How changing guitar strings could save your life?

Elvis Elvis

I’ll be honest with you. I frequently go longer than I probably should between changing strings. Like everybody else, I’m busy, and I figure, hey, if they hold their tune reasonably well, who am I to rip them off their glossy wooden perch and throw them in the dumpster?

That’s exactly the way they want you to think.

See, guitar strings are clever little buggers. You wouldn’t think it to look at them, but that’s all part of their twisted little game. Truth is, the longer you play with a set of old strings:

  • The harder it will be to keep your guitar in tune.
  • The worse your guitar will sound. Old strings get “flat”, and just like carbonated drinks, they lose their zing.
  • The more likely you are to get tetanus (or some other nasty bug).
    • Seriously. Sweat + metal strings = rust, which is one place where tetanus likes to hang out. It’s not necessarily there, and your odds of contracting it this way are probably on par with your odds of winning the lottery, but let me tell you: this is one lottery you don’t want to win, so change those strings!

All of these things are good for the guitar strings, but bad for you. Who carries more weight here?


For those with less common guitars:

  • If you have a twelve string guitar
  • If you have a Telecaster
  • If you have an electric guitar with a Floyd Rose trem system

For the rest of you, unless you want to retune every five minutes, still have it sound like rubbish even after you do that, and potentially get some nasty infection, you’ll have to change those strings. The good news? It’s easy! Check this out:

How changing guitar strings could save your life?

The process is a little different for electrics and acoustics, but in large part it’s the same. I’ll point out the relevant differences. Before you start, you might consider picking up a string winder, especially one with a built-in snipper and bridge-pin puller. You can hardly make a better investment.

To begin…

1) Out With The Old – Removing your used strings

If you have an acoustic: release the tension by unwinding the string (start with any string you like), unwrap the string from around the tuning peg, and then pull the appropriate bridge pin so you can completely remove the string.

If you have an electric: again, release the tension and remove the string from the tuning peg. Since most electrics have strings running through the body of the guitar, you may want to snip the string somewhere in the middle so you can get it out the other side, as it’s sometimes tricky to pull that corkscrew-shaped, twisted metal bit through the guitar.

Good job. You’ve removed a string and gotten all the little pieces gathered up, right? RIGHT? Hopefully so, because I can tell you from first-hand experience that guitar strings, especially the twisty bits you removed from right around the tuning pegs, will pierce right through your foot skin. It usually doesn’t happen right away. It could be days or even weeks later, and you’ll have forgotten all about them, but there will come a time when for whatever reason you’re barefoot, and you’ll step on that 10mm square of floor where the spiral pain twist is lodged, and then you’ll wish you’d followed this advice. I usually believe in the idea of ‘No pain, no gain”, but the only thing you’re likely to gain with this pain is a foot that sets off metal detectors, so be careful!

Okay, good. One down, five to go, but!

But but but!

Before you pull the others, I strongly suggest you replace the first. Guitar strings, when fully tuned, put a great deal of pressure on the guitar’s neck, which is fine because they’re made to handle it. What they aren’t made to handle is the complete lack of pressure that comes when you remove all the strings simultaneously. Doing so might not end well, and I sure don’t want you jacking up the neck of your guitar, so just do one at a time. You’ll thank me later.

2) In With The New – Putting the shiny ones on

With the old string removed, it’s time to replace it with a shiny, new one.

On an acoustic: Put the ball-end into the body of the guitar. Firmly replace the bridge pin, making sure the string nestles snugly into its groove. Run the string over the saddle, all the way up and through the appropriate slot in the nut, and finally through the hole in the tuning peg. Pull it tight so it’s pretty much in line with the tuning peg, and start winding it back up. If the bridge pin tries to pop out, as it sometimes will, apply some downward pressure with one hand and tune up with the other. When it gets to the right pitch, the bridge pin should hold.

On an electric: Run the string through the body of the guitar, up to the appropriate tuning peg, and through the appropriate part of the nut. If you have locking tuners you’ll find this step tons easier. Just lock the tuner down onto the string and start winding it back up. If you have regular tuners, simply wind the string around the post a few times and guide it through the hole. Then you can tune up like normal.

Winding the strings: One thing which is very easy to overlook is the direction you wind the string around the tuning pegs. Just watch what you’re doing and you can’t go wrong. Deal? Here’s the trick: make sure that, whatever type of guitar you are re-stringing, you wind the strings so they pass through the nut and go straight up to the tuning peg without shooting off at an extreme angle.

Getting it back in tune

Now, with a fresh set of strings on your guitar, you need to get everything back in tune. What I typically do is wind everything up to somewhere near the appropriate pitch (just get close; don’t worry about being exact), and then tug each string firmly but not too firmly in every direction to stretch it out. Repeat, because by this point everything will be out of tune again. After a few repeats, everything should be nice and stretched, and you should be stably in tune or very close to it.

You’re done! At this point you may want to snip the excess “dangleage” clean so you don’t look like a hillbilly (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but that’s really up to you.