Changing the 6th String
(Video Guitar Lesson 2 of 3)
Alright, you have the correct gauge of strings picked out and in hand. Now it’s time to slap those bad boys on. I’m going to be describing a basic string change. I’m not going to talk about cleaning or oiling the fretboard, or making any other kinds of adjustments to your guitar. So in that case, I am going to suggest taking off one string at a time…changing it, and tuning it back up to pitch before changing the next string.
One reason for doing this this is to keep a more consistent tension on the neck of your guitar. If you take all of the strings off, then put them all back on…sometimes you may need to adjust the neck of the guitar. Let’s just keep things simple here.
Also if you take all of your strings off at one time, you may find some pieces fall off that you won’t know were and how they should go back on. And it will also be much more difficult to get your guitar back in tune….especially if you are new to guitar.
So start with changing the 6th string and work your way to the 1st.
Step #1 – Unwind and take off the string from the post
Take off the 6th string. I sit in a chair and brace the guitar body between my legs. Some people like to lay the guitar down on a table, but I feel I have much more control of the string winding process with the guitar standing up. If you do lay your guitar down on a table, be sure and put some towels, or a blanket down so you don’t scratch up your guitar.
If all of the tuning pegs are on the top….like the guitar in my video guitar lesson…I face the guitar away from me, and loosen the string with the peg winder in my right hand. If there are 3 on either side, then for the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings I face the guitar away from me, and for the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st I face it towards me. That just makes it more comfortable for me since I am right handed.
Always play the string once before you start unwinding the string. This is just to make sure you are going in the right direction and the string is getting looser.
Once the string is loose enough, you can take it off of the tuning peg post.
Step #2 – Remove the old string from the bridge
Depending on the style of guitar you have, you may need to cut off the end of the old string so it can easily be removed from the bridge. There are a many styles of bridges for electric guitars, but for most it will be better to cut off the old twisted part of the string rather than try and pull it off the bridge as is.
For the style of electric guitar that I am using in the video guitar lesson, I have to pull the string out from the back of the guitar. If you also have this style of bridge, you may need to use your needle nose pliers to grab the ball end of the string and pull it out. If you have another style of electric guitar bridge, you will probably be able to easily determine how to take off the string.
Step #3 – Attach the new guitar string to the bridge
Again there are many types of bridges, so take a look at how the strings were put on before, and try and reverse engine how they are were attached. This is another reason you will want to change only one string at a time at first. This way you can look at how the old strings were attached to the bridge. Assuming that they were put on correctly before.
The guitar I am using in the video guitar lesson is similar to a Fender Stratocaster. So for that style of bridge I take the new string and feed the end through the back of the guitar, and pull it out the other side.
Step #4 – Attaching the new guitar string to the post
Now brace the guitar body between your legs again. With the guitar facing you, line the hole of the post so that it’s facing straight down parallel to the neck of the guitar.
Then stick the end of the string through the hole. Pull the string tight so that there is not any slack in the string.
Measure approximately 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) past the post, and bring that amount of the string back through the hole. An easy guide to help you measure is this is if you have all 6 tuning pegs on one side, measure 2 posts past the one that you are working with. If you are stringing a guitar with 3 pegs on one side and 3 on the other, measure about 1 and 1/3 posts.
By pulling the string back through the hole about 1.5 inches (4 centimeters). You now have the slack that you need to wrap around the post.
You are now going to make 1 loop around the post with that slack. You will make that initial wrap clockwise for the tuning pegs that are on the left side, and counterclockwise for the tuning pegs that are on the right. This is with the guitar facing you.
If you want you can now cut off some of the excess string leaving about a couple of inches (5 centimeters). You don’t want to cut the string off too short at first, just enough to get the excess out of your way for the next part.
You made one initial loop around the post manually, and now you are going to wrap the rest of the loops underneath that initial loop using a peg winder.
Put your right hand 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers under the string slack that is left, and your index finger goes on top to help guide the string.
As you are wrapping the string around the post you want to make sure that there is not any slack……keep it tight. Use your index finger to guide the string. You are now going to use the peg winder to wrap the string progressively underneath the previous wraps. Turn the peg counterclockwise for the those that face up, and clockwise for those that face down (in a normal sitting position). For the pegs that face up you are going to have to wrap with your left hand, and hold and guide the string with your right. You will wrap with your right hand and hold the string with your left when stringing up the pegs that face down.
Step #5 – Finish up and tune the string
When you are done, you can clip off the excess string a little shorter than you did before you wound the string. You may also want to take your needle nose pliers and bend the excess string that is left down towards the guitar. This will avoid you grabbing your guitar and puncturing your hand. It will also help avoid shredding the inside of your gig bag if you have one.
So the end result is that you have 1 wrap above, and 2 underneath…3 wraps total around the post. The one on top is the initial loop you did manually, and the 2 under are the ones that you did with the peg winder.
As a final step, you may want to give the new string a slight stretch. Just give it a tug up away from the neck of the guitar. New strings have a lot of give at first. So if you didn’t stretch the string, you would find that your guitar would not stay in tune.
And then of course last but not least, you need to tune the string up to pitch. Don’t worry about getting it exactly in tune yet, just somewhere in the ballpark. You will worry about fine tuning once all of the strings are changed.
If you have become a slave to your electronic tuner, this may be difficult for you at first. Electronic tuners are good for fine tuning, but not so good for taking a string from zero to being in tune. So get the string into the ballpark of being in tune by ear before you even attempt to use your electronic tuner.
You can use as a reference point one of the old strings that is still on the guitar. For instance you can tune your 6th string up to pitch by playing your 5th string open, then tune your 5th fret on the 6th string to match the 5th string open. If you are already familiar with this basic guitar tuning method you know that you normally play your 6th string 5th fret as a way to tune your 5th string open. But in this case you are just reversing the method to tune the 6th string from the 5th.
Change the rest of your guitar strings
Now just follow the same idea with all of your other guitar strings. Remember, the first time you do this it will be a learning experience. Don’t expect them to be perfect. But if you do have a little difficulty, don’t give up and rush out to your local music store to have them change your strings. Stick with it….you can do this.
If you do completely mangle a new string while struggling to put it on, you can buy single guitar strings at most music stores. Just be sure and ask for the same gauge of string as the set you are putting on. If you mangle a 6th 5th or 4th strings, you may just want to go buy a new set altogether rather than trying to buy a single string. It ends up being more cost effective in the long run because those heavier strings are too expensive separately. And then you will have some other spare strings for your collection.
The video below is just a little extra run through changing the 5th string. Nothing really new, but gives you a little quicker run through the whole guitar string changing process.
Changing the 5th String
(Video Guitar Lesson 3 of 3)
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