Strings are one of the most crucial parts of the guitar. You can have the most amazing looking guitar in the world, but unless you have the right strings, you won’t be able to shred to your fullest extent.
However, every guitarist knows the frustration of having a string break during a gig, having strings rust the instant you put them on, or putting on strings that just don’t feel right.
Well fret not! (See what I did there) Here are some helpful tips in choosing the right strings, putting on the right strings, and keeping those strings for longer without snapping!.
Some people think that “Strings are strings” and that they are “all the same”. There are many different types of strings in the market, made from different materials, different thickness (or ‘gauge’) and different structures (e.g. wound or straight) The key is to find what strings suit your play style and your guitar’s build. Here are some helpful tips:
-Choose the strings to suit your guitar. If you have an acoustic, make sure you buy ‘acoustic’ strings and not ‘electric strings, and vice versa. Having the wrong strings on your guitar can affect the tone and the volume of your playing. You can of course experiment around with different string types to get different sounds, by having the wrong pressure can affect the guitar itself.
-Choose the strings that suit your play style. If you are playing songs that require a lot of bends, lights strings are the way to go. I you like to tune your strings down to Drop C and Djent the joint up, you might want to select strings that are thicker. If you want to get strings that are lighter on one side and thicker on the other, there are several brands that do custom sets
-Choose strings that have that are of a good quality. ‘Thick’ strings don’t necessarily mean ‘strong’ strings. Some of the best strings on the market include Fender Bullets, Elixir NANOWEBs, D’Adaggio Pure Nickel and Coated Nickel, and Ernie Balls. While they might be most expensive than Yamaha and Dunlop Strings, they will feel better and last longer. However, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. If you like the feel and sound of a set of strings, use those strings. If you like the strings that came with the guitar, contact the manufacturer and see if they can be bought separately.
-Buy a couple of packets. You never know when a string might break, so you should always have a spare ready to go. Not having a back-up is playing a dangerous game. Even if you have a set of cheap individual strings, they can be temporary stand-ins until you get the guitar restrung.
Stringing the Guitar
Every guitarist has to change a string at some point. When you’re a beginner, stringing a guitar yourself is almost like a pilgrimage, and fills you with a great sense of accomplishment. There are heaps of tutorials available online on how to string guitars, with the video put out by the channel ‘fordummmies’ being the most popular.
However, there are some tips that those channels might not touch on.
-Make sure you have a tuner, it difficult to find the right pitches of each string without them.
-If a string looks like it has rust or grime on it, do not put in on. This could be a sign of strings breaking quickly in the set.
-If you are putting on a single new string, make sure it is in the same gauge as the other strings, as it might feel out of place and mess with the guitar due to the different pressures.
-If you are re-stringing the whole guitar, consider letting in sit stringless for a couple of days. The pressure of the strings causes the neck to gradually bend, which bends the truss rod in the neck too. By letting it sit for couple of days, the neck will bend back into shape. if it doesn’t, play around with the truss rod, either through the top or bottom of the neck. When you’re restringing from scratch, also make sure that the bridge and the nut haven’t shifted positions.
-Make sure you know where to thread the string initially. Whether its through the back of the guitar, a tail piece, bridge pins, a classical bridge or a Floyd Rose Bridge, have a good understanding of where to start.
-Make sure you have just the right amount of slack on the string when tightening. Too much slack will mean you’ll have to wind longer, and too little will cause the string to be really tight and break quicker.
-Winding tools can be very useful in restringing, but make sure you know how to change strings by hand as well. You might not always have your trusty tools, so make sure you can re-string in a pinch. Also, when using a winding tool, don’t wind too fast when the string starts getting tighter, as too much tension too soon could snap the string.
-When winding, make sure you guide the string into the right slots at the nut and bridge of the guitar. If it gets stuck in the wrong slot when tightening, it could not only hurt the string, but the nut and bridge too.
-When winding, stop every couple of turns to stretch the string. You can do this by grabbing the string and gradually pulling back from the neck in gentle pulses. Wait until the string starts making a low note before you start stretching. This keeps the string flexible, making it lesson likely to break when winding and playing.
-The strings will take a bit of time for them to stay in tune. When the re-stringing is done, play around with the guitar, using bends and the whammy bar (if you have one). When you are staying in tune for longer, you can count it as a successful re-stringing.
Maintaining your strings and avoiding Snapping
Now that you now how to re-string a guitar, here are some tips in making sure the strings stay stronger for longer, and avoid any unfortunate string snaps.
-Make sure your strings stay clean. Regularly cleaning you strings keeps sweat, dirt and grime from causing damage to the string, the fretboard and your fingers. You can do this by getting a rag or a string cleaning tool and just wiping the strings after playing, especially if your hand get sweaty. Make sure you also clean under the strings, as its there where the strings become most dirty.
-If you want a coating like Elixir Strings, use the smallest bit of petroleum jelly. Make a faint (very faint) line of the jelly on a tissue or rag, wrap the string in the material and slide it up and down the neck. Having too much will make the strings too slippery, and it will grease up the fretboard. You want just enough so the strings are very finely coated in the stuff.
-If you can see a string start to fray, replace it immediately. The fraying will cause the string to sound more tiny, and it will break much quicker than the other strings.
-Don’t go too crazy with the strings. Having bends that go to high heaven and pulling the string away from the fretboard will cause the strings to break quickly.
-Regularly changes your strings. Strings won’t last forever, and depending on how much you use them, a set can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of weeks. If you have an important gig coming up, it’s best to change them a couple of days before, just so they won’t likely break mid session.
And there you go! Those are some helpful tips of how to choose strings, re-string guitars and maintain strings. If you have any other questions about strings, guitars or lessons, ring us at 49293060, or message our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheNationalMusicAcademy/