How to Change Strings on a Guitar

One of my students, Rob just bought a guitar from a friend of his and brought it to lessons for the first time last week.  He was ear to ear smile as he handed me his new axe so I could look at it.  Although I was really excited for him, I noticed the strings were literally coated in rust.  I said, “Rob, you need to change these strings.  They’re terrible!”  He argued that they sounded fine and had no problems with them.  I teased him that he was going to need a tetnus shot if he was going to keep playing with them.  Sure enough, during our lesson, two strings broke.  We stopped playing and I gave him a pack of Ernie Ball strings and helped him restring it.  Even as a beginner, he could hear the difference that fresh new strings make.  Clearer, brighter and punchier tones were coming out of his guitar.

My favorite strings are Ernie Ball.  I have tried them all and keep coming back to Ernie Ball.

Ernie Ball 2221 Nickel Regular Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

Every student I have has asked me how often they should change strings.  The answer is not an easy one.  It depends.  Body chemistry has a lot to do with the oxidation that occurs.  The oils in your skin break down the nickel on the strings and cause them to oxidize and sound “dead”  It also depends on how much you play.  Obviously the more you play, the more often you will have to change strings.  A rule of thumb that I use and teach my students is change strings once a month and see how that goes then adjust accordingly.  If you’re only playing an hour a day or so that will probably be a good starting point.  The gigging guitarist will change them after each set.  Again, it really depends on the player.  Just dont let them get rusty!!

While the strings are off, that is a good time to get in there and clean that fretboard as well.  You’ll be surpirsed to find how much gunk from your fingers get stuck on there.  Give the neck and body a nice cleaning as well.  For fretboards, I really like the Dunlop fingerboard kit
 Dunlop Guitar Fingerboard Conditioning Kit
and for the body I use the Dunlop 65 cleaner.
 Dunlop formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
Another great tool to have is a string winder/cutter.  This will save you loads of time when you are winding up the new strings.

Planet Waves Pro-Winder String Winder/Cutter

Once you’re done changing strings, use this handy iPhone app to tune your guitar.
Not sure how to change your strings?  Here is a good video to show you how to change your strings on acoustic and the 2nd video is for electric guitars.


And for electric guitars