How to Restring a Guitar
Restringing an acoustic steel string guitar
One day you're sitting with your guitar in hand either tuning it or playing a sweet tune when suddenly you hear an aweful noise and look down in disappointment at the sight of a freshly snapped string. It happens to the best of 'em but if you're passionate about your instrument you'll have to replace your strings ASAP. The inevitable restring has just become your problem and the only expense you should have, in my opinion, will be the strings themselves.
You have two choices:
- Take it to a shop where they restring it for you
- Or buy the strings and restring your guitar yourself
Notice that I specifically said "acoustic Steel string guitar". The process is very different for a nylon strung classical guitar and I have never in my life needed to restring one of those, so I'm not going to attempt to explain that. However, on the steel string guitar, replacing strings isn't a huge job. It can be done using the following steps:
- Take the old strings off by unwinding the machine heads far enough to be able to pull the end of the string out of the little pole piece of the machine head. Once you've pulled it out remove the endpins (the circular pins that protrude from the bridge at the end of the string) from the bridge. Be careful when you do this. It's a good idea to put a soft cloth on the guitar (so as not to scratch the guitar) and then try to employ some leverage to pull them out with a pair of pliers. If they're really stubborn, you can stick your arm through the sound hole of the guitar, feel around carefully for the endpins and push them out from the inside while pulling them out with the pliers from the top of the guitar. You should be very cautious, especially if you have a guitar with a pickup system. There could be wiring and delicate components inside the guitar.
- Now that your strings are removed, your guitar's fretboard and soundhole are exposed. This is a great time to give it a thorough clean and polish using a soft cloth and some guitar polish and some lemon oil. I know this is a guide on restringing a guitar but I'll quickly give you some tips on cleaning the guitar. I recommend using products that are meant specifically for use on guitars so as not to cause any harmful reactions on your beautiful child. When polishing the guitar, do one surface at a time. First spray on some polish (on the guitar body) and then wipe thoroughly with a dry cloth. Softer cloths give a better shine. Be sure to clean the bridge and sound hole area thoroughly as this is the only time they'll be easilly accessible. Now use some Lemon Oil for the fret board and the bridge. These parts are often unfinished and can crack easily if the wood isn't properly treated. First spray a fair amount on the unfinished wood and let it stand for about 10 minutes. The lemon oil is, well, oily so try not to get too much of it on the guitar body as it might cause unwanted smudges on your prestine surfaces. After 10 minutes, clean the fretboard properly. This requires some elbow grease in between the frets but it's definitely worth it. if you don't do this regularly, you might never get it off... no jokes...
- Now you have to take the new strings that you bought and stick the ball end of the strings into the holes on the bridge of the guitar. Take time to make sure that you put them in the correct order and then you can put the endpins back into the holes. Pull on the string a bit to make sure it doesn't slip later on and to check that the end pin is fully in. If it isn't, it could end up being launched out of the guitar and breaking on impact with something or some-one. Pushing it in requires a bit of force but be careful not to damage your guitar.
- Take the other ends of the strings and put them through the correct tuners. It's a good idea to wrap the string around the pole piece just once below the actual hole on the pole piece just so that the string isn't place under too much pressure at a specific point. Then tighten each tuner slowly and carfully, making sure that your strings don't slip off, until your guitar is in tune. With most guitars it's a good idea to "Cross tune". This means that you tune the top string then the bottom string then the second string from the top and so on. This minimizes the flexing of the neck laterally. Your guitar will appreciate this in the long run.
- Now you can cut off the long ends of the strings if you want to. Be careful after you've cut them though, cut string ends are extremely sharp and they will cut you if you aren't careful.
That's it! You've just saved some money and have a functional guitar once again. You shouldn't have to pay someone else to restring your guitar. It's an easy and rewarding process that, in the long run, could save money.
How to Restring an Electric Guitar
The steps for an electric guitar are pretty much the same with just one fundamental difference: there are no endpins. The implication of this is as follows
- The string must first be pushed through the back of the body of the guitar in such a way that it can be pulled throughout of it's correct position in the bridge of the guitar. This might require a screwdriver to loosen the back plate of the guitar.
- After this the string is pulled through, rested on the nut and wrapped once around the pole-piece from the inside, over and out and then through the hole in the pole piece.
- once again, care must be taken at all times and the string must be placed under tension at a reasonable speed.
Some electric guitars might have a different variation of a bridge and it seems a bit redundant to explain each type in detail. Feel free to post any questions in the comment thread below.