How To String a Guitar (((THE RIGHT WAY!))) Part 1

Guitar Strings.jpgAs a Record Producer, everyday of my life I watch guitarists put on a new pair of strings. You would be shocked how many guitarists do not string their guitars properly. Now you may be thinking “I’m no n00b at this, I know what I am doing”. Despite all of your confidence, I have seen very seasoned players miss tiny little nuances that miss the mark. You may also be thinking that your guitar plays just fine. By stringing a guitar correctly, it will not only play better, but it will break less strings and also stay in tune FAR BETTER. Even if you have watched some of the popular YouTube videos, we have some essential info for you about what they miss. Click the jump for a quick tutorial.


A popular and nice guide is on fretnotguitarrepair.com, for those of you who don’t have the time to watch a video. This shows how to properly thread the string through the hole of an acoustic guitar. The one thing they do forget to mention is to TAKE THE STRINGS OFF ONE AT A TIME!!!! This is the most common mistake I see everyday at work. If you wonder why your guitar constantly goes out of intonation this very well may be your answer. A guitar is a machine of tension and a precise amount of tension is needed to keep it playing well and properly intonated.

Let’s focus on Fixed Bridge guitars in this lesson.
All-knowing guitar lesson source, justinguitar.com, does a nice lesson on this subject for those of you who like to watch the YouTube. Skip this one if you are in a rush since we will summarize it below.
 
My point of contention with this video is the “fingernail test” is not the best one for deciding when your strings must be changed. For recording many genres of music you are going to want a fresh pair of strings on the guitar for every song(in the studio, where as live it tends to be a preference of tone), for some genres a dull string is what sounds right. I once saw Jon Brion use a Silvertone guitar whose strings hadn’t been changed since the 50′s for an amazing tone. As well, if you are using coated strings (such as DR Elixirs) this point is moot since their gunk comes off anytime you do this. Another important detail is to change the thickest string first on down to the thinnest.
Our buddy RockGuitarPower.com has this all encompassing tutorial that is guitar tech grade material. He does make one fatal flaw: as mentioned above, he takes all of the strings off at once. It bears repeating: DO NOT DO THIS! The rest of this lesson imparts some great knowledge.
 
 
Here is where we get into a really good view of where many errors happen: String Threading. The second method he uses is what you’ll want to use and master. It is amazing how much better your guitar will stay in tune and prevent string breaking. 
Now RockGuitarPower.com has this turtorial that shows us how to stretch the strings. This helps the guitar to stay in tune better. A common complaint of new strings is they don’t stay in tune very well. This is usually due to not stretching the strings, so stop using this as an excuse to not change your guitar strings and start stretching.

The concludes getting the guitar strung. Check us out tomorrow for Part 2!
Photo by Flickr user nasrulekram

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • Brent Carroll

    Great tips .. but.. you shouldn’t say “pair of strings” that takes away from the fact that you know what you’re talking about. “Pack” or “Set” but what you’re speaking of and showing in the videos are all 6 string guitars, and aside from the bassitarist from P.U.S.A.(band)I have never heard of the need to change out a pair of strings. Not being a dick here. Just pointing out your only flaw as you did with the video tutorials. cheers.

  • Anonymous

    Do you have any good advice for someone totally new to learn how to play the piano? I’ve been trying to learn keys and chords but it’s hard!

  • Anonymous

    As far as strings go, I believe you should take them all of so you can have a clear unobstructed fretboard for cleaning. Every time I change strings I clean the fingerboard with GHS fast fret. Of course after changing strings you should always check your intonation by adjusting your bridge saddles.
    I think maintaining a clean fingerboard is a very easy way to improve not only your sound but, also your technique. I find I like the sound of my strings slightly broken in but, never “dull”. Stop that dull sound by cleaning your strings and neck people!
    Of course all this could be completely thrown out the window if you like the way a gunky fingerboard and old strings sound or, if you simply can’t / don’t want to adjust your intonation after changing strings.

  • Glen Henderson

    Guitars are made without strings, and the fretboard can’t be oiled or repaired while the guitar is strung, so I favor the “all strings removed” camp. What I do though is detune all of the strings in pairs (1st and 6th, 2nd and 5th, 3rd and 4th) until completely slack before removing them. It’s easy to detune two strings at the same time when you get the process straight in your mind.