by Cullen James
One of the easiest, simplest things you can do to your guitar is one of the most important. Many guitarists, new and old, don't realize what you should check whenyou restring and the process you should go through when re-stringing.
Simply taking strings off and putting new ones on is doing an injustice to your instrument. Keeping your guitar in tune and in tone has a lot to do with a lot of things, so take re-stringing as a time to check all the things you need to keep your guitar combat ready.
The first thing I do is de-string the guitar. Most of the time, you should wrap the strings and discard them, but I have an old habit of saving back one set of strings. I always wrap the string enough times that I can re-use them with creative weaving) if they break somewhere. Saving old strings gives me a quick replacement if I don't want to break open a new set of strings. There are actually a couple of bad things about this. First, when you string the guitar, you shouldn't wind the string too many times at the tuning peg. It will dull your sustain. Second, these used strings sound like shit when re-used. But it's a habit from my old poor boy days. These days it has more to do with habit though.
So, get those strings off and do with them what you will. Next, clean your instrument. Get some canned air and spray it down. A soft-bristled paint brush is great for brushing more stubborn dust out of crevices. You may not care about the looks of your guitar, but removing grime and dust will prolong its life.
The next thing you should do is check the tightness of the screws on your guitar. Get a screwdriver that fits the screws properly and make sure to not over-tighten anything. I like to work on the guitar from the top down, so I look at the tuning peg screws first. There are varying amounts of screws for the different kind of pegs. But those little screws will snap easily, so, again do not over-tighten anything. If the guitar has string trees and/or locking nut, check any screws there.
Now that you've checked those things, you're ready to put on a new set of strings. It doesn't really matter if you work from treble string to bass strings or what. Just make sure to put the right string in the right place (how many times have you made that error?). Regardless of what kind of peg head you have (3 x 3, 6 in line, 4 x 2), you should always turn the tuning peg so that the strings pull to the inside of the peg head.
For the absolute best intonation, without a locking nut, you should allow for as few turns of the tuning peg as possible. As stated earlier, this isn't a rule I normally follow, but it's best. You can allow more turns for bass strings than treble.
Now, you should check that your neck has the proper bow. This will require assistance. With the guitar in playing position – in your lap as though you were going to play it, or on a strap around you – have a friend hold down one of the outside strings (low or high E) at the first and last fret. Try and slide a playing card under the string at the seventh fret. The card should barely fit underneath. If it is too tight or too loose, you'll need to adjust the truss rod.
If the string was too close to the playing card, you'll need to turn the truss rod counter clockwise. You should only turn the truss rod slightly (1/10 of a turn is the suggested amount) and recheck the adjustment after every turn. If it's too far away from the card, turn clockwise.
Once you're dialed in, tune back up. You should check your string/nut height. Take that same playing card and check the distance between the string and the first fret. Again, you should have just barely enough room to slip the card in. If it's too tight, you might need to replace the nut. If it's too high, you might be able to file the slot down a bit. If you're using a locking nut, you can't really file anything down. You'll have to remove the nut to do any serious work. I suggest taking your guitar to a professional for any of this work.
The last thing you should do is set/check your guitar's intonation. I've already written up a
Oh, before you stand up to play, check the tightness of the screws in your strap-locks.
This may all seem like a lot of work, but the more you do it, the more it become part of a routine. Your guitar is an investment and, more than that, something that you want to be able to rely on when it's needed. This is like regularly scheduled maintenance for your guitar. By keeping up on it, a quality instrument should give you a lifetime of playing pleasure.
I stole a lot of my process information from this Project Guitar series. Check