How to Restring a Guitar: Step-by-Step Guide (2024)

How to Restring a Guitar: Step-by-Step Guide (2024)

As a beginner guitarist, one of the first things you should learn is how to restring a guitar. This essential skill will extend the life of your instrument and enhance its sound quality. 

In this article, I’ll guide you through the steps of restringing both acoustic and electric guitars.


  • Essential Skill: Restringing your guitar is a fundamental skill to enhance sound quality and prolong your instrument’s life.
  • Guitar Types and Strings: Understand different guitar types (acoustic, electric, bass) and their string variations (steel, nylon) for your playing style.
  • Tools and Equipment: Gather essential tools like string cutters, peg winders, and a tuner for a smooth restringing process.
  • Preparation and Technique: Follow proper steps, from removing old strings to cleaning your guitar and selecting the right strings.
  • Tuning and Stretching: Use a tuner for precise tuning, then stretch and settle the strings to maintain tune stability.
  • Tips for Beginners: Know when to restring, practice proper techniques, and experiment with different string materials and gauges.

Learning to maintain your guitar yourself is important, and restringing it yourself is one of the first steps. Some have even made a career from restringing and maintaining guitars as a guitar tech! So it’s a very valuable skill.

How To Restring a Guitar

Changing your guitar strings is not as difficult as it might seem when doing it for the first time, and you can do it yourself with ease with practice. Not only will it save you money, but it will also give you a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of your instrument. 

Worn-out, rusty strings can drastically affect your playing and sound quality, so it is crucial to change them regularly.

There are different approaches to restringing guitars, and multiple factors can influence which method you should use; the guitar’s bridge type and the type of strings you use are the most important factors. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to restring a guitar confidently, ensuring that your instrument is ready for your next practice session or performance.

Types of Guitars and Strings

Let’s check out different types of guitar strings and their specific characteristics. This will help you understand the strings best suited for your guitar and playing style.

Acoustic Guitar Strings

How To Restring A Guitar: Acoustic Guitar
These two types of pianos vary in a few ways; the main difference is their size. The smaller size of a baby grand however, doesn’t necessarily mean lesser quality. The choice comes down to your space and personal needs.

Acoustic guitar strings generally come in two main types: steel strings for acoustic guitars and nylon strings for classical guitars. 

Steel strings offer a bright and crisp sound, making them perfect for strumming and fingerpicking techniques. They are commonly used in various genres of music, like country, folk, and rock. 

Nylon strings have a warm and mellow sound, suitable for classical and flamenco playing styles.

Electric Guitar Strings

How To Restring A Guitar: Electric Guitar
The easiest way to change strings on an electric guitar is to use wire cutters and a string winder!

Electric guitar strings are made of various metal alloys and can be found in various string gauges

Keep in mind that when comparing electric and acoustic guitars, they use different types of strings, even if both are steel strings.

Lighter gauges produce a brighter sound with less tension, which makes them ideal for quick playing and soloing. 

Heavier gauges offer a fuller sound and increased durability but may require more finger strength. 

Common alloys used in electric guitar strings include nickel-plated steel, stainless steel, and pure nickel.

Bass Guitar Strings

How To Restring A Guitar: Electric Bass Guitar
Bass strings are no different to restring than electric guitar strings, they are just thicker, and there’s typically only 4 strings unless you’re working on a 5 or 6-string bass. The 6th string on a 6-string bass is actually close in thickness to the heaviest guitar strings.

Bass guitar strings differ from electric and acoustic guitar strings in thickness and materials. They are typically available in flat-wound, round-wound, and half-round styles. 

Flat-wound strings provide a smooth and warm tone, while round-wound strings offer a brighter, punchy sound. Half-rounds are a middle ground, combining the characteristics of both.

Nylon Strings

How To Restring A Guitar: Classical Guitar
There’s a different method to changing a classical guitar’s strings, and I cover that in this article as well.

Nylon strings are primarily used on classical guitars and provide a soft, warm tone. They are available in different tensions: low, normal, and high. 

The tension you choose depends on your playing style and personal preferences. Most nylon strings have a clear or black nylon core wrapped with a silver-plated copper wire.

Restringing a classical guitar is similar to restringing a ukulele, though ukuleles have four strings.

Steel Strings

How To Restring A Guitar: Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Restringing an acoustic guitar with steel strings is otherwise similar to the process of changing electric guitar’s strings, except the acoustic guitar’s bridge plate has tone pegs.

Steel strings are often used on acoustic guitars and can be divided into bronze and phosphor bronze

Bronze strings have a bright, bell-like tone that gets mellow as they age. 

Phosphor bronze strings last longer and retain their warm and rich tone over time, making them popular with many guitarists.

String Gauges

String gauges refer to the thickness of the strings. They typically range from extra light to heavy, significantly impacting playability, tone, and string durability. 

Lighter gauges are easier to bend and fret but may produce a thinner sound. 

Heavier gauges provide a fuller tone but require more finger strength and technique. 

Choosing the right gauge based on your guitar type, playing style, and personal preferences is crucial to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable playing experience.

Tools and Equipment

Restringing a guitar is a relatively straightforward process with the right tools and equipment. Here, we’ll discuss the essential items and their purposes in restringing a guitar.

New Strings

First and foremost, you’ll need a new set of strings. Choose strings compatible with your guitar type, either acoustic or electric, and consider factors like string gauge and material based on your preferences and playing style.

Many guitar string manufacturers today have some modern options to their traditionally manufactures strings. I encourage you to try out a few diferent sets to find the ones that work best for you and your guitar.

String Cutters

String cutters are an essential tool when restringing your guitar. They allow you to easily remove the old strings and trim excess length from the new strings after installation. 

Make sure you use a good quality string cutter that will not damage the strings or the guitar itself.

Peg Winder

peg winder is a useful tool for speeding up the string-winding process. This device lets you quickly and efficiently wind the strings onto the tuning pegs, saving you considerable time and effort. While not strictly necessary, many guitarists find it a valuable addition to their toolkits.

Personally, I never change strings without a peg winder!

Guitar Tuner

Finally, a guitar tuner is crucial for correctly tuning your freshly restrung guitar. Various tuning options are available, including clip-on, pedal, and mobile app tuners. 

You should stretch each string after installation. Choose a tuner that works best for you and tune each string accurately.

With these tools and equipment, you can confidently rest your guitar, ensuring optimal sound and playability.


Before you restring your guitar, there are a few steps you need to follow to ensure a smooth process.

Removing Old Strings

  1. Loosen the strings until they have enough slack to rest gently on the frets. Start from the thinnest string, and work your way to the thickest.
  2. Use string cutters, wire cutters, or even toenail clippers to snip the strings one at a time.
  3. Remove the remnants from both ends of your guitar, including the bridge pins at the bridge end of the guitar.

Clean and Maintain the Guitar

Once the old strings are removed, it’s a good idea to take this opportunity to clean and maintain your guitar.

  1. Use a soft cloth to clean the fretboard, the area around the sound hole, and the neck of the guitar.
  2. Apply lemon oil to the fretboard. Lemon oil helps to condition the wood and protect it from drying out. Be cautious with the amount you apply; a little goes a long way.
  3. Check for any wear or damage on the guitar, such as cracks or dents. If you discover any issues, take your guitar to a professional for repairs before restring.

Selecting New Strings

Choosing the right strings for your guitar is important for achieving the desired sound and feel. Keep these tips in mind as you select new strings:

Number one

Experiment with different materials and gauges.

There are various guitar strings, such as nickel, bronze, or steel, and they come in various thicknesses (gauges). You may need to try a few different options before finding the best fit for your playing style.

Number two

Match the string type to your guitar.

Acoustic and electric guitars require different strings. Using the wrong type of string can lead to poor sound quality and potential damage to your instrument.

Number three

Consider your playing style.

Some players may prefer lighter strings for easy bending and fingerpicking, while others might opt for heavier strings for increased durability and a warmer sound. Remember, choosing strings that best suit your preferences and style is essential.

After completing the necessary preparations, you will be ready to start restringing your guitar with fresh strings.

The Process

Stringing Acoustic Guitars

When restringing an acoustic guitar, begin by loosening the machine heads. Turn the tuning pegs to slacken the strings and remove them from the machine heads. 

Now, carefully remove the bridge pins at the bridge end of the guitar, ensuring not to apply too much force.

To install the new strings, insert the string’s ball end into the bridge hole and replace the bridge pin. Start with the low E string and work towards the high E string. 

Pull each string over the saddle and guide them to the tuning pegs.

Wind the string around the tuning peg with your right hand and turn the peg with your left hand, ensuring the string tightens in a neat coil. Repeat this process for each string. 

After all strings are installed, stretch and tune each string to its appropriate pitch.

Stringing Electric Guitars

The first step in restringing an electric guitar is to loosen the machine heads, remove the strings, and clean the guitar if needed. 

Begin with the low E string, and insert the ball end through the tailpiece and up towards the headstock.

Guide the string through the nut and the tuning peg. Hold the string with your right hand and maintain tension while winding the string around the tuning peg in a tight coil with your left hand. Trim off the excess string after it’s securely in place.

Now, repeat this process for the remaining strings. The procedure will be mirrored for left-handed tuners (typically the third, second, and first strings). 

After all the strings are installed, stretch and tune them accordingly.

Stringing Bass Guitars

Restringing a bass guitar is very similar to restringing an electric guitar. 

Start by loosening the machine heads and removing the old strings. Then, insert the ball end of the new string through the bridge and guide it through the nut and the tuning peg.

Maintain tension with your right hand while winding the string around the tuning peg with your left hand. 

A tight, neat coil around the peg is crucial for improved tuning stability. Repeat this process for each remaining string, then stretch and tune them as needed.

Tuning and Stretching Strings

Using a Guitar Tuner

To quickly and accurately tune your guitar, a digital tuner is recommended. First, ensure your guitar is in a comfortable playing position. Turn on your tuner and pluck a single string. The tuner will display the current note and whether it is sharp or flat. Adjust the corresponding tuning peg to achieve the correct pitch. Repeat this process for each string, moving from one to the next.

Standard Tuning

The most commonly used tuning for a guitar is called standard tuning. This setup consists of the following notes, from the lowest (thickest) string to the highest (thinnest) string:

  • E (lowest)
  • A
  • D
  • G
  • B
  • E (highest)

Tip: An acronym to remember standard tuning is “Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually.”

Use your guitar tuner to ensure each string is at the correct pitch. It’s essential to tune your guitar frequently, as the string tension changes with temperature, humidity, and regular use.

Stretching and Settling Strings

After tuning your guitar, stretching and settling the strings is essential. This process will help maintain your guitar’s tune and minimize detuning during play. Follow these steps to stretch and settle your strings effectively:

  1. Place your thumb and index finger on either side of a string around the 12th fret.
  2. Gently pull the string away from the fretboard to stretch it. Be cautious not to pull too hard, as the string may snap.
  3. Move your fingers up and down the string, stretching it evenly along the length of the fretboard.
  4. Retune the guitar using your tuner once the stretching is complete. New strings may need additional stretching and retuning until they settle.

By carefully tuning and stretching your guitar strings, you’ll provide a stable foundation for your playing and ensure that your guitar maintains its tune for an optimal playing experience.

Final Touches

Trimming Excess String

After you’ve successfully restrung your guitar, it’s important to trim the excess string to avoid any potential accidents and to keep your instrument looking clean. 

Using a pair of string cutters, carefully snip the excess string close to the tuning posts. Make sure to hold the ends of the strings while you’re cutting to prevent them from snapping back and causing injury. 

Once you have trimmed all the strings, dispose of the excess string ends responsibly to avoid any accidental injuries.

Double Check Tuning

With the strings trimmed, it’s time to double-check the tuning of your guitar. 

Gently stretch each string along its length, being careful not to apply too much force and risk breaking it. This helps acclimate the strings to the tension and stabilize their pitch. 

Using a tuner, bring each string up to its proper pitch and continue to stretch and retune the strings until their pitch stabilizes lightly. It’s common for new strings to go out of tune quickly, so be patient and repeat this process as necessary. 

Remember, tuning is essential in achieving the best possible sound from your guitar, so always ensure it’s tuned correctly before playing.

Following these steps, you can ensure your guitar is properly restrung, trimmed, and tuned, ready for your next practice session or performance.

Tips for Beginners

Good Time to Restring

Knowing the right time to restring your guitar is essential. The good news is that there isn’t a strict rule for how often you should change your strings; it mostly depends on your preference, playing style, and frequency of practice. 

Some signs indicate it’s time to restring, such as when the strings become discolored or start to feel rough or when the guitar becomes difficult to tune or loses its bright tone.

Proper Technique

It’s crucial to learn the proper technique for restringing your guitar to avoid potential damage to your instrument, such as the truss rod. 

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide for a safe and efficient restringing process:

  1. Loosen the string tension by turning the tuning key until the string is easy to unwind.
  2. Remove the string from the tuning post and bridge.
  3. Insert the new string through the bridge, then wrap it around the tuning post.
  4. Slowly tighten the string with the tuning key while keeping tension on the string with your other hand.
  5. Tune the new string to the correct pitch, and repeat the process for other strings.

More Practice

As with any new skill, practice is key to mastering restringing your guitar. The more you restring your guitar, the more comfortable and efficient you’ll become at doing it. 

Don’t be afraid to change your strings frequently. The little practice you invest in restringing your instrument will pay off with a better playing experience and increased confidence.

Choosing the Right Strings

Selecting the right strings for your guitar is essential for achieving your desired sound and playing experience. Here are some points to consider when choosing strings:

  • Material: Strings are usually made of different metals, such as nickel, steel, or bronze. Each material has unique characteristics that affect the tone and feel of the strings.
  • Gauge: This refers to the thickness of the string, measured in thousandths of an inch. Heavier gauge strings tend to produce a more robust sound but can be harder to play, while lighter gauge strings provide a brighter tone and are easier to manipulate.
  • Wound type: There are three main types of wound strings: round, flat, and half-wound. Each wound type offers distinct advantages, depending on your playing style and preferences.

When starting out, taking advice from fellow musicians, researching online, and experimenting with different string types can help you find the perfect fit for your guitar and playing style.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do you need to restring a guitar?

To restring a guitar, you will need a few essential tools:

  • A string winder (or a drill with a string-winding attachment)
  • Wire cutters
  • A tuner
  • Optional: A neck rest or support to stabilize the guitar while working on it.

What is the proper technique to replace strings on an acoustic guitar?

  1. Loosen the machine heads to remove the old strings.
  2. Remove the bridge pins with a string winder or bridge pin puller.
  3. Insert the new strings through the bridge and secure them with the bridge pins.
  4. Thread the string through the corresponding tuner, and wind it around the tuner post.
  5. Tighten the string while maintaining tension with your hand.
  6. Tune the string to the correct pitch and clip off any excess string.

How do you change strings on an electric guitar?

  1. Loosen the machine heads to remove the old strings.
  2. Thread the new string through the tailpiece or bridge of the guitar and pull it towards the headstock.
  3. Insert the string through the tuner hole and consistently wind it around the tuning post.
  4. Tune the string to the correct pitch and clip off any excess string.

What are the differences in restringing nylon string guitars?

Nylon string guitars have a different bridge and headstock design than steel-string acoustics. When restringing a nylon string guitar:

  1. Untie the knots at the bridge and headstock.
  2. Insert the new string through the bridge hole and create a loop to secure the string to the bridge.
  3. Wind the string around the tuning post, creating several wraps for stability, and then pull the string tight.
  4. Tune the string to the correct pitch.

How should a beginner approach restringing their guitar?

As a beginner, take the following steps when restringing your guitar:

  1. Work on one string at a time so you can refer to the remaining strings for correct placement and winding direction.
  2. Use a neck rest or support to secure the guitar and prevent damage.
  3. Start with the low E (the thickest string), often the most difficult to change.
  4. Follow proper techniques for your type of guitar, and take your time.

How do you replace guitar strings without using pegs?

You can replace strings without pegs if your guitar has a string-through-body or a locking tremolo system. For a string-through-body:

  1. Loosen and remove the old strings.
  2. Insert the new string through the hole in the back of the guitar, and pull it through to the headstock.
  3. Insert the string through the tuner hole and wind it around the tuning post.
  4. Tune the string to the correct pitch and clip off any excess string.

For a locking tremolo system, you will need an Allen wrench to unlock and lock the strings at the bridge and possibly the nut. Follow manufacturer instructions to secure the strings on the guitar properly.


Mastering how to restring a guitar is a valuable and vital skill for any guitarist, whether a beginner or an experienced player. It saves you money and gives you a deeper understanding of your instrument and its maintenance.

The key to a successful restringing process is patience and practice. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right first. With time, you’ll become more comfortable and efficient at it. 

Keep in mind that the type of strings you choose can significantly impact your guitar’s sound and playability, so take the time to experiment with different materials and gauges to find what works best for you.

Following the steps I outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to keep your guitar sounding its best, ready for your next practice session or performance.

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