I once owned a guitar shop, with a repair department, and replaced many guitar strings. Here are a few good tips, I would like to share with you.
Removing old strings
Using a string winder, and starting from the low E string, unwind the string, until you are able to
disengage it from the hole in the machine head. Work across the guitar repeating this procedure. This will place the least amount of stress on your neck and body.
Do not simply cut the strings using wire cutters. This method can be dangerous, and places a sudden stress release within the guitar neck. It also makes
for twice the amount of wire to dispose of. Next, using the string puller, ” the notch on the end of the string crank cup” , carefully pull out each string’s peg, keeping track of which peg, came from which string. Wrap
each string back into a circle, and lock loop with one end. Try to make the circle small enough to fit into the envelope, that your new strings will be removed from.
In this way, everything is nice and neat, and there is less change of injury.
Polishing and conditioning your neck
Now is the time to use your favorite guitar polish, and clean your instrument, especially around the sound hole. This is also the time to determine, weather your fret board needs conditioning.
There are many good polishes and fret board conditioners on the market. Personally, I like to remove any dirt and grease that has built up behind the frets. I find that trying to remove all traces
of build up, is unnecessary, and can lead to damaging your neck. Harsh chemicals will dry out the wood, and water tends to swell the wood. So, I just use a clean cloth and gently remove most of the grease, using the fret board conditioner.
Leaving a little grease behind isn’t going to hurt anything. If you get to aggressive, and trying to remove all of it, you may do more harm than good.
Installing new strings
This is the time to find yourself a lead pencil. Before replacing your strings, take the sharp lead pencil, and rub the lead into the string slots on the top nut. This will add a little graphite, and help to release uneven tension when you tune up your guitar. Your guitar will stay in tune better. Un-package your new strings, as needed. Stay organized. Starting with the bass E string, place the end ball back into the saddle, and orient the slot in the peg to fit the string. Press the peg all the way down while pulling a little tension on the string, with the other hand. You are trying to find the end of your string ball, while pressing the peg into the hole. Take the other end, being careful, wind it around the machine head’s pole 2-3 times, rotating counter clock wise, on the bass side and clock wise on the treble side. After placing the end of the wire through the hole, pull it tight. Now, begin turning the machine head, placing more tension on the string. No string should be laying over another string. Check to see that the 2-3 windings are holding, and look correctly. Do this with all 6 strings. Using an electronic tuner or pitch pipe, slowly bring the bass string up to full note tension. Do this with all 6 strings. Don’t wast your time trying to tune each string. Relative pitch will work for now. If your G string is a wrapped, be slow to bring it up to tone. It contains the thinnest core wire within the set and is the easiest to break. Worry about the G string, and then the top E string. Bring all of your strings up to tune, working your way from the bass to the treble. Using a good pair of small wire cutters, cut off the excess wire leaving 1/8′ outside the hole.
Pre-stretching your strings
Your new strings will not stay in tune, until they have had time to stretch out. If you don’t plan to play, tune it up, and leave it for a day or two, re-tuning when you have a chance. I have rarely done this, as I usually want to start playing. Additionally, I want my guitar to stay in tune, without constantly retuning… Here is a away, to help remove most of the built in slippage from your strings. Care must be taken, or you will break strings. As the strings become thinner, you must use less pressure. With your guitar fully tuned to E, place it horizontally on a padded table top, and/or your lap with the bass string nearest you. Grasp the bass E string with both hands. The wire should be between your four fingers and your thumbs. Hands spread apart, with approx. a half inch space between your two thumbs, start bending the string. Pull with your fingers, while bending in the opposite direction. Do this moving up and down the neck. You are working the bindings. You should be very careful bending your G string, especially if it has an outer wrapping. This is the string, which will always break first, until you learn this technique. Turn your guitar around now, and do the same thing in the opposite direction, starting from high E to low E. Once you have learned this technique, you will be likely use it, as it makes a huge difference in the time it takes to keep your guitar in tune. It might be wise, to purchase an extra single G and E string. In the beginning, your G,B, and high E, are the strings that break most frequently.
I have been playing guitar consistently for over 35 years, and haven’t broken a string in 20 years. Though in the beginning , I broke them on a regular basis. Remember, take care and be careful. Try to stay organized, you and your guitar will experience less stress. Above all have fun.