This is the main "how to" part. Although this chunk is focused on guitars without a tremolo bar.
Here you'll also find useful tips related to any electric guitar.
• In Chapter 3 I explain certain nuances of restringing a guitar with a synchronized tremolo.
This is the most common tremolo that can be found on Fender/Squier Strat guitars and many, many others.
• In Chapter 4, I talk about guitars with a locking tremolo system (Floyd Rose, Ibanez Edge).
These guitars have a locking nut that prevents strings from moving near the guitar head and fine-tuners on the guitar bridge.
Many Ibanez and Jackson guitars have a locking tremolo system like this.
Chapter 1 - Before you begun restringing
there's a couple of reasons why you would want to change electric guitar strings.
1. The strings get older and degraded over time, resulting in a duller sound that often accompanies unpleasant vibrations, especially on the high E string.
2. You need to experiment with different string gauges to find what works better for you.
In the first case restringing is straightforward, in the second you might need to make some extra adjustments to your guitar (such as intonation, action, neck...), especially if it has a whammy bar. You need to have much more time available and patience to accomplish this.
What I noticed over the years is that the first string that goes out of shape and sounds poor is the high E string, sometimes the B string goes soon after it.
While the rest of the strings stay good for a really long time after that. This led me to a conclusion that will save time:
I manage without full restringing for a much longer time by changing just the high E and B string when necessary and leave the other strings only for some cleaning with fast-fret string cleaner. This product smooths the surface of the strings allowing you to play faster, and extending their durability.
You can always buy a single string separately in a music store.
I change all the strings only when they become rusty or the overall sound becomes poor, or when I need really superior sound for important recording sessions.
No matter what type of a guitar you're going to restring, the safest way to do so is to remove and replace one string at a time. Removing all the strings can change neck position, and will require a qualified specialist to make the adjustments.
Another good reason to restring one string at a time is - if you are confused, you can always watch how a nearby string is installed and install a new one in a similar way.
It's better to begin with the low E string (the thickest one) and go towards the high E. This way you'll have less pitch changes for the rest of the strings, so tuning will be easier.
(Les Paul Standard, some Yamaha, Cort, Ibanez, Fender guitars and more...)
Removing a string
1. Turn the peg of the tuning machine belonging to the string you're going to change in a way that loosens the string's tension until you can easily unwind the rest of the string from the tuning pole with your hands.
2. Unwind and remove the string from the tuning machine.
step 1 and 2
Now you'll need to remove the string from the bridge.
3. Push the string near the bridge, so the ball-end will slide out from the hole in the bridge where it's positioned.
4. Pull the ball-end of the string and remove it from the bridge.
step 3 and 4
Tips and tricks:
Be careful not to scratch your hardware while removing the crooked end of the string from the bridge.
You can cut it if necessary, but I recommend you avoid cutting until you acquire some experience in restringing because you can over-tighten and break the new string while tuning it. In this situation the old string could be your backup until you buy a replacement.
Now if necessary you can easily access and clean up the spots under the removed string. Before you start installing the new string, it's better to lubricate the grooves where the string goes through, such as in the nut and bridge.
This should prevent the string from sticking in these grooves, improving tuning stability and decreasing the chances of string breakage.
Installing a new string
1. Pass the new string through the hole in the bridge from which you removed the old string. The sharp end goes towards the guitar head.
Make sure that the ball-end rests inside the hole, and doesn't protrude from the slot.
2. Now pass the sharp end through the hole in the pole of the tuning machine,
and pull the string through. But don't tighten it. Instead, leave about 1.5 inches (38 mm) to hang loosely. Keep more slack for the thicker strings and less for the thinner.
3. Turn up the free end of the string out of the tuning machine.
4. Begin to tighten the string by turning the peg of the tuning machine. If the string moves through the hole, fix it with your hand until the string will have some tension.
(The string coils on the post from the hole, towards the tuning machine.)
In these directions:
5. When the string just becomes tight, make sure that it lays down correctly on the grooves in the bridge and the nut. If the string whips out from them, gently put it back on the grooves without force.
You can always look at the nearby string to check that everything's correct.
Here is a video example of these 5 steps
• When you have finished installing the new strings, it's time to stretch them out. Without stretching, the strings will gradually stretch on their own, annoyingly detuning your instrument, especially when you play bend notes.
Here is how to stretch the strings:
Begin with the low E string towards the highest, one by one.
Bend a string up or down a few times with both your hands, check and adjust the tuning.
Now bend the string again. This time the change in pitch should be less. Adjust the tuning and bend some more.
If the string stays in tune after the bending, switch to a nearby string and repeat the process.
• When the stretching is finished, you can cut the excess off the new strings that protrude from the tuning posts using pliers with sharp edges for cutting cables or a special string cutter.