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How to Change the Strings on Your Acoustic Guitar  by Paul Ritchie

My old mate Wayne the karate black belt; surfer and finest fold guitar player I have ever heard taught me how to change the strings on my guitar systematically, so thanks Wayne. Start by finding a very clean and very flat surface to lay your guitar on. The first time Wayne helped me to change my guitar strings it was on a floor but we lay down a large piece of new vinyl and made sure it was very clean. Therefore, a table or the floor is fine.

Start by placing your guitar on the flat and clean surface. Place yourself directly in front of the guitar; make sure that the guitar's sixth string is on the side closest to you. Then loosen that string completely, so all the tension is off it and it is slack. To loosen the string you will need to turn your guitars tuner. Wayne showed me that by listening to the pitch that the note was making when I stumped my guitar I could tell which way to turn the guitars tuner. As you turn the tuner, the correct direction the pitch of notes will get lower as you strum the guitar and the string begins to slacken.

When you have done this and the string is very slack, loosen it completely until it comes away from the guitars tuning peg at that sits up at the top of your guitar.

STAGE ONE: Loosening off the Guitar String

Step one: Use some pliers to release the sixth string by gently taking the bridge pin out that is holding the string from the guitars bridge. This can take some practice and the first time you do this the pin will feel like it is lodged very tightly, persist and firmly but carefully pull the pin free. They are stronger then you would imagine.

Step Two: Get rid of your old guitar string it is not much use for anything that I can think of. Take advantage of the gap removing the string from your guitar has created, give your pride, and joy a cleanup. I usually attach a small piece of clean cloth to a wooden spoon, slide it in to the gap created, and move it around underneath the area that the other strings sit over. If you are keen, you may even use some polish on your guitar and get it very shiny.

Step Three: Always replace only one string at a time. Sensei Wayne was very big on this, as he explained all about neck tension and how the changes that swapping all the strings over at once will cause to the guitars sound could be very detrimental.

Wayne explained to me that because a guitar has six strings all bound tightly from the bridge to the tuning pegs the optimum level of tension needs to be retained. When he showed me, the amount of tension on the neck that was released when we undid the sixth string it made sense. Guitars that are made of wood have so much pressure and tension of their necks with all six strings pulled tight, that if they are all released at once this is not at all good for the guitar.

Without labouring on this particular issue, Wayne is somebody who has played guitar for thirty years and travelled a lot and asked a lot of questions so I took his word on the subject of changing one string at a time and have since read of it's importance a number of times. One example of a problem that changing all the strings at once caused was that he could never get his strings to sit at the right height when he reattached them again. Although they were sitting straight and rigid, the guitar sounded too high-pitched and the strings looked like they had a large gap from guitar to string.

Tip to Make the Job easier.

A String winder is relatively inexpensive to buy and if you are going to change your own strings, it will be a great investment.

STAGE TWO: Attaching New Strings

Step One: When you take out your new strings, you will notice that they each have a small ball at one end of the string. Take that end and push the ball up a couple of centimetres, then push the string down into the hole at the guitars bridge. Pick up the pin for the hole that you have sitting on a clean piece of cloth, wipe it thoroughly and then push the pin back into the hole in the bridge over the string.

As you, push the bridge pin back in pull on the string until the ball slots neatly back into place. You will probably find until you have done this process a few times that the pin will not stick, but simply redo the process until the pin lodges tightly.

Step Two: Once the pin has lodged, I get a pair of tweezers and gently pull the string up towards the head of the guitar. Make sure that the string is pulled firmly and that all the slack on the string has gone. Pull the string about 2cm past where the tuning peg sits and what I always do then is twist the string and place a clean clothes peg on it.

Step Three: Align your tuning peg so that you can feed the extra 2cm piece of string protruding from the peg. Remove the peg whilst holding the string at the 2cm mark and push the string through the tuning peg. Once the string is fed through either grip it again with the peg or like, I do with the tweezers and then we can tighten the string.

Step Four: If you have purchased a string winder, it really will save you lots of time. Start by tuning your tuning peg by turning it counter clockwise, and with one hand gently pull on the string to create some tension. Whilst continuing to hold the string pushes the string down onto your guitars freeboard with one finger whilst using the rest of your fingers to pull the string up. Continue to turn the tuning peg as you do this.

Step Five:Keep twisting the tuner peg counter-clockwise, until the string is sounding like it is almost intune.Although brought into tune, pitch will be difficult to keep, without us taking a simple key step. Grip the string over the guitars sound-hole and pull towards the guitars head and count to ten. Pluck on the string gently and you will note with the additional tension that the note has dropped. Simply retune the string three separate times and then trim the excess string that is protruding from the tuning peg.

Finally, use a pair of wire cutters (or an equivalent) to trim the excess string. Snip off the end of the string protruding from the tuning peg.

If you are new to guitar ownership then many of the online courses and tutorials available also offer great videos and written instruction of this subject and maintaining your guitar. If someone had told me, they were learning guitar online ten years ago, I would have laughed at them, but there really are some magnificent online guitar lessons available at very inexpensive prices.

Paul Ritchie is an Australian born business person who loves playing Guitar.
If you have ever thought about learning how to play but not had the time.
Checkout the best online Guitar Lessons the World Has Ever Seen


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