There’s nothing worse than playing your favorite acoustic guitar and having it sound dull, or worse, having a string break mid-strum. Guitar strings need to be replaced every so often to ensure you get the same great sound you’re accustomed to. But how do you string a guitar that doesn’t have any bridge pins?
To string an acoustic guitar without bridge pins, remove the old strings by loosening them and then taking them off the guitar. Thread the new strings through the bridge and tie a knot or make sure the ball-end is secure. Connect the other end to the tuning peg and tune the string to the right pitch.
In this article, we will discuss acoustic guitars without bridge pins in great detail. We will discuss what bridge pins are and what they do, why your guitar doesn’t have any, how to string a guitar that doesn’t have bridge pins, some tips for stringing your guitar, and how to take care of your strings once you’ve replaced them. So let’s get started!
What Are Bridge Pins For On An Acoustic Guitar?
The bridge pins on your guitar may not ever catch your attention until you come across a guitar without them. While bridge pins are standard on guitars, there are still some that don’t have any. And while it is perfectly fine to play without bridge pins, they play a vital role in your guitar’s tone and playability.
Bridge pins are an essential component of your guitar because they help keep the strings correctly aligned, but they also help carry the vibrations created by the strings when you play a chord into the body of the guitar, which then creates the sound you hear.
The guitar string passes over the saddle and into the holes in the bridge of the guitar and then are tied off at the end. Because of the tremendous tension a guitar string is under when properly wound and tuned, they often want to pull through and out of the holes in your guitar’s bridge. Bridge pins are used to keep the strings in place by wedging the string against the guitar’s bridge plate, ensuring that it doesn’t move around.
They are most often used in conjunction with strings that have ball ends, as it would be virtually impossible to wedge a string with a raw edge in place and have it not slip out anyway.
Bridge pins are also made from many different materials like plastic, bone, wood, and metal (usually brass). These different materials have been said to affect a guitar’s tone, with wood and bone giving the sound the most sustain and brass having the brightest tone. However, this may be subjective as every person will interpret their guitar’s tone differently.
Now that you know what bridge pins are and what they are used for, we can move on to talking about what to do if your guitar doesn’t have bridge pins and how to restring a guitar without them.
Why Does Your Acoustic Guitar Not Have Bridge Pins?
Even though most guitars these days are manufactured with bridge pins, there are a few reasons why your guitar doesn’t have any.
The first reason is that many nylon string acoustic style guitars are still manufactured without bridge pins, so if you have a nylon string acoustic guitar without bridge pins, that is likely why. But nylon string guitars aren’t the only pinless guitars; some manufacturers also make their steel string guitars without bridge pins.
The reason why manufacturers do this is unknown, but it hasn’t seemed to affect people playing with these kinds of guitars negatively, so they probably will keep making guitars both with and without bridge pins indefinitely.
The other reason your guitar may not have bridge pins may be because they have come loose and fallen out, or they may even have broken off. This might be the case if your guitar is an older one, if it is a bit on the cheap side, or if you haven’t checked or changed the strings and bridge pins in a while.
But not to worry, you can absolutely still use and play your guitar, even without bridge pins. And when the time comes that you need to replace the strings, there are ways to do so without using bridge pins too. And luckily for you, we’ll show you just how to replace your guitar strings in the next section.
Stringing An Acoustic Guitar Without Bridge Pins
As guitar strings become older, dirt, dead skin cells, dust, sweat, and oil from regular play can build up on them. This can negatively affect the strings’ tone and intonation, leading them to sound dull, become difficult to tune and play and make them more likely to break. Guitar strings need to be changed out every so often to fix these issues. It will also give your guitar a brighter tone and clearer sound.
So you have decided that it’s time for you to put some new strings on your guitar, but it seems that it doesn’t have any bridge pins. Restringing an acoustic guitar that doesn’t have bridge pins can be tricky because you’ll most likely have to tie every string off individually to get them to stay in place.
There are different methods to restringing your guitar, depending on what type of strings it has. Nylon string guitars will have either a black, white, or clear plastic string as the thinnest string (high E) on the neck, whereas a steel-string guitar will have a metal string. Knowing what type of string your guitar has will help you work out how to restring it.
The strings you use on your guitar will depend on the type of music you play and the kind of sound you like, but some great all-round options are the D’Addario Pro-Arte Nylon Guitar Strings or the Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Medium Acoustic Guitar Strings. Now let’s move on to how to restring your guitar, whether you want to replace just one string or the entire set.
How to Restring a Nylon String Guitar Without Bridge Pins
Restringing a nylon string guitar is slightly more complicated than restringing a steel-string guitar, simply because nylon strings have two raw edges as opposed to steel strings that come with one raw edge and one ball-end side. Still, it is not impossible to do this yourself, following the steps below.
What You’ll Need
These are the things that you need to restring a nylon string guitar:
- New string or string set
- Guitar tuner (like this Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner)
- Wire cutters (like these IRWIN VISE-GRIP Diagonal Cutting Pliers)
- Tweezer or needle-nose or long-nose pliers (like these IRWIN VISE-GRIP Long Nose Pliers) – optional
How to Replace Strings
Below are the steps to replace your strings:
- First, you’ll want to remove the old string by turning the tuning key of the string counterclockwise until the string becomes visibly loose.
- Then untie the string from the bridge and pull it out. This is where tweezers or long nose pliers may come in handy.
- Unwrap the guitar string from the tuning key and then pull it out to remove it altogether. Now you’re ready to install your new string.
- Insert one end of the new string into the empty bridge hole until it comes out on the other side with about 2 inches (5cm) of excess.
- Then fold the string back towards the bridge so that it makes a loop.
- Wrap the short end of the string under the long end of the string.
- Then pull it back down towards the bridge and wrap it around itself 2-3 times.
- Holding the short end of the string at the bottom of the bridge, pull on the long end to tighten and secure your knot in place.
- Now thread the long end of the string through the tuning key’s hole and pull it through.
- Wrap the string around the tuning peg a few times and then push the excess through the hole again to secure it.
- Turn the tuning key clockwise to tighten the string and use your guitar tuner to tune it to the right pitch.
- Then cut off any excess string at the bottom of the bridge, and repeat the same steps for the rest of the strings on your guitar.
Here is a video that demonstrates the method explained above:
How to Restring a Steel String Guitar Without Bridge Pins
Most steel strings that you can put on your guitar come with a ball-end on one side of the string, which helps make replacing the strings a lot easier. However, steel strings are often at least slightly sharp, so you need to be careful not to injure yourself when replacing them.
The method for replacing the strings on a steel-string guitar varies slightly from that of a nylon string guitar, but we will take you through the process step-by-step.
What You’ll Need
These are the things that you need to restring a steel string guitar:
- New string or string set
- Guitar tuner
- Wire cutters
- Tweezer or needle-nose or long-nose pliers (optional)
How to Replace Strings
To replace your strings, follow these steps:
- Remove the old guitar strings by turning the string’s tuning peg counterclockwise until you can see that the string is loose.
- Then, unwrap the string from the tuning key’s peg and pull it through the hole to remove it.
- Push the string out through the bridge hole until the ball end is visible, then pull it out completely.
- Push the bare end of your new string up through the bottom of the open bridge hole and pull it through all the way. Tweezers or long-nose pliers may come in handy to help you grab the protruding end.
- Thread the bare end of the string through the hole in the tuning key’s peg.
- Wrap the string around the tuning peg and thread the excess back through the hole to secure the string in place.
- Trim any excess that may still be sticking out of the tuning peg’s hole.
- Turn the tuning key clockwise to tighten the string and use your guitar tuner to tune it to the correct pitch.
- Repeat the above steps until you have replaced all of the (or necessary) strings on your guitar.
Tips for Restringing Your Acoustic Guitar
Now that we’ve gone over the methods of replacing both nylon and steel strings on your guitar let’s talk about some tips and precautions to consider when replacing the strings on your guitar.
Suppose you often find yourself restringing your guitar (say you work in a guitar repair shop, or you just own quite a few guitars). In that case, you can get yourself a peg winder (like this Ernie Ball Battery Powered Peg Winder or this Ernie Ball Manual Peg Winder) to help you wind and unwind your pegs with more ease.
Changing your guitar’s strings one at a time will help you avoid mixing up the different strings and will also maintain constant tension on the neck of your guitar to avoid damaging it and causing ‘neck problems.’
When tuning your strings, tugging lightly on them as you tune will help ‘break them in’ and get you better tuning overall. It will also help eliminate some of that ‘new string’ sound if you prefer that your guitar not sound newly strung.
If you need to cut a string off your guitar, do not do so while it is tensioned, as it will recoil and can cause severe damage to your face or eyes. Always loosen your strings as much as possible before cutting them.
When cutting excess string from your guitar, make sure not to cut it too short as this can lead to the excess slipping through your knot and making the string come loose, which can damage the string but can also injure you if the string recoils when it comes loose.
Taking Care of Your New Strings
Now that you’ve replaced your guitar strings, it is important to know how to properly care for them. Taking care of and maintaining your guitar’s strings (and the rest of the guitar, too) is important in ensuring the longevity and sound quality of your strings with use.
Dust, debris, and oil all play a role in the wearing out of your guitar strings, so cleaning them regularly will help prolong what is known as the oxidation process. Oxidation is the steady degrading of the materials that make up your guitar strings due to the environment around them, along with the tension exerted on them from being tightly strung for a long time.
While playing your guitar, the sweat, oil, and dead skin cells from your hands transfer onto your guitar’s strings. Dust from the room and residue from products used around the guitar can also cover the strings and will eventually lead them to corrode and become weak. When this happens, your guitar strings will start to sound dull, will be hard to tune, or may even break, so taking proper care of them is essential.
How to Clean Your Guitar Strings
It is recommended that you clean your guitar strings as regularly as you play your guitar, at least every time after you finish playing, but preferably before and after, especially if you’re playing a gig or recording your music. This will help keep them sounding better for longer and will also increase their longevity.
Washing your hands before playing your guitar can also help decrease the amount of sweat and oil you deposit onto the strings while playing.
Use a soft microfiber cloth (like these Buff Pro Multi-Surface Microfiber Cleaning Cloths) to wipe down your guitar strings before and after playing to keep them clean and free of grime. You can also use the same cloth to wipe down your guitar’s neck and body after playing it to keep it clean and apply a guitar polish to the lacquered parts of your guitar every so often to keep them looking new and in good condition.
While changing out your guitar strings, you can also wipe down the fretboard underneath the strings to give it an extra deep clean. You can also keep something like the YUETON Double Ended Portable Cleaning Brush in your guitar case for on-the-go cleaning and to help brush the dust off of your guitar easily.
Changing your guitar’s strings is a vital part of keeping it in good condition and sounding great, especially in the case of acoustic guitars (Should an Acoustic Guitar Be Kept in Its Case?).
Whether you are changing out only one string or the whole set, following the correct method, knowing the right safety precautions, and how to take care of your strings once you have replaced them is essential. But if you feel that this is just a bit too complicated for you, you can always take your guitar to your local guitar repair shop, where a trained repair person or luthier can do the job for you.