How to change guitar strings: tips and tricks

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Each guitar player should know how to replace the strings on a guitar. It is important to thoroughly study the issue in order to avoid mistakes and not damage the musical instrument. An experienced guitarist knows that there will come a time when the strings will fall into disrepair. For example, they may break or stop sounding correctly due to heavy contamination. Those signs are signals to install a new strings set. Replacement process is simple and takes a minimum of time. However, a beginner guitarist should take time to learn the basics of the string changing process in order to do it correctly and quickly. After all, if the guitarist will often use his guitar, then the strings will have to be changed often. So, the main rule when replacing strings on a guitar is to work carefully without haste.

A few basic rules

First, you need to remember a few simple rules that will help you replace the strings on your guitar in such a way as to prolong their life as much as possible:

  1. You need to change the strings in a set. The point is that the strings are tensioned. Therefore, if the guitarist only changes the string that has become unusable, then the tension ceases to be uniform. Uneven tension results in rattling and poor sound;
  2. You do not need to tune a string before installing the rest of the strings. In other words, you need to proceed to tuning the guitar after all the strings are installed. This way you can avoid the situation when the whole kit breaks due to being overtightened;
  3. To make the process as convenient as possible, you need to purchase a tuner. You can buy it at any music store for a couple of dollars. This device will make it easier to change strings. In the first stages, you can get by with a mobile application.
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Signs of guitar string wear

Any strings sooner or later fall into disrepair. A skilled guitarist will surely notice right away that something goes wrong. It is more difficult for an aspiring guitarist to determine the distortion in the sounding. Therefore, a beginner should be aware of two reasons for severe string wear.

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Why do strings deteriorate?

  1. Dirt and dust got into the cracks of the strings;
  2. The metal from which the strings are made reacted with air for a long time and oxidized strongly.

In order to prevent dirt and dust from getting into the cracks of the strings, you should always wash your hands before playing the guitar, and keep the instrument clean. Household cleaners are suitable for cleaning the strings and can be used for prophylaxis. Cleaning the strings at least once a week will not save you from replacing strings in the future, but will prolong their life.

Why do strings deteriorate?

It’s impossible to cope with the strings oxidation. There is no way to prevent it. In case of strong oxidation, you will have to immediately replace the strings on the guitar. The only advice for aspiring guitarists to combat frequent string oxidation is to buy more expensive strings. As a rule, these strings are made of higher quality materials and will work longer than their cheaper counterparts.

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When it’s time to change guitar strings?

  • Strings darkening. Regardless the quality of strings set, they will still darken over time. This is due to pollution and oxidation;
  • The guitar is difficult or impossible to tune properly even with a tuner. Due to oxidation and contamination, the strings change thickness. The elasticity also deteriorates, which affects the sound. While the new strings are fairly easy to tune, the old ones will be a little sweaty. And it will not always be possible to do this. Sometimes the strings are so old that they get out of order after each song;
  • Sound deteriorates. It can be seen if noise or rattling is added to the main sound, which was not there before. This is a signal that it’s time to get a new strings set.

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How long do guitar strings last?

Professional guitarists are used to changing strings after every performance. Thus, they get the most clear and sonorous sound. But the average guitar user doesn’t need to do this at all. It is enough to remember about the service life of the strings.

How long do guitar strings last?

On average, strings that are not covered with a special coating served from two to three months. It does not degrade the sound characteristics. If the strings are coated, the lifespan is increased to four or six months. It all depends on how often the guitarist plays, how he watches the guitar. Also, an important role is played by what the strings are made of, who is the manufacturer.

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How to choose guitar strings?

According to the type of material, strings can be divided into:

  • synthetic base;
  • metal base.

Synthetic strings

Synthetic strings are made from materials such as carbon or nylon. They are quite durable, have a melodious sound and are inexpensive. Synthetics are installed on classical guitars. Copper-wound nylon threads are applied to the bass register.

According to the tension force, nylon threads differ into three types:

  • medium,
  • strong,
  • very strong.

For slow romantic music with a gentle sound, medium tension is suitable. But for a fast active composition you need strings of strong or very strong tension. It is worth considering that the tension of the string negatively affects the comfort of the game: fingers get tired and sore. The carbon material was invented in Japan. In terms of it’s performance characteristics, it is much stronger than nylon. These strings produce a rich, bright sound. Skilled guitarists and sophisticated music lovers will prefer carbon over nylon. But for aspiring guitarists , nylon is better: it is softer and more elastic, does not injure the fingers.

Metal strings

Metal strings can be divided into several categories based on the material they are made:

  • metal
  • stainless steel;
  • gold;
  • alloy of steel and nickel;
  • bronze;
  • copper;
  • coated with nano materials.

Metal emits a rich sound with a recognizable sonority. Metal strings are used for open airs. The pulling force of metal strings is much higher than nylon or carbon strings. This makes it possible to play fast melodies and improvisations.

Strings made of noble steel (stainless) are characterized by high strength, corrosion resistance and excellent bright sound. They create mid-frequency vibrations and are set to mid-range. The disadvantage is rigidity. Steel requires trained left hand fingers.

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Gold gives a bright, crisp sound. Of course, the cost of such material will be very high, but you will get a strong, high quality string.

Nickel-steel alloy is the most common material. Such strings give a bright loud sound and are comfortable for the fingers. If you are looking for a string kit for a small guitar, you can buy nickel strings for a more muted chamber sound. Nickel provides great sounding to blues and classic jazz compositions.

Bronze is played on acoustic guitars. This material gives a bright sound and has a special sonorous temperament, but is not suitable for electric guitars. Bronze does not rust and is softer to the touch than steel. Phosphor bronze is very popular among guitarists: it emits a softer sound and does not strain your fingers. Phosphoric bronze is brighter than usual in color, it has a reddish tint.

Finally, the latest generation nano-coated strings. In addition to its durability, nano technology reduces unnecessary sounds when pressing the string. The sound is almost perfect, without extraneous noise.

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A few words about string winding

For the bass register, wound strings are used. The winding is made from different metal alloys and is divided into three types:

1 type round
2 type semi-flat
3 type flat
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How to choose a proper winding for your strings?

To do this, you need to decide what kind of sound you want. For muffled chamber sound, choose flat-wound strings. For a bright, intense sound, choose a round winding.

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A few words about string gauge

Guitar string gauges are measured in thousandths of an inch. The gauge ranges from .008 on the thinnest first string to .056 on the thickest sixth string. In general, calibers can be divided into three categories:

Extra Light (.009/.011/.016/.024/.032/.042)
Light (.010/.013/.017/.026/.036/.046)
Medium (.011/.015/.018/.026/.036/.050)

For simplicity, guitarists usually mean strings set when talking about the diameter of the first string. So in the previous example, the set of middle strings is simply called “eleventh”.

Larger calibers are generally better for:

  • active players – they are more persistent, give more sustain and are less torn;
  • playing with slide or drop tuning – they give more tension to the strings;
  • those who play “low” strings – they give less vibration and have more resistance to fret bounce;
  • playing without amplification – they are louder;
  • jazz.

Small calibers are generally better for:

  • for beginners – they are easier to play while the brushes are not so strong and so as not to rub the blisters;
  • blues or lead guitar – it’s easier to make bending on them;
  • vintage guitars – they put less stress on the neck;
  • guitars with small bodies – they just sound better;
  • brute force games – they are more responsive to skillful finger work.

Many manufacturers offer a string “hybrid caliber”, which is thinner on the first three strings and thicker at the fourth, fifth and sixth. They are specially designed for players playing both single notes and chords.

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What guitar strings are suitable for a beginner?

The debate on the issue does not fade away among professional guitarists. In the end, it’s up to the guitarists to decide. But here’s our advice. For an acoustic guitar, metal strings are suitable for an aspiring guitarist. For a classical guitar, a beginner should choose nylon.

What guitar strings are suitable for a beginner?

A few more tips. The steel base gives a loud ringing sound. As for the size, it is better to take the most popular – 10-46. For an electric guitar, the smallest size 8-38 most bang for your buck. Even some virtuosos play on such caliber. After all, the thinner the string, the smaller it’s oscillation amplitude and you can achieve a clearer and faster game. Later, you can switch to the 9-42 more popular string size.

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How to change acoustic guitar strings?

Untie the old strings

First of all you need a string winder. Place it on the tuning peg (a small rod located on the head of the guitar neck, designed to secure and tighten the strings) and start twisting it until the string begins to dangle freely. This is the only way you can pull it out of the hole. Do the same for the rest of the strings. You can do it without a string winder. Then you have to turn the tuning peg with your hands. It will take more time and effort.

Get the bridge pins out

Next, you need to get the bridge pins that hold the strings on the deck out. In order to remove the bridge pins of acoustic guitar, you need any flat object. For example, a ruler. Also in the music stores there is a special tool for sale designed for this process. In any case don’t use pliers. They could damage or even break the bridge pins. Be careful when removing old strings with flaps on the neck and on the soundboard. Usually they are not fixed and could be lost.

How to Change Your Acoustic Guitar Strings

Need to change a string or a complete set of strings? This video will provide step-by-step instructions on how to get your Acoustic guitar back into action.

Take off the old strings

Use the special tool to hook the bridge pins and pull the strings out. Do this gently and carefully until the strings separate from the guitar. There is nothing difficult in this action. You just need to get all the strings out of the hole in the fittings. Fold the strings into a circle and put them aside. Old strings can be stored in reserve or simply thrown away.

Wipe the acoustic guitar

The next step is to take the opportunity and wipe the guitar. Take a dry cloth and wipe the guitar completely. Clean up the dirt on the fretboard and then check it. The neck should be straight. If you find irregularities, you will have to adjust the neck of the guitar with an anchor. An anchor is a metal rod that sits inside the neck. The anchor resists string tension and maintains neck integrity. Attention! We strongly recommend you to adjust the neck only in a specialized workshop.

Replace old strings with new ones

Replacing strings on the acoustic guitar is easy enough. But this process requires attention and care. Therefore, be extremely careful and accurate at every stage. There is no need to rush. Otherwise, you risk ruining your musical instrument. After purchasing new strings, you must remove them from the packaging. We have already wrote about how to choose the right strings for a guitar earlier in this article. After you take the strings out of their packaging, you will find that they are curled up into a ring. Unfold them carefully.

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Next, place the strings inside the hole from which the bridge pins were previously taken out. It should be that part of the string with a small ring. The ring should be turned sideways to the bridge. Next, insert the bridge spin into the hole until it stops. Repeat this step for each string, then slide the free end of the string all the way to the head of the neck to the corresponding tuning pegs. In this case, the tuning pegs should first be turned with a hole towards the string.

Tie the new strings

Now you can safely start tightening the new strings. The string inserted into the tuning peg hole should be pulled until full tension. Than you need to intercept the string near the next higher tuning peg with a finger – it will be about 0,7 inches above the tuning peg hole. Next, you need to slide the finger with which we previously intercepted the string towards the tuning fork hole. This way the string become relaxed. After fixing the string in such position just begin to twist the tuning peg with the help of guitar peg. You need to twist from the inner radius to the outer radius.

There is one more method of stringing the acoustic guitar, which was invented at the “Martin” factory:

  • stretch the string into the tuning peg;
  • hold the sticking tail with the left hand;
  • with the thumb of your right hand, wind the string behind the neck so that the thumb is between the string and the neck on the side.
  • bend the string towards the opposite side tuning pegs;
  • put the end of the string under the string.
  • pull the string with the string end and bend it (make a tight knot).

Thus the string will be prevented from jumping out of the tuning peg hole. For aspiring guitarists, we recommend the first method. Remember to always start on the 6th string. If you did everything correctly, then the string will go from relaxed to tense position after 3-4 spins. The same must be done with all the other strings. Also remember that the sixth, fifth and fourth strings are twisted counterclockwise. The other three are clockwise.

Tie the new strings

Observe the rule of spinning the strings from the inner radius to the outer radius. Note that the strings may be pulled out of the bridge pins during spinning sharply and with a distinctive sound. You don’t need to be afraid of such situation and think that something has happened to the guitar. It often happens when replacing the strings on an acoustic guitar. However, we recommend to stretch the strings all the way before the turning tuning pegs.

Trim the excess

As you can see from our tutorial, changing strings on an acoustic guitar is not difficult. It is enough to do everything carefully. The final chord is that the extra part of the strings needs to be cut off. To do this, tongs are suitable. The strings need to be cut so that the pieces do not spoil the sound of the guitar with unnecessary rattling.

Tune your acoustic guitar after changing strings

After you have cut off the extra pieces, you can proceed to tuning the musical instrument. This will take a little longer than it usually takes to tune a guitar. Consider this. Use a tuner to tune the acoustic guitar. It will help you to tune the guitar correctly, since your ear can fail. If you do not have a tuner, then any phone mobile application will fit. It can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. To do this, just enter the query “guitar tuner” in the search bar.

When the tuning is finished, put the guitar aside and leave it alone for a while. The strings need to settle down. It is possible that later you will have to re-tune the guitar. In addition, the instrument may get untuned several times after changing the strings. Do not worry. It’s normal. Everything will fall into place quickly and the new strings will sound better than the old ones.

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String change sequence on an acoustic guitar

Let’s summarize. To replace strings on a acoustic guitar, follow these instructions:

  • Untie the string set;
  • Pull out the bridge pins;
  • Remove the strings;
  • Check the guitar neck and soundboard;
  • Wipe the guitar: get rid of dirt;
  • Place one end of the string in the hole;
  • Put in the bridge pins;
  • Stretch the string until it stops;
  • Fix the strings on tuning pegs;
  • Tune your guitar.

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How to change electric guitar strings?

Changing strings on an electric guitar is not much different from replacing strings on an acoustic one. The differences are only in the features of the electric guitar. Let’s take a closer look at how to replace strings on an electric guitar.

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Signals, that it’s time to change a string set

Any skilled guitarist understands that strings are consumables. But not every aspiring guitarist knows when it’s time to change the strings on their electric guitar. We recommend changing the strings at least every two to three months. It applies to those guitarists who actively use their musical instrument. If the guitar is rarely used, then it will be enough to change the strings once every six months. Let’s take look at the signals by which you can definitely determine that it’s time to change the strings:

  • External pollution;
  • Oxidation;
  • Salting;
  • Blurred coating;
  • Rust.

When these signs appear, the sound will deteriorate and become unpleasant. Sometimes the guitar stops working at all and starts to rattle.

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Tools that come in handy for changing strings on an electric guitar

These tools will be equally useful for owners of acoustic guitars as well as for owners of electric guitars:

  1. Nippers. They come in handy at the very end when you need to cut the excess part of the string;
  2. Regular screwdriver or adjustment wrench: needed to adjust the neck (anchor);
  3. A metal ruler will help in adjusting the strings in height if they are rattling;
  4. String winder for winding strings. It’s not must have. However, he will be able to simplify the whole process.
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Once again about the anchor adjustment

As we discussed above in the text, the anchor allows you to adjust the deflection of the guitar neck. The fretboard is influenced by many different factors, such as air humidity, temperature, string tension, and string diameter. To protect the neck of the guitar, and so that you can adjust the fretboard deflection, there is a so-called adjust rod inside it.

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Many aspiring guitarists think that the correct deflection of a guitar fretboard is when there is no deflection at all, and the neck is flat like a table. This is not entirely true. When changing guitar strings to thicker ones, the minimum deflection is acceptable. The anchor can be adjusted with an anchor nut. On some electric guitars, access to the anchor is located either on the side of the neck head or on the side of the body. In the latter case, the fretboard must be detached from the body to adjust the anchor. But on the vast majority of guitars, access to the adjustable anchor nutis located on the headstock under a plastic cap – this is the most common option.

A rough test of fretboard deflection can be made by simultaneously holding the 6th string at the 1st fret and at the 14th fret. While holding these two frets, you need to check the distance between the string and the top of the 7th fret, where the neck deflection should be greatest. The distance between the string and the fret should be about 0.04 inch (approximate thickness of a guitar pick or a bank card). This is not important, but free space is required!

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A step-by-step guide in changing a strings set on an electric guitar

Relax the strings

Every string needs to be weakened before it can be lifted. To do this, use a string winder to wind the strings.

Take off the strings

Electric guitars have a special feature – expensive coating. If you do not plan on reusing the strings, it is recommended that you cut the strings around the pickups with wire cutters. This will help keep the guitar looking good and keep you safe from accidentally breaking strings. Next, remove the strings from the tuning pegs.

Next, remove the strings from the bridge – a special hole in the protective plastic. It is more convenient to do this from the bottom up by pushing the string out of the body. Do the same action on the back side of the case.

How to String an Electric Guitar For Dummies

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One more nuance. If you are the proud owner of a “Floyd Rose” system on your electric guitar, you will need a hex wrench to change the strings. It can be used to loosen the retainer. On guitars with the Zero Pro system, the string set is clamped together with a retainer.

Prepare the electric guitar

Before changing strings on an electric guitar, we advise you to check and prepare your musical instrument. After removing all strings, tighten the bolting on the body and neck. Fasten them securely without kinking the anchor.

Сlean the fretboard

The next step before replacing the strings with electric guitars is to impregnate the fingerboard of the guitar. For this purpose, lemon oil is suitable. This is because over time, a layer of dirt and grease builds up on the neck. Dirt and grease gradually penetrate deep into the wood and destroy it’s structure. Over time, the structure of the electric guitar fretboard will begin to crack, bulge, etc. In addition, dirt easily gets on the fingers and then on the strings, which has a very negative effect on their service life.

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How to properly apply lemon oil to the fretboard:

  • Apply a couple of drops on each fret (or swipe the fret a couple of times if the bottle is equipped with a felt applicator – do not forget to shake the bottle first);
  • Use a piece of clean cloth to spread the oil evenly over the pad;
  • After processing each fret, leave the guitar until the product is completely absorbed (with an over-dried overlay, it will take about 10 minutes, for a normal overlay, the process takes about half an hour).

You can buy lemon oil at any music store. We recommends to give preference to “Ernie Ball”. The package contains six pieces. And the cost is ridiculous: only $2. Don’t forget to clean the guitar fretboard first. How to do this, we wrote above in the article.

Installation

This method will work for most electric guitars:

  • Pass the string through the hole in the body;
  • Pull the first and sixth strings. This will prevent the neck from deforming;
  • Stretch the remaining strings in a two-three-five-four pattern. This method is the easiest. Plus, the neck won’t get damaged;
  • Get rid of the extra parts of the strings with the help of pliers. This must be done. Get rid of the extra parts of the strings with the help of pliers. This must be done. Get rid of the extra parts of the strings with the help of pliers. This must be done. The strings sticking out in all directions look unsightly, interfere with playing the guitar and can injure the guitarist or a person sitting nearby;
  • Tune the electric guitar;

“Floyd Rose”, “Edge Pro” systems

Guitarists who have such a construction on their electric guitars can be both envious and sympathetic. Despite the wide possibilities that the double-sided machine gives, it is difficult to replace the strings on such an electric guitar. It is for such guitars that you will need a hexagon. Here is the order:

  • Unscrew the hexagon lock from the fretboard threshold, if available;
  • Relax the strings;
  • Relax the retainer and remove the strings;
  • Remove the retainer from the new kit and secure it with a hexagon;
  • Stretch the string with string winder;
  • Fix the strings with tuning pegs;
  • Tighten the sill.

Get the perfect sound

If you have installed new strings of the same caliber as the previous ones, then the electric guitar does not need additional manipulations. However, it happens that the strings start to rattle or the guitarist finds that the strings are high. In this case, you need to align the bar or tighten the spring. In this case, you need to align the fretboard or tighten the spring.

Adjusting the height on the bridge

Every skilled guitarist knows the importance of bridge pitch adjustment. Depending on it’s type, the setting is also differ. On some electric guitars, you only need to tighten the support screw, and on others, raise or, conversely, lower the bridge saddle. All this makes it easy to replace the strings on the electric guitar. Note that the height should not be higher than 0,08 inches on the twelfth fret. You need to measure the height from the top of the fret.

Mensura setting

To properly replace the strings on an electric guitar and make it sound good, you need to tune the mensura. It is unlikely that a beginner knows what it is. Mensura is the length of a string from nut to nut. It’s center is located at the twelfth fret. If it is displaced, then the formation breaks down. For example, at normal tuning at the 12th fret of the 1st string, an “E” sounds. If the mensura is knocked down, then instead of “E”, “D” or “E flat” is heard. Consequently, the formation is also lost on other frets. You can adjust the mensura using the bridge saddle. It must be tightened or, conversely, weakened. A screwdriver or hexagon is suitable for this.

Adjusting the sound of an electric guitar after changing strings

To fine-tune an electric guitar, you’ll need an electronic tuner. This is done as follows:

  • Connect the tuner;
  • Build a standard formation;
  • Hold the twelfth fret with your fingers and pull the string;
  • Follow the indicators on the tuner;
  • Use tuning pegs to tune each string.

Thus, you can easily and quickly replace the strings on the electric guitar, as well as correctly tune the musical instrument.

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Lifehacks on how to replace strings on a guitar

Here are some useful tips that will help every guitarist to properly replace the strings on the guitar:

  1. Try to form the spirals closer to the middle of the tuning peg. The same goes for the string hole. Do not use spirals that are too close to the beginning of the tuning peg. If you ignore this advice, then there is a high probability that the string will break soon;
  2. Do not pull on the string too much. It can also result in fast break;
  3. If you pay attention to the tip of the string closer to the lower threshold, you will notice additional knots. They serve as an additional safety net so that the string does not jump out of the loop;
  4. After you have installed new strings and tuned your guitar, give the musical instrument a rest. The tree should adjust to the string tension. In addition, during this time the bar will fall into place;
  5. There are manufacturers who produce safety nylon strings. Such manufacturers form thickened sections of the strings during production.
  6. Some manufacturers produce string kits that include nylon strings that have a ball on the end. This saves the guitarist a lot of time and effort. With their help, replacing the strings on the guitar is much easier and faster. In addition, the risk of injury is minimal.
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How to tune your guitar correctly

It’s not enough to just replace the strings on your guitar. It is also necessary to correctly tune the musical instrument. Otherwise, it will be of no use.

It would seem that anyone, even an aspiring guitarist, can tune a guitar. In addition, there is a tuner that is as easy as shelling pears to use. However, not everything is as smooth as it seems at first glance. Even this process has it’s own characteristics and nuances. The information below describes how the most popular mobile applications work. It will help you to use the tuner correctly and tune a good sound of your guitar:

  • Select the option “Enable microphone” on the tuner and allow using the microphone on the phone;
  • Tune your guitar from the thickest string. There will be a button with strings in the program interface. Select the lower one to see how it sounds in normal setting;
  • Try playing this string on your guitar. If it is tuned correctly, the tuner will show green. If not, the color will turn red. When doing this, pay attention to which half of the screen the arrow is in. If to the left, then the string must be pulled tighter. If on the right, then, on the right;
  • The same steps must be repeated with each string. Go sequentially from the thickest string to the thinnest;
  • After each string is tuned, play a couple of chords. This will help solidify the result.
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Small tips for proper guitar tuning

These recommendations will help the guitarist to properly tune his musical instrument with digital tuner and surprise everyone with an amazing sounding:

  • Tune your guitar in total silence and closer to the microphone. If the tuner is too far away, it will not be able to pick up the sound. Even the slightest noise interferes with his work;
  • Play notes closer to the fretboard. The sound is much softer there. It will be easier for the tuner to determine which note you have played. Experiment with the position of your hands: closer to the bar or further. It all depends on the tuner model. Thus, a tuner from one manufacturer can better identify notes than a tuner from another manufacturer;
  • Begin tuning your musical instrument from the thickest string, going down to the thinnest one. And in no case do it the other way around. Otherwise, as soon as you get to the thick string, then the whole tuning becomes useless. And you have to start all over again;
  • Always adjust the string from low to high. It is better to relax the strings a little, and then gradually tighten the tuning pegs until the tuner shows the optimal position. In addition, this approach will help minimize the likelihood of strings breaking.

At first glance, it seems that these tips are useless. However, many people on the Internet do not know these basics. If you put them into practice, the difference will be immediately noticeable.

Conclusion
In this article, we figured out how to replace strings on acoustic and electric guitars. The main advice is this – you need to responsibly approach any issue related to your favorite instrument. Guitars are easy-to-tune instruments. Nevertheless, it is worth doing everything carefully and consistently. If you follow our guidelines, the process of changing strings will become familiar to you.

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