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How to String Your Guitar

When to Change Strings

Most guitarists or bass players change their strings when the strings themselves lose their zest & sound dull and lifeless, when the intonation on the strings is not up to scratch or when the strings fail to stay in tune for a decent period of time. Obviously to keep a sonic balance between all 6 strings it makes sense to change all the strings at once, although there is no hard and fast rule to this and of course if breakage's occur it may be cost effective to change the one offending string depending on how long the set has been on your guitar only your ears and personal preferences can tell you this.

Strings that Have no Life!

Strings that do not last long are mainly the victims of acid & dirt produced from the hands sweating whilst playing. It is recommended that you should wipe down you strings after every session to increase the life of the string. For players that produce more of this acid we recommend that you try Bay City String Kleenze which is made with 70% isopropyl alcohol which should help prevent the perspiration harming the strings, however it is good practice for all players to do this. On the other hand obviously players that play more often such as gigging musicians will have to change their strings on a weekly basis or in some cases daily, at the other end of the spectrum a guitarist who plays very little may take months to get to a stage where they need to change a set.

These Strings Have no Tone!

If you apply a set of strings and they do not sound as bright or vibrant as they should check at the saddle & nut that the strings are not snagged or upon a surface that is worn down. Frets that are worn or seated incorrectly usually cause the strings to buzz or go dead.

Why do Strings Break?

If it is a problem that you are breaking certain strings regularly then check the string fully at places of contact ( i.e. - at the sound hole & the fret board), if they are clean & smooth it may seem that your style of play is aggressive and it would be a good idea to go up a gauge from the strings you are playing at the moment, maybe from a 10-46 to an 11-49 for example.

Determine the Scale of your bass

Step 1. Mark the lowest gauge string at the nut with a marker.

Step 2. Remove the string and measure from the mark to the inner edge of the ball end & refer below.

Up to 32" D'Addario Short Scale

32"-34" D'Addario Medium Scale

34" - 36" D'Addario Long Scale

36" - 38" D'Addario Extra Long Scale

Bass String Scale Length Explained - The scale length of a bass string is from ballend to where the string crosses the top nut. It is a fairly common mistake to measure the actual bass guitar rather than the strings before getting some new bass strings. But you actually need to measure the old strings in inches from ballend to nut to get the correct scale length for your new strings. This is due to the fact that all basses are different (some basses are strung through the body which can add 2 inches to the length of string you would need).

 

5 east tips to re-stringing your classical guitar
Step one to re-string a classical guitar Step 2 to re-string a classical guitar Step 3 to re-string a classical guitar
passing string through 
the bridge
forming knot double knot tied
passing a string through the bridge to re-string a classical guitar forming a knot at the bridge of a classical guitar forming a double knot at the bridge of a classical guitar
For the wound bass string select the end with the area of loose winding. It´s more pliable than the rest of the string and easier to knot around the bridge. Thread the string back-
wards through the bridge and bring the end round and under itself to form a simple knot.
To be on the safe side it´s best to repeat this process to provide a firmer anchor. Simply pass the string under itself again and pull it taught. You can remove any excess string with your wire cutters to prevent it from making a nasty rattling noise on the soundboard.
Pro tip to re-string a classical guitar
Note how the end of the string is pulled tight against the rear of the bridge. You´ll find that our double knot will secure the string much better than the single knotted factory-fitted ones

 

Step 4 to re-stringing a classical guitar Step 5 to re-stringing a classical guitar
headstock threading string winding
threading a string through the headstock of a classical guitar winding a string to the headstock of a classical guitar
Pass the string through the hole in the capstan and bring the end round and under itself so that the string is locked against the capstan when you begin to wind. Guide the string with your index finger as you wind it to ensure neat, close wraps. Wind the string towards the centre of the head-stock to maintain as straight a line as possible through the nut. Tune the string in the normal way: comparing it with the old strings or by using an electronic tuner.
pro tip to re-stringing a classical guitar

5 east steps to re-stringing your acoustic guitar
Step 1 to re-stringing an acoustic guitar Step 2 to re-stringing an acoustic guitar Step 3 to re-stringing an acoustic guitar
removing the bridge pin replacing bridge pin winding round the post
Removing a bridge pin with the notch of a string winder on an acoustic guitar replacing the bridge pin on  an acoustic guitar winding the string around the post at the headstock
With the string loosened there´s no tension on the bridge-pin and it can be removed using the notch on your stringwinder. If the pin is stuck, try pushing the string back into the guitar. For real toughies, slacken off the rest of the strings, reach inside the guitar and push the peg out from the rear. Post plenty of string into the hole and replace the bridge pin firmly. Align the channel in the pin with the string. Pull the string up so that the ball-end comes to rest snugly against the underside of the bridge.
pro tip to re-stringing an acoustic guitar
Thread the string through the capstan leaving 5cm of slack before winding. Use your index finger to guide the string and make sure that the new wraps form under the hole towards the head.

 

Step 4 to re-stringing an acoustic guitar Step 5 to re-stringing your acoustic guitar
snip the finished product
snipping the excess string from the post on the headstock what the post should look like when finished re-stringing on an acoustic guitar
Bend the string down towards the headstock and snip off the excess using the wire cutters. By bending the string towards the headstock before cutting you are making sure that the sharp ends are pointing inwards so they won´t snag your gig-bag or jab your finger. Here´s one we prepared earlier... If you have followed all our instructions carefully you should end up with something resembling the picture above. Note how the string is wound neatly, tightly and closely, allowing it to bind against itself, thus securing the loose end at the top of the capstan.

3 easy steps to re-stringing your electric guitar
Step 1 to re-stringing your electric guitar Step 2 to re-stringing an electric guitar Step 3 to re-stringing an electric guitar
posting string through guitar cut to length

posting the string down the central hole

posting the string through the body of an electric guitar cutting the string to the required length posting the string down the central hole on an electric guitar.

Slacken off the old string with your stringwinder and remove: push the string back into the bridge and pull the ball-end out. Post the new string through the bridge and pull out through the front of the guitar.
pro tip on re-stringing an electric guitar

Cut the string three fingers´ width from the relevant machinehead. If your string has too many wraps, you´ll alter the gear ratio of its machinehead, making it less accurate. Post the cut end of the string down the vertical hole in the centre of the post (or through the horizontal hole depending on type of machinehead). Bring the string out through the slot and kink it before starting to wind. Use your index finger to guide the string, making sure the wraps are snug.

handy hints 
Pro tip one
Tying the string knot at the bridge end of a classical guitar takes a bit of practice. If you´re unsure, ask someone at your local music shop to show you how it´s done.
protip two
Nylon strings stretch far more than the metal variety and so you´ll have to spend more time stretching them in. Remember to leave enough time for the strings to stretch in before a gig - 24 hours is usually more than enough.
It´s not unknown for bridge pins to break, even with careful handling. Make sure you carry a couple of spares in your guitar case.
On Strats it's sometimes impossible to pull the curly end of an old string through the bridge. Use wire cutters to snip the string three or four inches (8-10cm) from the bridge.

Article first appeared in guitar techniques © 1999 adapted from original text by Ben Bartlett / photography: Justin Scobie