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What's the 'correct' way to chage strings? Jan/Feb 2003


Effective string changing methods are quick, easy & enhance tunability. In this edition, we present Meadowood’s string-change method for steel stringed guitars.


Future newsletters will discuss other instruments. For regular string changes, remove one string & replace it with a new string. Tune the new string before removing the next old string. With this method, you minimize the change in tension on your guitar’s neck joint - one of the most crucial parts of your guitar. We believe that this practice in string changing can help postpone a neck reset. You should remove all six strings once annually to clean & oil the fingerboard. 


STEP I: Loosen a string at the tuning peg. Don’t cut the string while it’s under tension unless you want to traumatize the neck joint unnecessarily. Pry the bridge pin from its hole with the notch in the head of your peg winder Don’t use pliers; they mar bridge pins. If gentle pressure with a peg-winder tool doesn’t free the pin, the ball end of the string may be wedged against the bridge plate & bridge pin. You can free the pin by pushing the string into the hole & releasing the wedge. If that technique doesn’t work, you can loosen all of the strings, reach into the guitar & push up on the pin from the inside. Some sources suggest that loosening all of the strings at once is OK.  We think that you should loosen all of the strings ONLY when necessary - by leaving five strings in place and maintaining the tension across the neck, you will need fewer set ups.  Do all of these things gently to avoid damaging your guitar. 


STEP II: Insert the ball end of a new string into the hole & insert a bridge pin with it. The slot in the pin should face toward the sound hole to accommodate the string. Gently press the pin into the hole. Don’t force or hammer the pin. While holding the pin down, gently pull the string until you see the secondary string winding in the slot between the pin & bridge. Seated in this way, the ball-end transmits string vibration to the soundboard. 


STEP III: Pull the string over the saddle & nut, toward the head stock. Thread the string through the post of the tuner from the center of the head stock toward the edge (this process is easiest if you prepare the position of the tuning post so that the hole points from the center to the edge). Pull the string through the post, leaving enough slack in the string that you can lift the string about 2-3" from the fingerboard. Wrap the end of the string over the top of the post toward the center of the head stock. Tuck the string end under the part of the string that extends toward the body; pull the string end tight while maintaining slack over the fingerboard. Then bend the string end up & lock it over the string. 


STEP IV: Turn the tuning knob to wrap the string from the center of the head stock, over the top of the post, toward the outside edge of the head stock. The first turn should wrap above the string where it passes through the post; all other turns wrap downward. Downward winding presses strings into the nut & enhances transmission of vibration & tone. 


STEP V: Tune the string to pitch. This step minimizes the flexing the neck joint suffers during a string change. 


STEP VI: Clip the string end close to the tuning post. Trimming the string ends prevents them from making annoying rattles & buzzes when you play. 


STEP VII: Repeat steps I through VI. If you have the time & patience, let your strings settle for a day before playing them; string life will be a little longer. 


What can I do?

Watch for info on string changes on other instruments in upcoming newsletters. 

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