How to cut guitar strings

Guitar: pulling the strings

General [edit]

If a string breaks, it is reassuring to know that you always have a set of (old) strings with you to change. As soon as there are significant signs of wear and tear, it is advisable to change the entire set and to keep the strings that are still reasonably usable for emergencies. How often a set of strings has to be changed depends very much on the way you play them. Experience has shown that nylon strings that are only played with the fingers last the longest. Strings of western guitars that are played with a plectrum have to be changed more frequently. Electric guitar strings are usually thinner than those used for western guitars and therefore wear out faster. When you change the strings ultimately depends on their actual condition. Strings should definitely be changed if the wound wire loosens, they rust or they are very rough. The sound of the strings changes the longer they are stretched and the longer they are played. With nylon strings, this can be several months. It is not uncommon for electric guitar strings to be changed every few weeks; depending on how much they are used. Guitarists in a band sometimes change the strings after each performance. But for a beginner, the following applies: as long as the sound meets your own requirements, you can stay on it. So you should always have one or two sets of new strings in reserve.

Tips [edit]

  • The strings run more easily over the corresponding groove of the saddle if this has been "smeared" with the graphite of a soft pencil (thickness: BB). When tuning, the string moves in the groove.
  • In the first days, newly wound strings get out of tune very quickly. If you want to change the entire set of strings, it may be advisable to first replace only one half (e.g. the bass strings) and the other half a few days later when the upper strings are no longer out of tune. This ensures that you always have half of the strings that are in tune and that do not warp so quickly. These serve as an orientation for the new strings.
  • In addition, after the first tuning, you should always lift the strings a few centimeters in the middle of the guitar. The tone of the strings becomes lower again, so you have to retune these strings again. The process is repeated until the strings are no longer out of tune after being pulled up. This means that the strings don't get out of tune so quickly at the beginning and the mood sometimes lasts for two or three songs. But you shouldn't be surprised if you initially have to tune a guitar several times a day. This goes away after a few days. After that, it is sufficient to check the guitar only once a day and, if necessary, to retune one or two strings.
  • When all the strings are changed, it is also a good time to clean and care for the guitar.

Usual arrangement of the strings with standard tuning [edit]

(String gauge for concert guitar strings 'Classic', nylon: E1 0.71 mm / 0.028 ", B2 0.81 mm / 0.032", G3 1.02 mm / 0.040 ", D4 0.79 mm / 0.031", A5 0.86 mm / 0.034 ", E6 1.09 mm /0.043 ")

See also *voices - Tuning the guitar

Knot to attach the string to the bridge. Guitar top, bridge, bridge insert
  1. First, by turning the corresponding wing, the tension of the old string is released so that it hangs loosely.
  2. Then the string is pulled out of the axis of the mechanics and the knot is loosened at the bridge: the old string is removed.
  3. On the bridge, the new string is inserted into the corresponding hole from the sound hole.
  4. The loose end is wrapped around the string once and then pulled through the loop twice. This knot tightens under load, but is very easy to untie when the end is loose. If the string has an end that is wound a little looser, this can be done more easily. Important: Make sure that the end of the string comes behind the edge of the bridge! The string is also pinched by this. Otherwise the transparent nylon strings 1, 2 and 3 in particular will start to slip when tuning is started! It is also helpful to change one string at a time, rather than remove all of them at the same time. Then you don't have to think long about which peg the new string has to be reattached to. On the other hand, the guitar is easier to clean if all the strings have been removed.
  5. The corresponding peg on the guitar head is turned so that the hole is easily accessible.
  6. The loose end of the string is loosely wound around the axis of the machine head twice ("around the top").
  7. Then put the loose end of the string between the windings through the hole in the axis of the mechanics and do not pull it too tight. (Below left is shown how a string is best laid over the axis of the mechanics before tightening. First, a maximum of two turns are wound around the axis - if you can do it, you can do with one winding - and only then the string through Hole plugged!)
  8. The other (already "firm") end is laid over the two windings when winding - as long as the string is not too tight (see illustration below).
  9. You can now vote immediately.
Mechanics (wings, worm gear, axis), strings, fingers

When tuning, it is tightened more and more: the string cannot loosen this way. In this way, there will never be too many windings on the axis, thus minimizing the effort for the next string change. And: it is tuned sooner after changing the string. Then possibly shorten the end (not too close!).

Note the direction of rotation of the axis! As a donkey bridge: A rotation of the wings of the mechanism in the manner in which a bottle lid would be screwed on loosens the string (it is tuned lower); An opposite turn tensions the string (it is tuned higher).

New strings stretch considerably after being wound and tuned. Therefore, after the first vote, they are taken in the middle between thumb and forefinger and raised about two thumbs-width apart. After that, the vote continues. The entire process can take up to an hour.


It is worth oiling the worm gear of the mechanics if it is stiff! This also makes it last longer. The friction in the groove of the saddle can be reduced by using graphite (e.g. from a soft pencil, identifier BB) or talc. The strings then run better in it.

  1. Release the tension on the old string so that it hangs loosely.
  2. Pull the small piece of plastic (bridge pin) out of the end of the bridge and remove the old string.
  3. Use the metal ball to thread the end of the new string into the hole.
  4. Put the plastic bridge pin back in so that it holds the new string in place.
  5. Find the corresponding peg on the guitar head.
  6. Thread the end of the string into the hole so that approx. 10-14 cm of the string protrudes and the string is hanging loosely.
  7. Bend the string at the bottom of the hole.
  8. Press your finger on the fret rod of the first fret and twist the vertebra away from you to tighten the upper part.
  9. Tune the string.
  10. Note the tips mentioned at the beginning.

In the case of electric guitars, different approaches to strings have been found due to the different designs. There are three main types:

  • Les Paul-Design: Fixed bridge (one-piece or consisting of bridge and tailpiece), simple saddle and glued Neck with 2 × 3 vertebrae,
  • fender-Design: simple tremolo system, simple saddle and screwed Neck with six vertebrae in series,
  • Guitars with Floyd Rose tremolo: Vocal-stable tremolo system that can be found on many different guitars, mostly in combination with a saddle that allows the strings to be fixed with the help of a clamping device (clamping saddle).

Each electric guitar design has specific advantages and disadvantages as well as different handles for changing strings.

The usual procedure for stringing is as follows:

  1. You remove the existing strings. Tip: With a Les Paul-like bridge construction, you can leave a string on the guitar for the time being - this prevents the bridge and the tailpiece (also known as the “stop-tail-piece”) from accidentally pulling out of the dust and causing scratches in the instrument. You can also easily keep the string height setting.
  2. Time for care and cleaning! It's just easier to clean without strings.
  3. You take a string, thread it through the tailpiece and lead it over the bridge and saddle to the machine heads.
  4. Now bend the string approx. 3 cm above the corresponding mechanism. Tip: For guitars with two opposite rows of machine heads (e.g. Les Paul), the desired 3 cm roughly corresponds to the distance between the pegs within a row. On Fender-like guitars, where all the pegs are one behind the other, bend the string roughly at the level of the middle between the next peg and the one after that.
  5. The string is now threaded into the machine head up to the kink.
  6. Now turn the tuning wing of the mechanics to tension the string. You should make sure that the string is wound evenly without crossing each other in the direction of the headstock. With a Les Paul-like headstock, the strings should always be wound onto the mechanism when viewed from the inside. With Fender-like headstock always from below (guitar in playing position).
  7. The protruding piece of string can now be pinched off with a wire cutter.
  8. Repeat points 3 to 7 for all strings. (The last old string can now also be removed)
  9. Roughly get the guitar in the mood.
  10. So that the newly strung guitar does not get out of tune again, the string slippage on the mechanical axes must be "pulled out". To do this, stretch each string by pulling it approx. 2 cm away from the fingerboard (12th fret).
  11. To tune a guitar.
  12. Repeat points 10 to 11 a couple of times until the string keeps the tuning. (3–5 times, don't overdo it, otherwise you won't get to play at all)

Pulling up with a fixed bar [edit]

Fixed bridge guitar (one piece here)

With electric guitars without a tremolo lever, stringing is much easier than with guitars with a tremolo mechanism, since the strings only have to be threaded through the bridge construction in order to then attach them to the tuning pegs.

For this reason, the simpler guitars without a tremolo system are still very popular today, because a tremolo system is not required for the majority of all pieces. In addition, guitars with a fixed bridge construction are much more stable and much easier to adjust. In addition, with a fixed bridge there is no risk of the guitar becoming completely out of tune due to a string break (as with floating tremolo systems).

Another advantage of fixed bridges is, of course, that it is much easier to change to other string gauges, as settings on the guitar only rarely need to be changed if the string tension is changed by other sets of strings.

  1. Loosen the tension of the old string so that it hangs loosely.
  2. Remove the old string by unwinding it from the peg.
  3. Attach the end of the new string to the bridge with the metal ball. (In the case of a two-part bridge construction consisting of a tailpiece and bridge, the strings are fed through the hole in the tailpiece and then over the corresponding notch (saddle) of the bridge. In the case of one-piece construction, it should be noted that in some constructions the string is passed through the hole from the neck side With Telecaster-like bridges, the strings may be threaded from the back of the guitar through a hole in the body (string-through-body construction).
  4. Find the corresponding peg on the guitar head.
  5. Thread the end of the string through the hole in the peg.
  6. Pull the string through the hole and leave enough that you get about 3-4 turns on the peg (see also point 4 in the previous section).
  7. Bend the end of the string over the peg up at the peg hole.
  8. Rotate the pin away from you to tighten the string.
  9. After pulling the string, remove the string remnants from the peg with side cutters.

Winding up on guitars in the Fender style [edit]

Peg mechanics on Fender-style guitars

Many electric guitars have a neck that is actually typical of Fender guitars. With the classic form of this mechanism, it is noticeable that the strings are stretched in sequence. With these guitars, it is essential to ensure that the string runs straight towards the peg and not from the side (if this is the case, the strings are turned the wrong way onto the peg)!

When changing strings, it is best to start with the lowest string, as usual, and work your way up, string by string. Many fender-style necks have clips (often on the high strings) placed in front of the pegs to hold the strings down. They should ensure that the string does not jump out of the bridge when using a tremolo.

The Fender tremolo allows the strings to be pulled quite easily, as the strings are only pulled through from the back of the body. An advantage of the Fender-typical tremolo is undoubtedly the easy string change, since no screwed clamps are used to attach the strings.

Unfortunately, with the Fender tremolo (as with all other systems) the spring tension has to be changed if you have the tremolo mechanism in a floating position and want to change to a different string size. If you want to avoid this, you can also set the mechanics on top so that the mechanics are always on the body. Among other things, this has the advantage that the guitar does not go out of tune if the string breaks during a piece.

The disadvantage of a lying tremolo is more of a technical nature, because with the help of the tremolo a tone can only be changed downwards. This loss is easy to get over, because the Fender tremolo is not the most stable system anyway and you should think twice about whether to use it or not (it can detune a guitar terribly if you use it harder).

  1. Loosen the tension of the old string so that it hangs loosely.
  2. Remove the old string by unwinding it from the peg and then unthreading it from the tremolo.
  3. Pull the end of the new string with the bare end forward from the back of the tremolo through the machine head.
  4. Find the corresponding peg on the guitar head.
  5. Thread the end of the string through the hole in the peg.
  6. Pull the string through the hole and leave enough that you get about 3–4 turns on the peg (see also the relevant notes in the previous sections).
  7. Bend the end of the string over the peg up at the peg hole.
  8. Rotate the pin away from you to tighten the string.
  9. After pulling the string, remove the rest of the string from the peg with side cutters.
  10. Tune in now, preferably with a tuner and then play!

Winding up guitars with Floyd Rose tremolo [edit]

Floyd Rose tremolo mechanism

So that the guitar does not get out of tune when the tremolo lever is used, the strings of the Floyd-Rose design are screwed to the bridge. Most of the time, the strings are also secured with screws on the saddle, which is located at the end of the neck in front of the tuning mechanism (clamp saddle).

With these systems, the focus was on ensuring that the guitar remains in tune under all conditions. This can only be done by screwing the strings tight, which makes changing strings a little more difficult.

However, the Floyd Rose systems also have serious disadvantages compared to simple bridge and saddle designs, because if a string breaks, the entire guitar goes out of tune and it is impossible to continue playing.

The sudden detuning caused by a broken string can be counteracted by installing a locking bracket, but the tremolo system is then deactivated. Another variant to counteract this is a touch system that only allows a downward pitch change (since the tremolo system rests on it and thus blocks). There are only two possibilities, but there are a number of other accessories for Floyd Rose systems, the list of which is beyond the scope of this chapter.

  1. Loosen the old string with the wire cutter.
  2. Remove the old string completely by opening the clamping mechanism on the bridge, loosening the screws on the saddle clamps and then unwinding from the peg.
  3. Pinch off the bare end of the new string and secure it to the bridge by tightening the clamp.
  4. Find the corresponding peg on the guitar head.
  5. Thread the end of the string through the clamping saddle and then through the hole in the peg. Do not pull the string all the way through the hole, but leave enough so that after tensioning the string there are about 3–4 windings on the peg. Tip: For fender-like heads, where all vertebrae lie one behind the other, you can determine the optimal length as follows: Pull the string tight, place it over the vertebrae and bend it by 90 degrees approximately at the level of the middle between the next and the next but one vertebra.The string is then fed through the hole up to the kink.
  6. Also, bend up the end of the string that is above the peg behind the peg hole.
  7. Rotate the pin away from you to tighten the string.
  8. Unscrew the fine tuner on the bridge up to approx. One turn.
  9. After pulling the string, remove the rest of the string from the peg with side cutters.
  10. Tune the guitar (if necessary, repeated stretching and retuning to improve tuning stability, see above).
  11. After tuning, tighten the seat clamps again.
  12. By tightening the saddle clamps, the string should only get slightly out of tune, if at all. If necessary, retune with the fine tuners on the bridge.

Alternative method for Floyd Rose

This section describes a variant with which the strings can be mounted largely without slippage. so that the guitar is easier to adjust.

For a well-adjusted instrument with the Floyd Rose tremolo system, it is important to adjust the base plate of the system parallel to the body surface of the guitar. The adjustment according to the principle "exact tuning = sum of all string tensile forces = tension of the counter springs (at the back of the body)" can only be achieved with great sensitivity. Since the strings are subject to the slippage of the windings on the mechanical shafts when the saddle clamp is open, you can thread the ball ends into the tuning mechanism instead of pinching off the ball ends of the strings. To do this, turn the shaft of the mechanics with its bore in the direction of the course of the string and pull the string through the hole in the shaft until the end of the ball rests against the hole in the shaft. Then pull the string tight and cut (with a little tolerance) the string at the opposite end of the corresponding saddle with the side cutter. Now guide the end of the string into the respective saddle and screw it tight. Since this is also fixed to the mechanics by the ball end of the string, the guitar can be brought into the desired tuning very quickly. Unfortunately, due to the usual mechanical constructions (hole size in the shaft), this principle cannot be used for thicker strings (.056 and stronger). As a rule, the guitar can even be used without detuning without the clamp saddles being firmly screwed on. It should also be noted that due to the tension structure (strings <> springs) Floyd Rose guitars should not be tuned "definitely", but rather "relatively". Since the tremolo system is mounted in a floating manner, every mechanical movement (change in tuning = change in the overall string tension!) Affects the tension (= tuning) of all other strings.

Note the string retainer

On many guitars, a string retainer is used behind the saddle, which ensures that the strings are no longer out of tune when the clamp is screwed tight. To check its correct position, you should first check the course of the strings in the saddle (without the clamping blocks in the saddle). Most of the time the saddles are slightly round. And only if the strings follow this curve (i.e. completely resting) can the clamps be tightened without detuning the strings.