One thing that almost all guitarists would agree on is that playing a guitar with new strings is awesome. Strings “die” over time and begin to sound dull and lifeless. A new set makes it sound brighter, livlier, and full of tone. It’s a good idea to learn how to change your own strings, if not to experience the “new string” moment, at least to repair a broken one in a pinch. So here’s a rundown on what tools and supplies you might need to get the job done, as well as some resources and tips for making it all easier and faster.
The minimum requirement to change strings properly is 1) new strings; 2) your lap; 3) and strong fingers and wrists. I did it for years. Now I have a small work area that is “guitar friendly”, and have nailed it down pretty well. To do the job conveniently, here’s what I would suggest:
- A table or workspace about 1.5 to 2 times the size of the guitar. My bench is 2×4′ and seems perfect. It’s also nice to have well lit. I also have a 2×2′ piece of plush carpet that the guitar body rests on while on the bench.
- A neck support – I use the Planet Waves, it’s nice because it collapses down to about the size of a candy bar. I included a link below. I will eventually build a more sturdy/secure one from wood with carpeted sides, but this is good for now.
- Polish/ cleaner. I get something different every time – I’ve been using “Lizard Spit”, it does a great job of getting the grime off of the finish. A bottle lasts forever.
- A good polishing cloth. I like to take all the strings off and polish and clean the entire guitar.
- SHARP Pointed-tip wire cutters – For cutting string ends and when removing old strings.
- Possibly a “pin puller” – If your strings attach to the bridge with pins, it’s a good idea to have a tool to remove them. Using pliers will scar the pins and sometimes scratch the face of the guitar (if you slip). How do I know that?
- A string winder. Planet Waves makes a string winder/ wire cutter in one tool (it’s in the video link below) – I had one and didn’t care for it. It didn’t cut the strings well and the winder was awkward to hold. Just my opinion, yours may differ. :-)
- Graphite lube for nut – I had trouble breaking strings and some issues with tuning that led me to use Big Bends Nut Sauce. You can use any similar dry lubricant product and probably save a little money.
- Fretboard cleaner – I use Big Bends Fret Board Juice. I repair and setup a lot of used guitars and typically the fretboards are atrocious. My bottle has lasted well over a year! If your neck starts looking like it is drying out at all, then a coat of this stuff helps.
These next two are non-essential items… but nice to have if you do this stuff often enough.
Video and links…
So here’s a link to a video by D’Addario about changing strings. This video shows how you can change a set of strings quickly and the string locking technique is flawless. I remove all the strings, and give the guitar a good cleaning, rather than changing them one string at a time. I also don’t necessarily promote the use of the products in the video, though I do use D’Addario strings. The videos are solely for instructional purpose.
Changing an Acoustic Guitar String
Changing an Electric Guitar String
Changing an Classical Guitar Nylon String
Here are some links to the products I use or similar products. See what looks good to you.
Pin Puller – this one has a bottle opener too. Some winders have pin pullers built into them. – http://accessories.musiciansfriend.com/tools/fretted-instrument/bridge-pin-pullers
Polish etc – here’s a page of stuff – I’d go for the $5 Ernie Ball polish/cloth combo. :-) You should check your guitar manufacturer web site to see what they recommend. – http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation?q=guitar+polish
String Winder – what you have to look for here is a winder that fits the tuner correctly. Some winders are made to accommodate many tuner pegs, and if yours are smaller and the winder has a large mouth, the winding process will be clunky. Mine’s as cheapo as they come. – http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation?q=string+winder
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“Ken K is a teacher and mentor to guitar players striving to become the guitar player they want to be. He helps players improve their skills, discover their own sound, and have fun playing guitar (again). His newsletter “Tips, Tricks and Lessons” features free tips on topics relevant to guitar players looking to become better players. To see more articles like this one, visit the Littleton Guitar School web site at http://littletonguitarschool.com