Changing Acoustic Guitar Strings

Changing acoustic guitar strings is a basic task any beginner will need to master.

From the neck up the strings are attached to an acoustic guitar in the same way as for an electric guitar. The main difference is in how the strings are attached at the body end.

Acoustic guitars also have various different bridge types which require slightly different techniques depending on the type of strings used. For stringing acoustic guitar there are basically three types of string; These are:

  • Ball End Steel String
  • Ball End Nylon Strings
  • Plain End Nylon Strings

    Within these categories there is an abundance of variation such as Bronze strings, Phosphor Bronze, plain steel or wrapped third strings.

    A word of warning when changing acoustic guitar strings. Never put metal strings on a nylon-stringed guitar. Nylon string guitars do not have a reinforced neck (using a truss rod) and therefore the extra tension that metal strings create could easily damage the guitar, warping the neck, pulling the bridge off the body.

    If you have received a guitar with no strings (not very likely) you can tell whether the guitar is a nylon string guitar by counting how many frets from the headstock until the neck joins the body. Nylon String guitars join the body at the 12th fret, whereas Steel Stringed guitars (also known as Folk guitar) join at the 14th fret.

    You can either replace strings one at a time or remove all strings if the fretboard requires cleaning, see Change Guitar Strings for further info.

    The tools required for changing acoustic guitar strings are:

  • New strings (obviously)
  • Cutters
  • String Winder (optional)
  • Lint Free Cloth (for polishing fretboard)
  • Soft Brush (for cleaning fretboard)
  • Neck Oil (such as Dr Ducks AxWax)

    The following instruction are a guide to replacing Steel Strings on a Folk guitar.

    1. Detune the strings a few turns each until they are loose enough to be removed.

    2. Remove bridge pins from body of guitar and pull the old strings free

    3. Thread the new ball end string through the hole in the body of the guitar until they are wedged tight in the hole (don't overdo this as you have difficulty getting them back out when they need changed again). You may find it quicker just to drop the ball end into the hole and then push the Bridge pin back in to retain the string. Be careful not to put kinks into the new string.

    4. Pull the string over the Bridge Saddle and Top Nut.

    5. Bring the string up the centre of the headstock, and thread the end of the string through the hole in the capstan leaving just a little slack. You want the string on the inside of the tuning peg.

    6. Bend the string back towards the centre of the headstock, this helps retain the string.

    7. Wind the tuning peg until the slack is removed either using String Winder or fingers. Ensure the the final winding is closest to the surface of the headstock.

    8. Tune the string to the correct pitch and repeat with the remaining strings until complete.

    9. Give each string a few tugs to stretch it out and then retune it to the correct pitch. It is best if you repeat this a few times until stretching the string no longer puts the string out of touch, this will help keep the guitar in tune longer.

    10. If you have cutters, simply snip the excess string. If you don't have cutters just wind the excess string in a loop to prevent injury.

    11. Dispose of old strings and excess new strings sensibly.

    Viola! New shiny strings.

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