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Changing the Strings of a Steel String Acoustic Guitar

Changing the strings of a steel string acoustic guitar is not that complicated of an operation. Before getting into the actual procedure you will have to know some general terminology related to the different parts of a guitar as well as a listing of the tools and supplies needed to perform this operation.

Here we see an acoustic guitar with all of the parts needed to change the strings labeled.

Tuning Pegs – Mechanical turning device used to tighten the guitar’s strings.

Nut or Saddle – A grooved piece of plastic, wood, ivory or graphite that holds the string of a guitar above the fretboard.

Bridge - A piece of plastic, wood, ivory or graphite that holds the string of a guitar above the fretboard. The difference between the bridge and the nut is that a nut is smaller, it has grooves and is located at the top of the fretboard whereas the bridge is located in the middle of the guitar’s body.

Endpins - Pieces of plastic, wood or metal used to secure the strings of the guitar in place. When removed from the guitar these look like a thick pin with a groove cut down the length of the pins

Figure 1 The Parts of an Acoustic Guitar

Tools & Supplies
When restringing an acoustic guitar there are no tools that are truly needed but there are a couple that can be very helpful.

Wire Cutters – Tool designed to cut a piece of wire. Wire cutters are very useful in trimming the excess string length from the tuning pegs. A pair of heavy-duty scissors could be used as a replacement but doing so might ruin the scissors.

String Winder – A specialized guitar tool designed to help users turn the guitar’s tuning pegs at a high rate of speed.

Set of Acoustic Strings – A package 6 lengths of wire approximately 3’ long and of varying gauges with a metal ball at one end of each string.

Removing Old Strings
1) Loosen the strings of the guitar by turning each of the tuning pegs clockwise 5 or 6 times.
2) Once the stings are loose the endpins can be removed by pulling them out of the guitar’s body. This will cause one side of the string to be freed from the guitar. If you find it hard to remove the endpins you can use a pair of pliers or some string winders are designed to remove these as well. (Make sure not to lose or break the endpins, as they will be needed to replace the strings.)
3) Unwind and remove the strings from the tuning pegs.

This entire operation should be performed for all the strings of your guitar. Although there is no set order the strings should be removed its suggested that you start with the thickest string, then remove the thinnest string, then the second thickest string and the second thinnest string and so on. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2

Once the guitar’s strings have been removed take the opportunity to clean the entire guitar using a soft piece of cloth. For more heavy-duty cleaning you can dampen this cloth with lukewarm water. Much of the guitar can only be properly cleaned when the strings are removed. Cleaning your guitar is very important, as it will maintain your guitar’s beauty and increases the life of your instrument.

Adding New Strings
When adding new strings you will need to know what strings go into which tuning peg. (See Figure 3) For the sake of this example we will start by putting on the low E String, which is the thickest of all the guitar strings.

Figure 3

1) With the unstrung guitar laying flat on a table or workbench place the ball of the new string into the hole where the endpin was removed.
2) Keep the string placed against the portion of the hole that points towards the neck of the guitar and insert the endpin so the groove in it faces the neck. This should make the string fall into the groove.
3) Push the endpin all the way in and make sure it sits snugly in the hole.
4) Pull the string outward from the endpin until the ball hitting the endpin stops it. (This will happen on the inside of the guitar so you will not see the ball hit the endpin.)
5) Place the other end of the sting through the hole in the tuning peg making sure that there is a little slack on the string. Turn the peg counter clockwise enough so the string does not fall out.
6) Make sure the string sits properly in the groove of the saddle.
7) With one hand on the tuning peg and the other hand holding the string about half way down its length. Pull up on the string so there is a little tension on it.
8) Turn the tuning peg until the string is tight. (This is where a string winder will help because you may need to turn the peg a lot to get it tight.)
9) Repeat this procedure for the remaining 5 strings.
10) With a pair of wire cutters, cut the excess string that is left hanging from above the tuning pegs.
11) Tune the guitar.
12) Pull on each string slightly to stretch them out and then retune the instrument.
13) You may have to repeat step 12 a few times depending on the strings.

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