Restringing a guitar can be a real pain, especially for beginners and even more for beginners that don’t have the correct tools at hand. In this case, you’re probably reading this post because you’re both stuck at changing a string and don’t have a winder to hand.
Not to worry, you can still get that fresh set of strings on to your beloved guitar in no time at all.
Note before we start: Some guitars may require you to clip string beforehand, in which case you are going to need scissors or pliers to do this. You may also want to clip the strings once they’re on to reduce any chance of injury or getting poked by strings that are sticking out.
For the purpose of this guide we’re going to base this on a demonstration of a traditional acoustic guitar which has a typical bridge, and also solid tuning heads (meaning that the strings can be threaded-through easily, unlike some modern electric guitars which have open tuning heads which require strings to be clipped prior to threading).
Set & Thread The String
You need to start by ensuring that the string is both ‘set’ against the bridge, so in the case of an acoustic guitar with a traditional bridge you’re going to need to ensure that the string ‘sits’ in the bridge groove.
This will be easier once you follow the next step which is to thread the string through the tuning head, and pulling tightly.
Once you apply the pressure and pull the string through (ensuring the string is aligned with the bridge) then it should easily slip into, and sit in, the bridge.
Again, if it pops out as you shift tension along the string, don’t worry. As you follow the next steps the string will naturally fall back into the bridge as long as you maintain proper alignment.
Measure & Bend
Prior to bending the string around the tuning head, you’re going to need to measure enough length to ensure that you’re bending at a point that also allows the string enough ‘give’ to be bent and threaded through the tuning head.
With standard neck scales we’d recommend allowing 2 inches of ‘give’ from the point of threading the string through the tuning head, and then bending the string from those 2 inches.
You then want to do another bend and thread the opposite side to make two clear threads of the bent string parts, through to the tuning head.
It’s at this point you can then go to the final step (see this wasn’t too scary, right!).
Tighten & Align
It’s now time to tighten the string, with your two even bends in the strings that are securely within the tuning head. As you tighten, make sure that the strings stays within the bridge, and that there isn’t too much slack up at the top.
This is ultimately the job of the winder, as it’s now going to take you a little longer to tighten, but all of the hard work is done.
Be sure to cut the string once you’ve repeated this process across all strings, and also do not cut strings before you’ve given the string time to ‘bed in’. Ways to do this efficiently are to tune, play, tune, play (in that order). You will also want to leave the guitar alone with the new strings so that they can shift around and bed in efficiently, before picking the guitar back up to tune, play, tune, play (you get the point!).
Hopefully this quick tutorial has shown you that all is not lost if you’re trying to change a string without a winder. With a little perseverance, you can get your new string on in no time.
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