back of the guitar, such as on a Strat. For this guitar, you actually have to flip the instrument over to see where the string goes in. Either way, just pushing the string in the opposite direction should remove it.

Sometimes a piece of string gets stuck in the guitar. If this happens, you can cut a small piece from one of the big strings and use it as a ream to push out the stuck string from the other side.

Step 4: (Optional) Clean the Fretboard

Now is the chance to clean that fretboard.

By this point, you should have removed all of the old strings from the bridge. You should be looking at a naked fretboard.

You can clean and oil it, or skip straight to putting the new strings on.

Use some Steel Wool, 0000 Grade[?]Affiliate Link to gently scrub off any dirt and grime from the fretboard, especially around the frets. You can also use it to polish the frets to a mirror shine if you like.

Now dust off the fragments of steel wool with an Planet Waves UNTREATED Cloth[?]Affiliate Link and spray the Dunlop 65 Cleaner[?]Affiliate Link onto the fretboard, gently scrubbing and polishing until it’s clean.

Step 5: (Optional) Oil the Fretboard

For a professional finish, rub a little lemon oil into the fretboard. Be sure to wipe away any residue with a cloth.

For one last professional touch, dab some Dunlop Lemon Oil[?]Affiliate Link all along the fretboard. Don’t be too liberal as it’s messy to clean up. Rub it into the fretboard until it is all gone, leaving a clean, oiled (and fragrant!) fretboard for you to play with.

Step 6: Insert a New String

Steel String Acoustic

Secure the string with the bridge pin.

Remove the bridge pin for the low E string. Insert the ball end a few inches into the hole. It doesn’t matter how far, because you’ll pull it tight in a moment.

On the bridge pin, find the grooved slot. This groove is where the string should rest. So push the pin in with the groove facing the neck. Now hold the pin down and pull the string up all the way.

You've got to watch the pin while you tune the string, as they sometimes pop out. But you don’t need to push it hard into the hole at all. Once the string is wound, the tension from the string will keep the pin in place.

If the bridge is pinless, simply feed the sharp end of the string through the hole towards the guitar neck, and proceed to the next step.

For pinless bridges, you may want to slightly bend the sharp end of the string. That makes it easier to slide through the bridge hole.

Nylon String Acoustic

After fastening to the bridge, slip the end of the nylon string into the headstock.

It’s recommended you use ball end strings. These will save alot of time. All you need to do is slip the pointy end through the hole and pull it tight.

For regular nylon strings, you’ll actually have to tie a new knot. The string should have one end that is a bit more flexible. Feed that end through the top hole on the bridge, and wrap it around itself a few times. Now, by pulling the other end of the string, you should be able to pull the twisted portion of the knot over the 90-degree edge of the bridge, with the “knot” being formed mostly by the pulling action on the other side of the string. This task alone may merit its own tutorial; see YouTube for further instruction if necessary.


Most electric guitar strings are installed just by pulling the loose end through a hole.

Step 7: Wind the New String

Feed the string into the tuning machine and prepare to wind.

Now that the string is secured to the bridge, pull the loose end towards the guitar neck. Feed it through the nutA small ivory-colored piece attached to the nut, right before the beginning of the first fret of the guitar, with six notches for the strings to rest in. in the slot that was held by the old string. Wind the tuning machine until one hole is facing the nut. Slip the string in through that hole.

Since you want to wind the string around the tuning machine for 2-3 full revolutions, be sure to give yourself plenty of slack in the portion of the string between the bridge and the nut. One way to do this is to put your whole right arm or wrist underneath the string, and then with your picking-hand index finger, gently hold the string so it doesn’t slip out of the nut.

Just hope that the bridge pins don’t start pulling out while you wind, because then you need a 3rd arm to push it back in while you continue winding.

The First Revolution

For the first revolution, guide the loose end underneath the end you are holding.

Wind the string counter-clockwise, holding it in place. Be careful that the end of the string you’re holding doesn’t jump around while you wind the tuning machine.

For the first revolution, you ideally want to make sure the end you are holding passes over the loose end that is jutting out the other side of the machine head. But only for the first revolution!

The Other Revolutions

For the remaining revolutions, let the loose end wrap above the end you are holding.

As the string tightens, you will (obviously) have to remove your hand out from under it. Continue to use care so that the string doesn’t flop around and unwind itself.

For all remaining revolutions, you want to make sure that the end you are holding passes underneath the loose end of the string. The result of this is that the portion of the string that is wound around the tuning peg will end up on top of the part of the string you are holding, which means that as the string gets tightened, it will rest on the nut and break off at a downward angle, creating a more secure and reliable string installation.

Why did the first revolution go on the other side? The result of this technique is that the loose portion of the string is hugged snugly by two pieces of wound string, one on top and one on bottom. Some believe this helps secure the string and makes it harder for the string to slip out of tune.

Repeat for the Remaining Strings

Repeat steps 5, 6 and 7 for the remaining strings.

Step 8: Clip off The Loose Ends

Cut the loose ends as closely as you can.

Using a pair of wire cutters (found on most pliers), clip off the loose ends. In a pinch, even a pair of nail clippers will work, although they’re not meant for that.

If you’ve installed the strings correctly, there’s no need for extra loose string to stick out. That string is not going anywhere, and you can cut it very, very close.

Step 9: Tune It Up!

Using a guitar tuner, tune each string up to pitch. You will have to repeat several times as each string will pull the neck into tension, affecting the tuning of the other strings.

For the first hour or so of playing, the strings will easily slip out of tune. You can simply begin playing, and retune as needed, or you can gently yank on each string and then retune.

Recommended Products

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

©2018 Hub Guitar. All rights reserved.