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How to restring an acoustic guitar

By Collin Watson February 15, 2018 0 comments

Hello welcome to Music 440’s blog on how to restring your acoustic guitar. My name is Collin and I am the owner of Music 440 and conducting the video demonstration today will be Adam.

This blog will explain how to restring your acoustic guitar and key things to look out for whilst changing strings.

For this demonstration we will be using a Martin Dreadnought Junior, a set of Martin strings, and a Ernie Ball FlexTune clip on tuner. 

Step 1 - Find a suitable flat surface that can support the guitar. Placing a clean towel or other non-abrasive covering on a hard surface will help protect the finish on your guitar. Place all the required items for changing the strings in an area that is easily accessible. Place your acoustic guitar with the strings uppermost ensuring that you have access to the headstock and machine heads.

Position your new strings, side cutters and a lint free polishing cloth within easy reach

Step 2 - loosen the tension from strings by hand or by using a string winder. In this instance Adam is using a string winder that can fit into the chuck of a cordless drill. Once the strings have been loosened, use the side cutters to cut the strings above the sound hole. Care must be taken when using the side cutters to ensure that they do not touch the guitar. Once all the strings have been cut, remove them from the machine heads. It is good practice to loop the removed strings together for easy disposal. use the tips of the side cutters with gentle levering pressure to lift the bridge pins upwards away from the guitar body, whilst pushing the cut string tail downwards.

Step 3 - now that your strings are removed, you can do maintenance your guitar and inspect for wear. We start by using our lint free polishing cloth to clean the entire guitar. Whilst cleaning, we can visually inspect the bridge, fretboard, frets and nut for any wear or damage. If you are using a cleaning compound, spray it on to your cleaning cloth and not directly on to the guitar. You can use lemon oil to clean and treat the fretboard.

Step 4 - open your new strings and take out your strings carefully. They are coiled inside the string packet and may spring out. Place the ball end of the string into the bridge string cavity. Place the bridge pin into the bridge fully and pull on the string as you do it. Ensure the pin channel is facing towards the fretboard. Strings are guided from the nut, between the machine heads, around and down for a single loop. Maintain gentle tension on the string as you guide it up. To fasten, loop the string around the machine head once, then thread the string through the eyelet above the loop and below the loop on the opposite side. Pull the string through firmly to help it bind on the machine head post. Tighten the machine head until the string has firm tension, roughly tuned. Repeat until all strings are on the guitar. Make sure to loop on the opposite side for the other side of the headstock.

Step 5 - Using a chromatic tuner, tune each string to the correct pitch. In this case we are using “E Standard Tuning” which will be covered in a later post. Tuning is done at this stage with the string tails intact in case of string slippage through the machine head. Once the strings are tuned, the excess string is trimmed from the machine head. Leave a tail of about ½ a cm from the machine head post and make sure you cut the string tail and not the string. After cutting off the excess string tail re-tune the guitar.

Step 6 - “Stretch in” the strings by lifting firmly on the string with the forefinger and pressing down with the thumb. Continue this up the length of the string and repeat for each string, ensuring to retune each string after stretching it. Stretching the strings allows the string to bind tightly on the machine head post and will greatly aid the tuning stability of the guitar.

Step 7 - The last step is tune up and play! Now your guitar is restrung and ready for playing.

Some key points to remember:

  • Find a flat surface with a covering that won’t damage your guitar
  • Use care when using side cutters near your guitar to avoid damaging the finish
  • Conduct a visual inspection of your guitar when the strings are removed
  • Strings are guided from the nut, between the machine heads, around and down for a single loop
  • Stretch the strings
  • Tune up regularly at each step after the new strings are on

We hope that you have found this blog to be informative. We will continue the series with our next blog on how to restring an electric guitar. From the team at Music 440, keep playing and most of all have fun!


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