How to Change Strings on Gibson® Style Guitars

How to replace guitar strings on Gibson® style guitars - including most guitars with three tuning pegs on one each side of the headstock and that are strung using a bridge and tail piece referred as a tune-o-matic bridge. The guitar shown is an Ibanez Artcore® with a similar body style and setup as a Gibson®. Since Fender® and Gibson® introduced the first electric guitars to the market, a lot of guitars use a Fender® or Gibson® style setup (bridge and tuning peg placement on the headstock).

Changing a guitar's strings is an importan guitar maintenance skill to learn if you play guitar. Whether you're changing the whole set or just replacing a single string, here are the basics to changing guitar strings.

Removing the Old Guitar Strings

The first step in changing a guitar's strings is taking off the old strings. Loosen the tension of the old stings by winding the tuning peg until you have enough slack for each string to move them freely. When the string is loose enough, remove the wound part of the guitar string from the tuning peg.

Remove the balled end of the string from the bridge tailpiece. Once you have removed each string, be careful not to move the bridge pieces as even the slightest change in the height from the body of the guitar can throw off the guitar's intonation.

Conditioning the Guitar Fretboard

When you play your guitar, oils and dirt from your fingers ends up on your strings and fretboard. The fretboard itself may get dry over time and will need conditioning to prevent it from cracking. Use a cloth to wipe of any noticeable dirt and dust from the body and fretboard. If there's dirt build up on the edges of your frets, you can use a q-tip to clean it off. Most music stores carry guitar polish and fingerboard oil. Fingerboard oil conditions the fretboard and helps keep it from drying, especially in dry climates. Use a little fingerboard oil on the neck and rub the oil into each fret with your fingers. Let the oil sit for a couple minutes and then you can wipe off any excess oil.

Putting on new strings

When you pick out your new set of strings try to use the same brand and type of strings or the same gauge strings as the ones that were previously on your. Sometimes a heavier or even lighter gauge set will cause your intonation to be off also. Remove the string from its package and unwind it. With the new string, place the balled end into the tailpiece of the bridge.

Insert the other end of the string into the hole in the tuning peg. The low E, A, and D strings should wrap around their tuning peg in a counterclockwise direction and the G, B, and high E strings should wrap clockwise around their tuning pegs. Try to wind each string about 2 to 3 times around the peg.

To estimate how much extra string to leave, pull the string tight enough to hold in place, and measure up the space to the next tuning peg. This is the point of the string you want to start winding into the tuning peg since you will have extra string to cut off after. Winding the heavier strings too many times around the tuning peg could cause damage or tuning trouble.

Make sure the string is on the bridge saddle correctly, and wind the string so there's still a little slack. Once the string is wrapped around the tuning peg a few times, cut the extra string off.

Repeat the steps for each string and tune up the guitar. New strings will adjust and settle more after you tune up and start playing. Stretch the strings by pulling them upward from the fretboard and pushing the string down at different frets with your other hand.