How to change your guitar strings

Last modified date

Guitar, strings, and tools

We may earn commissions from the companies mentioned in this post. View our FTC disclosure for more information.

Indeed, the time has come for you to replace the filthy, rusted, crusted strings that have been on your guitar since you bought it all those years ago. The sales person at Guitar Center didn’t tell you that you’d need to change the strings regularly, but deep down, you knew they wouldn’t last forever. In this post, I’m going to share with you some of the tips that I use when changing guitar strings. I even took the time to create a YouTube video for you below. Don’t miss the cool sweep lick at the end!

Step One

Using a string winder, loosen all of the strings completely slack. I’m recommending one from Amazon that also has a wire cutter, although, they sell many other types that are simple to use.

Step Two

Cut all of the strings off with your wire cutter. This step is optional, but it will make the process go more quickly. You may also choose to unwind the string completely from the peg using your string winder.

Step Three

Add a string one at a time. The process you follow to add a string will depend on the model of guitar you’re using. In this video, I’m using a Fender Stratocaster with locking tuners. When you’re pulling the string taut, use one hand to keep tension on the string while you wind it. This will allow you to create very neatly stacked winding around the tuner (machine head) while you work. It takes a little practice, but watch the video here and see the process in action!

Step Four

Tune it up! If you’ve been working on your ear training, you should be relatively close to the actual pitches after adding each string. Remember, the strings will gradually stretch and go flat almost immediately after you tune it for the first time. That’s a normal process, and you shouldn’t be concerned. Some people will actually use their hands to stretch the strings a little after putting them on, but I find that it’s unnecessary, and you run the risk of breaking the string if you’re not careful.

An experience to remember

I taught guitar lessons for many years, and never have I seen a guitar string break during a restring job with the exception of one time. I was in a lesson with a young woman who was terrified to change her guitar strings for fear of the string breaking and snapping back in her face. I reassured her that I’ve never seen it happen, and before I could even finish my sentence, the string that she was tuning up broke, whipped back, and smacked her across the wrist. I was horrified and dumbfounded all at the same time! While this is an extraordinarily unlikely scenario, it (clearly) should be considered. For the record, I always hold the guitar away from my face when I’m tuning it up after that.

The MAN Himself

Author of Modern Guitar Method. Also, please listen to my new album. I think it's the best jazz album of 2021 and It's available everywhere!