Guitar care: Restringing and tuning

One of the most important things you're going to need to be able to do is string and tune your guitar. It's a little difficult at first, but after a few times you should get the hang of it. There are really only six steps you need to know for this process.

Removing the pins

Figure 1. Remove the bridge pins as shown here.

First, you need to take the old strings off. This is as simple as just detuning them until they're very loose. Then you should be able to pull the bridge pin out of the bridge and remove the end of the string, as shown in Figure 1. Keep unwinding the string from the string post until you can easily (and safely) remove the other end of the string. Repeat this for all six strings, until the guitar is completely stringless. Take this opportunity to clean it off a little, as it's probably gotten a little dirty under the strings.

Put the string in the groove

Figure 2. Place the balled end of the string in the groove of the bridge pin.

Next, open up your new strings. They should be in packages with labels telling you which strings are which, so you shouldn't have to figure that out by just looking at them. Remember, strings decrease in thickness from the top (sixth) string to the bottom (first) string. Take your sixth string and place the balled end in the groove of the bridge pin, as shown in Figure 2.

Put the pin in

Figure 3. Place the bridge pin into the hole in the bridge. Face the groove toward the saddle

Now you're going to place the pin into the top hole, with the groove facing inward toward the neck of the guitar. Make sure you reference Figure 3 to make sure you're doing it right. Push it in hard, as the pins have a tendency to pop back up while you're tightening the string.

Put the pin in

Figure 4. Feed the string through the hole in the string post.

The next step is to slide the string through the hole of the top tuning peg that's closest to the neck, as pictured in Figure 4. You might want to turn the peg until it lines up nicely with the string, just to make it easier on yourself. Make sure you follow the diagram here so you know you have the strings in their proper pegs. Feed the string through until it's got some slack, but not a whole lot. It really doesn't matter how much slack you have; that just determines how much you'll have to wind it to get it in tune later on.

Bending the string

Figure 5. Bend the string to the left to facilitate winding after it comes through the hole in the string post.

It's time for the fun part (sarcasm intended) — now you get to wind the string until its nice and taut. Before you begin, bend the string to the left to make the winding easier, as shown in Figure 5. My recommendation is that you tune it counterclockwise — that is, wind it so that the pitch gets higher as you turn the tuning peg counterclockwise. It doesn't really matter which direction you wind your strings; just make sure you're consistent. If the bridge pin pops out while you're winding the string, just hold it in with one hand until the string is somewhat tight. It should stay in after that. Take some wire clippers and cut off the "whiskers" — the excess string hanging off the sides of your headstock. Leave about 1/4 of an inch or less, and bend the ends down so you don't snag them on anything.

Turning the tuning pegs

Figure 6. Turn the tuning peg to tighten the string until it is fairly taut. Then tune the string to its correct note.

The final step is tuning the guitar. Unless you're very gifted and you just naturally remember exactly what notes sound like, you're going to need some sort of electronic tuner. It's really simple to do. Basically, you're going to put the tuner near your soundhole, and you just pluck the string. The tuner will tell you whether the string is sharp or flat. If it's flat (indicated by the symbol "b"), you need to tune the string up, meaning it needs to reach a higher pitch. If it's sharp (indicated by the symbol "#"), you need to tune it down. Tuners have different ways of telling you if a note is right, but usually they have an arrow or green light. Read the directions to know for sure. Once you've completed all of this, you're ready to start learning how to play.

*BONUS: Use these sound clips to tune your guitar!

Sixth String (E):

Fifth String (A):

Fourth String (D):

Third String (G):

Second String (B):

First String (E):