How to Change Electric Guitar Strings

Changing strings is something that every guitarist needs to learn eventually because it simply just needs to be done.  Otherwise your strings will become old and grimey.  This makes playing far more difficult than it needs to be, and they make your sound far worse.  That is why I made a step by step tutorial on how to change electric guitar strings.

I am changing the strings on my Paul Reed Smith Custom SE 22.  You can read a review of that guitar right here: Click Here to Read Review

Benefits of New Strings

How to change electric guitar strings

The reasons to change your guitar strings come down to a few basic things.  Tone, feel, and durability.  

As strings age the will loose the brightness in their tone.  You could also say that the strings loose a lot of the treble side of their sonic range.  Once this happens your playing begins to sound kinda like a big mush.  Nothing sounds all too special, and the expression within the music is hard to find.  It all just sounds "Blah".

The feel of the strings is the biggest factor for myself.  As the strings age they will often times build up a sort of film on their surface.  This film makes playing far more difficult than it needs to be.

In some spots your fingers get kinda stuck, and in others they slide super easily.  It creates a very inconsistent experience around the neck of the guitar.  Also sometimes the frets where in to the strings, and this creates weird texture differences they make it harder to play as well.

Finally the durability of the strings also wane off drastically.  Older strings are far more likely to break on you than newer strings.  As they age the likelihood of them breaking only grows faster and faster.

Here is the step by step guide of how to change electric guitar strings.

Materials Needed

how to change electric guitar strings
materials needed. how to change electric guitar strings

The materials you will for sure need are a pack of strings, a wire cutter, and a guitar that needs a string change.  I am changing the strings on my PRS Custom SE 22.  The wire cutter is to cut the strings to the desired length.

The strings I use can be found below

Optional Materials

How to change electric guitar strings
Optional materials. How to Change electric guitar strings

The optional materials include a string winder, lemon oil, and guitar body polish.  String winders are used so that you can put the new strings on quicker and more efficiently.  Lemon Oil is to keep your fretboard in good playable condition.  Finally the guitar body polish is quite self explanatory.  It is to polish the body of the guitar so it looks nice and pretty.

Optional Materials:

String Winder

Step One

How to change electric guitar strings

Step one is to take the old strings off.  You do this by loosening the strings a ton.  Until they are so loose they are rattling all over the place.  Then take your wire cutter and cut them one by one.  I like to cut the strings near the third fret or so.  That is just personal preference though.

Cutting strings.  How to change electric guitar strings

After you cut the string, you are then going to feed the string through the back of the guitar, and pull it out.

Pull the string out the back. How to change electric guitar strings

The other part of the string will still be dangling around the tuning peg.  Simply unwrap the string and take it off.  Be careful though.  Sometimes these ends of the strings can get sharp and poke you, and sometimes that really hurts.

Once you have done this to all 6 strings it is time to move on to the next steps.

Step Two (Optional)

how to change electric guitar strings

Step two and three of this guide are optional, and they involve the lemon oil, and guitar body polish.  

To begin step two you are going to grab the lemon oil and dab a little bit on a few frets at a time.  The neck should look like this:

Oiling the fretboard.  How to change electric guitar strings

If you would prefer a video tutorial on how to use lemon oil click here: Lemon oil tutorial

One by one take a cloth or rag and spread the oil around all the wood of the fretboard.  Once all the frets are oiled, flip the cloth over and wipe away any excess oil.  You cannot really see much of a difference when you do this, but it keeps your fretboard from being too oily and slippery when playing.  

Oiling your fretboard is beneficial because it keeps the wood from drying out.  This keeps the wood from warping, and makes it prettier.  Here is what the owner of Taylor Guitars has to say on the matter.

"I’d have no worries about using lemon oil on my fretboard. It’s safe. Use it only on the unfinished wood like the fretboard and bridge. The wood can dry out over time, and an oil like this, or linseed oil, or even mineral oil, can protect the wood and beautify it as well. Don’t overdo it. Once a fretboard has been oiled a few times, you can slow down the frequency. The nice thing about lemon oil is that it cleans while it oils, so it won’t build up as easily, but be sparing. I don’t think your fretboard will need oiling more than twice a year, and eventually, once a year." - Bob Taylor

Step Three (Optional)

How to change electric guitar strings

Step three of this process is to clean the body of your guitar.  This really serves no purpose besides making your guitar nice and pretty.  The first thing you will need is some guitar body polish, and a nice polishing cloth.  

Take the body polish and spray two to three spritz on to the cloth.  Next wipe down all the finished wood on the guitar.  I would avoid the back of the neck however because the polish could mess with the feel of the guitar while playing it, so I avoid polishing the neck.  This is a good opportunity to get into places that you normally can't access that collect dust like underneath the strings, and on the headstock.  

Polishing Guitar

Step Four

How to change electric guitar strings

Step four is putting the new strings on.  You will start by taking the low E string out of the pack.  Make sure you have the correct string.  I like to use color coded strings because I have put the wrong string in the wrong spot too many times, and we really want you to not have to go through the same mental anguish.  

So after you have selected the right string, you will feed the string through the corresponding hole on the back of the guitar. 

Feed string through back of guitar.  How to change electric guitar strings

Pull the string all the way through, and then pull it taught up to the correct tuning peg.  Cut the string about an inch or an inch and a half above the tuning peg.  Like this:

String Cutting

Then you are going to feed about a cm of the string through the hole within the correct tuning peg, and turn the tuning peg the same way you would when the pitch of a string needs to go higher.  

The first wrap around will go above the hole, and the rest will go below.  Like this:

Wind string on top then on bottom.  How to change electric guitar strings

After this tighten the string, and make sure it is sitting in the correct slot within the nut.  Then bring it all the way up to the correct pitch.  

After I put the first string on I like to then put on the string on the opposite side of the fretboard.  What I mean by this is after I put on the lowest guitar string, I will put on the highest guitar string.  This ensure that there is not too much pressure on one side of the guitar neck, and helps prevent the neck from twisting and warping.  

putting on opposite strings

It is hard to see, but both the highest and lowest string are on this guitar right now.  After that alternate back and fourth until all the strings are on the guitar.  

It'll take 10 minutes of playing or so before the strings are fully stretched out.  This means that for the first 10 minutes you will have to constantly retune because the strings are changing lengths, and that makes their pitch different.  

We hope this guide was helpful for you.  Let us know if it helped you or not in the comments!

How to Change Electric Guitar Strings - Colin J
How to Change Electric Guitar Strings - Dwane's Music

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