How to String a Guitar
Don't just put the end of the string through the peg hole,
and then wind and crank until it's reached proper pitch.
That is not why you have all that extra string.
Strung that way, it takes a couple of days
before all the strings stop stretching,
and it will still go out of tune very quickly.
Thinner 6th, 5th, and 4th strings (high E, B and G)
Set the ball-end of the string into it's proper seat, at the bridge of the guitar, firmly.
Then, take the other end and slip it through the appropriate tuning peg.
Pull it ALL THE WAY
through the peg hole ... snug ... don't pull
tight, but gently
take up the slack ... and then, kink the string at the peg
- to the right on the #6, #5, and #4 strings (above), and to the left on the #3, #2, and #1 strings (below).
Next, bring the string around ... then, under ... and then, "cop a 'U'-ey" as you bend it back over the top (right)
- only, unlike the illustration, pull as tightly as you can on the string, maintaining a very snug wrap.
You DON'T want the string (from the bridge, up to the nut) to be tight - you DO want the wrap around the peg to be tight.
Lastly, start cranking the string up, and you'll notice - as the peg turns - the string immediately bites down on itself ... it will NOT stretch beyond that "bite" point - and therein lies the key.
Make sure all strings rest on the inside of each peg.
All six tuning keys should tune UP counter-clockwise.
Thiker 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings (D, A and low E)
Tune the string up to pitch. Then, grab the string at the 12th fret and pull it up, off the fretboard 2-4 inches ...
bearing a good amount of pressure on the string, as you stretch and pull the slack out of it
- yo ... if you don't know your own strength, be cool about this ... you don't want to bust and snap strings here - the idea is to stretch it a little bit.
Then, tune it to pitch once again, repeating this "stretch-then-tune" procedure (it usually takes 5-7 pulls)
until the string no longer goes out of pitch after pulling on it.
Finally, you can neatly coil the ends, or cut them off with a small pair of "nippers," as I do.
When all of the tuning pegs are on one side of the neck, like a Fender Strat,
the strings will all be sitting on the right-hand side of their respective pegs, as outlined above, for strings #6, #5, & #4.
Schedule for Changing Strings
People often ask how frequently strings should be changed ... but the answer to that question depends on a number of things.
Once conventional strings start showing a fair amount of oxidation (darkness in color) they become increasingly difficult to tune,
and their sound quality will leave much to be desired.
Once perspiration gets onto the strings, and especially into the windings, oxidation begins, and consequently, sound quality rapidly deteriorates.
Everyone has different body chemistry too, so some may prefer one brand over another ... and you'll find your own eventually
... but, generally speaking, a new set of strings should be installed once a month - at the very least.
They will lose their initial brilliance after 10 hours, or so, of playing
... and after a week of daily playing there isn't much brilliance left ... though they may sound "passable."
Coated strings, like ELIXIRS, can go 2-3 months before needing a new set
- they just DON'T oxidize very easily at all, and are a pretty safe bet no matter what your body chemistry is like.
They may be 3 times more expensive than conventional strings, but since they last ten times longer,
consider them the least expensive strings on the market.
Cleaning Your Guitar:
Wax is not cool ... Non-drying oils (like lemon oil) are even worse.
Oils, waxes, and silicates penetrate the finish, entering the wood itself
... and over a period of time, they'll add a density to the wood that detracts from it's resonance.
These "nasties" also turn simple repairs into nightmares - ask an experienced luthier.
The more the wood DRIES and ages,
the more resonant and rich it's sound will become.
Generally, wiping the guitar down, with something like a chamois cloth, after each playing session, is all the maintenence your guitar will ever need.
Most players have it backwards -- over attending to waxing and fretboard lubricants (bad stuff!),
while abusing the wood by not keeping the guitar in it's case, where it should be whenever it's not being played.
A good time to clean a guitar is when you change the strings, so you can get at all those spots UNDER them.
A damp rag is all that's needed - dipped in a little water, and wrung dry.
Put some serious elbow grease into it though, with a soft, non-abrasive cloth (like an old t-shirt)
... and wipe the guitar down thoroughly - same for the fretboard.
A little Murphy's Oil Soap, diluted with water (as instructed on the bottle) is excellent!
Don't worry about the water: STANDING water is what damages wood, and we're talking about a DAMP rag, here.
After a few YEARS, you may want to remove the "grunge" off your fretboard by giving it a VERY light brushing with #000, or #0000 steel wool.
And if you want to use a polish, use Martin Guitar Polish (the ONLY one I've ever heard confidently recommended by luthiers) ... but NOT on the fretboard!
If you want something for the fretboard, luthiers recommend almond oil ... just a drop or two ... once per year.