How To String A Guitar
In this article you'll learn how to string a guitar the right way. Replacing guitar strings is not very difficult, but you need to use the right technique or your guitar will get out of tune easily.
1. The Right Guitar Strings For You
What kind of strings suit best for you depends on the following factors:
- String Brands: what guitar string brand sounds best is a question of personal taste. Test some different brands to discover which one sounds and feels best to you.
Some of the more popular brands: D'Addario, Dean Markley, Elixir, Ernie Ball, ...
- String Composition: what material are strings made of?
Electric guitar strings and acoustic guitar strings are made by winding a wrap wire round a metal wire. The sound of the string is determined by the material used for the wrap wire:
Classical guitar strings are made of nylon. Treble strings are also made of carbon fiber, while bass strings are made of bronze wire or silver plated copper wire around a core of fine threads.
- Nickel: the most popular kind for electric guitar strings.
- Stainless Steel: provides a brighter tone.
- Phosphor Bronze: provides a warmer tone, most suitable for acoustic guitar strings.
- Winding Type:
- Roundwound: has a round wire. Produces a brighter sound, but more extra noises.
- Flatwound: has a flat ribbon wire. Produces a duller sound, but the strings have less resistance and make less extra noise.
- String Gauge: the diameter of guitar strings.
Strings are usually bought in a set. Sets are named after the diameter of the first string (for example .010) or the first and the last string (.010 - .042). These numbers represent the diameter in inches.
A light string set is best suited for beginners, they are the easiest to handle and they don't hurt your fingers as much as heavier sets.
Heavier sets are suitable for guitarists with a little more experience. Heavier string sets have more volume and sustain, but are harder to fret.
Remember: when changing to a set with a lighter or heavier gauge, you (or the technician at your local guitar center) need to readjust the neck and intonation of your guitar. Heavier strings produce more tension and pull more relief into the neck.
2. Replacing Guitar Strings
Here's how to change guitar strings properly:
Remove your old set of strings. Some say it's better not to remove all strings at once, but one at a time and always replacing an old string with a new one. When you remove all strings at once the loss of tension might cause
your guitar neck to warp. I never had this problem though. Guitars are made without strings and
a luthier will always remove an old set of strings when doing repairs.
- Polish the guitar and oil the fretboard. This is a good time to do it, since there are no strings that get in your way. Use a guitar polish for the guitar body and linseed, olive or walnut oil for the fretboard .
- Secure the 6th string to the bridge or tail piece of the guitar. How this needs to be done depends on what type of guitar you have, but is usually straightforward. On most acoustic guitars you need to remove a peg to change the string (use a plier to do so):
- Align the tuning peg with the nut slot, then put the string through the hole of the tuning peg and keep about 2" (5cm) left between the string and the fretboard. Now you have enough string left to make 2 or 3 windings, which is sufficient.
Excessive winding may cause the strings to slip.
- Bend the string and put it underneath itself:
- Bend the string upward and turn the tuner in clockwise direction, until the string has the right pitch (use a guitar tuner or tuning fork) . Make the windings go down from the top.
- Now pull the string at it's midway point so it is stretched. Tune it again and stretch it some more, until the string doesn't go out of tune anymore.
- Cut the leftover string with a wire cutter or a toenail clipper.
- Repeat for the other 5 strings.
3. More String Tips
- Wash your hands before playing guitar (and before eating) and wipe your strings after playing. This helps to preserve string longevity.
- When you break a string, always replace the whole set and not a single string. The new string will sound entirely different compared to the older strings.
- If your strings break regularly, look for sharp edges on the hardware of your guitar.
- It can happen that a string gets stuck in the nut slot when tuning down. Solve this problem by putting a bit of flake graphite (scratch it of the lead of a pencil with a knife) in the nut slot (under the strings).
- When your guitar strings loose brilliance and intonation, it's time to change them. How frequently this happens depends on how much time your guitar is played and how good it is taken care of.
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