Last Updated on November 29, 2021 by GuitarsCamp
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Part of owning and playing an acoustic guitar is learning to string one. Here’s how to do it when it comes time for you to do so.
First, you need to remove the old strings. To do this, you need to loosen them by turning the tuning pegs. You can do this manually or you can use a string winder. You loosen them in order to release the tension in the strings. Once they’ve loosened, you can either cut the strings in the middle to make the job faster, but it’s not necessary. Remove the strings from the tuning pegs. Then pull out the bridge pins that hold the strings in place. Use needle-nose pliers to do this, but be careful not to hurt the bridge.
Once the strings are removed, get your pack of new acoustic strings. Many packages indicate which string is which – i.e. which one is the E string, which one is the G-string, etc. The thickest one is the low E. Start with that one.
Get the ball of the string and put it down the hole of the bridge. Push it in with the bridge pin. Pull-on the string until you feel the ball come up against the bottom of the pin. Then tug on the string to make sure that the pin doesn’t pop out. Run the string up. You’re usually given much more string than you actually need. You only require about 3 inches past the hole that it’s going into. So you can either cut what you don’t need now or choose to do it later. Then insert the string into the hole of its corresponding tuning peg. Crease the string at the top of the hole toward the inside of the guitar and away from the tuning key. Wrap the string around the peg once, then start twisting the tuning key. This may take a lot of twisting, so some people like to use a peg winder, but you can choose to do it manually.
(For the 3 lower-pitched strings, turn the key so the pegs rotate counterclockwise. For the 3 higher-pitched strings, rotate the pegs clockwise. This is to ensure that the strings wrap from the middle of the neck over the top of the post and to the outside of the guitar and toward the tuning key).
As you wind the tuning key, make sure that the string coils from the top of the post downward. Be sure also that the string is inside the appropriate nut slot. As you continue to twist, the coils around the peg tighten, the slack in the string disappears, and the string starts going down. You’ll notice an angle between the nut and the bottom of the string appearing. You want a good amount of angle in order to create a nice tension on the string. Soon you’ll have a recognizable musical pitch. Turn the tuning key slowly to bring the string to its proper pitch.
Once you’ve done this, you can clip away any excess string sticking out of the tuning peg. Using wire cutters, cut the string as close to the tuning peg as you can to prevent your fingers from getting jabbed by the string. If you don’t have wire cutters handy, make a crease in the string and bend it back and forth until it breaks. Or you can just loop the extra string into a circle.
Repeat the process for the lower strings.
Don’t get frustrated when your strings go flat, even after you’ve tuned them to pitch. New strings tend to do that because they continue to stretch in the beginning. To hasten the stretching process, pull on the string gently, but firmly. Bring it up directly above the fingerboard. Then turn the tuning key and bring the string up to pitch. After each pull, the string will be under pitch. Repeat the process of pulling the string and tuning by ear or a tuner until the string no longer goes flat after you pull it. You may have to do this several times, but it shouldn’t take too long.