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Beginner’s Guide to Restringing Your Acoustic Guitar

What you need:

1. Acoustic Guitar Strings

2. Electronic Tuner

3. Wire cutters or Guitar Tool


1. Pig Winder

2. Cleaning Cloth

3. Guitar Cleaner/Polish

4. Fretboard Conditioner

5. Pencil (for lubrication at nut)

6. Guitar Headstand

7. Towel or other cloth (to protect the guitar)


1. Preparing the Guitar 

To begin, setup on a nice flat surface such as a table or counter.  Put down a towel or other cloth, to prevent scratches, and center your guitar's body on this.  If you have a headstand, set it up under the guitars neck for added stability. You are now ready to start.

Start by removing the strings from your guitar.  Loosen each string using you peg winder or by hand, and remove the bridge pin.  Many peg winders incorporate a bridge pin puller on the handle.  Slip the notch of the pin puller over the pin and pull upward to remove the pin.  Alternatively you can use a pair of wire cutters.  Gently place the wire cutters, blade side down, with the bridge pin between.  Gently squeeze to grip below the head of the bridge pin and carefully pull upward making sure to not to let  the clippers touch the wood of the bridge to prevent scratches.  On the head simply unwind the string. Be careful as the end of theses strings are sharp and can pierce the skin.  If there is a knot when unraveling simply take the long end of the string and apply pressure feeding it into the knot.

Now it is your chance to deep clean your instrument.  Pull out your guitar polish and polish any finished wood.  Make sure to not get polish on the fretboard or bridge of the guitar, that is what your Conditioner is for.

Apply a dab of Conditioner between each fret on the fretboard and use your rag to spread it into the wood.  For the bridge, simply wipe it down with your now oiled rag.  If the saddle comes out somewhere in the process, do not worry.  Take a close look at it and find the thinker end.  This side sits with the wound strings.  It is not held in place so simply orient it and slip it back into the slot.

There are many products on the market. Many people use Lemon oil for this job, but you have to apply it carefully with this because it can damage the finish on some guitars. The two products I prefer are Music Nomad MN105 F-ONE Fretboard Oil Cleaner and Conditioner (my first choice because it’s made without petroleum products) and Planet Waves Hydrate Fingerboard Conditioner (equally effective).

~ Tomas

Finally apply a little graphite to the nut.  Take your pencil and run it through each string groove a few times to apply a light dusting.  This helps the string slip when tuning.

Getting The Strings Back On

Let's start with the low E string.  Open your pack of strings and locate it.  It is the thickest wound string.  Gently unwrap it, trying not to bend or kink the string in the process. Standing at the bottom of your guitar and facing the head, insert the ball end of the string in the furthest left hole on the bridge.  Take a bridge pin, and gently press it into the hole tugging gently on the string to make sure it is seated not on the bottom of the pin but between the pin and the guitar, under the bridge.

If, during any of the following steps, the pin starts coming out simply use your thumb to press it back in.  If the problem persists it could mean the ball is stuck at the end of the pin and requires reseating or there is something off about your guitar and you should bring it into a guitar shop.

Do not force the bridge pins in!

Your thumb applies plenty of force and it is possible to crack the bridge or otherwise damage your guitar if extra force is used.

Now For The Other End

Rotate the first tuning peg, on that side, so it is in line with the neck of the guitar and feed the string through it so it pulls tight.  Next grab the string at the bridge and pull it back one and a half frets to generate some slack to work with. Take hold of the string near the nut.  Wrap it around the outside of the tuning peg and around to the inside.  Press it down against the headstock and bend the other trailing end sharply up over the loop you just made.  Now, tighten the string while holding it down to force the wrap to wind down the tuning peg towards the guitar.  This will help the string hold against itself and prevent slipping.  Make sure the tail end is bent straight up and clip if off.

The A, D, and G strings are almost the same.  When putting on the unwound strings, however, there is a new twist… quite literally in this case.  Feed the string through the peg but this time, when adding slack, pull it back to the second fret.  Now, wrap it over the tuner from the outside just like before but wrap it around a second time before winding it down the peg.  These strings are more prone to slipping and the second wrap helps prevent this. Again, wind the string tight, bend the tail sharply up, and clip it off.

Finishing Up

Now it is time to get these strings in tune.  Let us start with a word of caution though.  Steel strings are under a lot of tension and the bridge pins can come out or the string may snap.  This can lead to the string coming loose with a lot of force.  Make sure to position your body to the side of the guitar to prevent injury.  Keeping this in mind, bring your guitar up to tune.  Do note that acoustic strings do stretch and that your guitar will require more tuning for the next few days while the strings settle in.

Now, just put all your tools away and dispose of your old strings according to your local waste management guidelines.

And, of course, enjoy bright sound of these new strings.

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