Have you noticed your guitar does not sound quite like it used to? It may mean it’s time to restring your guitar. However, if it is your first time restringing your guitar, you may be wondering if there is a specific order to follow.
The best string order when restringing a guitar is subjective. Some players restring from outside to inside. Others restring the treble strings first and then the bass. However, it is more important to understand how each string differs from the other so that you can handle them accordingly.
Read on to learn how to restring your guitar.
What To Keep in Mind When Restringing a Guitar
I found that it is hard to answer what the best string order is. All of my sources stated different things. Some guides I looked at recommended stringing the top and bottom E strings first, then working inward. Other sources recommended working from the bottom string to the top string. There is arguably no ‘best’ string order when stringing a guitar.
However, I did notice a couple of common themes of what to be conscious of while restringing:
- The bass and treble strings need different treatment. Bass strings are thicker and have more weight. Conversely, treble strings are thinner and lighter. These differences make them sound different from one another. However, they also determine their durability. Bass strings can handle more tension and require less winding to grip to the tuning peg. But treble strings are fragile and cannot grip as easily.
- Always start with the sixth string (low E). Every method I researched started with the sixth string. This starting point makes sense since the sixth string is the most resilient. Therefore, it will give you the most room for error while you acclimate to stringing the guitar.
How to Restring a Guitar
Now that you understand that the string order is somewhat irrelevant, let’s move on to stringing your guitar! It is vital to give yourself a spacious and clean environment for your guitar. A decent-sized table draped with a sheet (to protect the guitar) is a good idea.
Here’s what you will need:
- New strings
- Good quality string cutters
- String winder
Once you procure the materials and a decent amount of space to work, proceed through these steps:
Dispose of the Old Strings
First, you need to get rid of your old guitar strings to make room for the new ones. Removing the strings takes a few steps to accomplish:
- Use the string winder to relieve tension from the strings so they loosen.
- Cut the strings with the wire cutter, one at a time. It would be best if you cut near the soundhole of the guitar. Be mindful not to damage the body’s varnish while doing so.
- Next, remove the string pegs near the rear of the bridge. These pegs may need some extra force to take out. If that becomes the case, you can use the string winder to unscrew them. Note how the saddle sits on the bridge in case you need to reposition it later.
- Once you take out the pegs, you can unwind the old strings off the guitar. Some guitars have nuts that loosen after removing strings. Make sure to keep track of the nut so you do not lose it. Furthermore, be very careful! The ends of guitar strings are very sharp, which can cause cuts and scrapes.
Clean the Fretboard
Your string replacement will not do any good if you place the new strings on a dirty guitar. Any fretboard goop that aged or damaged your old strings will catch onto your new strings. A soft paintbrush will clean your fretboard just fine. Also, give some attention to the tuning pegs and the rest of the neck. If you have a rosewood fretboard, some lemon oil provides a nice touch.
Replace the Strings (Bridge)
Once your guitar is clean, you are ready to install the new strings. First, you need to start at the guitar’s bridge. You will repeat this process, string by string, starting with the 6th string (lower E string).
- First, unwind the new string, being mindful not to crease it.
- There will be holes where the string pegs once resided. Take the ball end of the string and push it into the corresponding hole.
- Push the tuning peg back into the hole. Make sure the groove of the peg is facing the headstock.
- Use your finger to continue to push the peg down. Meanwhile, pull the string taught in the other hand. But do not crease it.
Replace the Strings (Tuning Pegs)
After you place the new strings at the guitar’s bridge, you can move on to the headstock. As before, start with the lower E string.
- Pull the string towards the tuning peg until it becomes taut.
- Then, pull the string through the correct groove in the nut.
- For this next step, position the string on the inside of the tuning pegs, not the outside. Wrap the guitar string around the tuning peg once or twice before threading it through the hole.
- Once threaded, bend the string back on the peg to ensure it does not slip back through the hole.
- From there, you can use the winder to tighten the string enough that there is no buzz on the fret. Be careful not to tighten too much, or you will break the string. It helps to hold the string at the neck, away from the tuning peg, while maintaining tension on the string peg.
Note: The lighter, higher pitch strings have less grip than their weightier counterparts. Therefore, as you continue to higher treble strings, give them a few more wraps around the tuning peg than you would for the bass strings. Additionally, make sure you thread the string above the windings to avoid knotting.
Stretch the Strings
Stretching the strings is vital for tuning your guitar later on. Lay the guitar on your flat surface. Then, halfway down the length of the string, grab it between your finger and thumb and pull upwards. You want to pull until you start to feel tension, release, then pull again. Stretch each string six to seven times. If a string peg starts to come out, push it in with another finger while continuing to stretch.
Tighten the String With the Tuning Peg
After you stretch your strings, you can introduce more tension by winding them with your tuning peg. Continue to stretch the string with your fingers while you gradually introduce more tension via the peg.
Clean Up the Ends
Now, with your new strings in place, you are ready to tidy things up. One easy way to do this is to make a crease with the excess string and then cut it off with a cire cutter.
Tune Your Guitar
Finally, you can tune your guitar. Take notice of how difficult tuning is. If you are having a hard time, or if you find the guitar going out of tune unexpectedly, it probably means you need to stretch the strings again. Readjust each string, then re-tune the guitar.
There is no best string order when restringing a guitar. Two standard orders are from bass to treble strings or from outward to inward strings. It helps to start with the thickest string first while you get your bearings. Furthermore, it is essential to be mindful of how the bass and treble strings differ from each other while restringing your instrument. Otherwise, it is best to restring one string at a time.