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Stringing Acoustic Guitars – Some Tips

Most people that routinely play guitar have had to change their strings. The task is pretty easy and straight forward so long as you have good tools to restring your guitar, so rather than describing the process here, I’ll let the video below speak for itself. After the video, which walks you through the string change process step by step, I intend to fill you in on a few tips that aren’t necessarily intuitive, and explain why they are a good idea.

And now that we have that out of the way, we move on to the tips!

Change Your Strings One At A Time

When stringing a guitar, it is important to change the strings one at a time. This concept not only applies to full sized acoustic guitars, but also to smaller stringed instruments such as parlor guitars, banjos, and ukeleles. There is a lot of pressure on the neck of your instrument, because the strings are under extreme tension. If your neck was pure wood, it would warp pretty quickly under this tension. Fortunately, your neck has a feature, called a truss rod, that is designed to counter balance this effect. In light of this, your truss rod applies a force on your neck that is equal and opposite to the force applied by your strings. Due to the existence of the truss rod, if you were to remove all of your strings at once, your truss rod would have nothing to balance the force it applies to your neck which puts severe pressure on the neck wood. Changing your strings one at a time minimizes the difference in forces and therefore minimizes the strain on your neck. As far as selecting a set of strings is concerned, you can view our guide to choosing strings or you can click here to browse for a nice set.

Break In Your Strings

New strings tend to stretch out very quickly after you first put tension on them. This can make playing the guitar frustrating for the first hour or so, because you will constantly have to retune the instrument. One way to avoid this annoying hour of playing is to manually break your strings in before you play. There are a number of ways to do this. One of the more common ways is to use your hand by pulling on the string with your four fingers and pushing with your thumb. You then can walk down the string from bridge to headstock. This method is outlined in the video above. Other ways you can accomplish this are through some aggressive strumming(careful, don’t overdo it as you don’t want to break a string) or you can do a substantial amount of heavy bending on each string around the 9th fret.

Clean And Condition Your Fretboard

A clean fretboard will be slick and smooth without providing any drag on your hand. Keeping your fretboard clean also helps protect it from damage over time. When you are pulling your strings off your guitar, you have the perfect opportunity to take care of your fretboard. When it comes to cleaning, there are many products out there that work well. Pictured to the left is a complete guitar care kit produced by Jim Dunlop, which includes fretboard cleaner, fretboard conditioner, and other goodies. It takes some care, but you can condition a fretboard while still removing strings one at a time. Also, for stuff that is particularly hard to remove, you can try some #0000 steel wool(which is VERY fine) with a light touch. DO NOT USE COARSE STEEL WOOL OR YOU WILL DAMAGE YOUR FINISH.

So that’s it. Those are a few non-intuitive tips for restringing your guitar. Feel free to add your own in the comments below!