Stringing, Cleaning, & Tuning Guitars
by Alan Horvath
Stringing, Cleaning, &
by Alan Horvath
The Myths and the
For more information about Alan,
to this article, visit his web
I don't know why anyone would string a guitar by putting the
end of the
string through the tuner-hole, and then winding and
cranking and winding
and cranking ... winding some more ... cranking some more
... and winding
and cranking and winding and cranking ... man! Have you
ever seen the
wad of string that sits around the peg of a guitar strung that
Pulleeeze!!! That is *not* the reason they give you all that
Procedure for Steel Strings |
Acoustic or Electric
Whenever I see a guitar strung in this manner, I know I'm
looking at a
guitar that goes out of tune every ten minutes or less!
Consider all the
pressure created when a string is fully cranked to it's proper
wouldn't want my finger between that string and the nut!
There's alot of
pressure going on, eh? Mere common sense tells you that
a string wound
some twenty or thirty revolutions -- and rather loosely at that!
that little peg, is gonna stretch for quite some time before all
that slack is
taken up! What a miserable experience! Have you ever
putting a fresh set of strings on your guitar, that it takes a
couple of days
before all the strings stop stretching? It's a real pain, ain't
it? Well, let's
put an end to that, once and for all.
When I string up my guitar with a new set of sweet crunchy
honeys, and set all the strings in tune, I can put it back in it's
case and be
fully confident that the next time I take it out of the case, it'll
be in perfect
pitch. And here's how it's done:
For the Record:
Heavy - - - - - Thin
Picturing the #6, #5, and #4
NOTE: This illustrates the
all of the tuning
pegs are on one side of the neck - like a Fender Strat.
1. Starting at the bridge, set the ball-end of the
string into it's
proper seat, at the bridge of the guitar, firmly. If you are
drop the ball-end a couple of inches into the hole ... put the
almost all the way in, and pull the ball-end up
against it - then
press the bridge pin all the way in while pulling the ball-end
Press firmly on the pin.
Frets.com | The Wonderful Frank Ford
2. Next, take the other end of the string and slip it
appropriate tuner, at the top (head) of the guitar, and pull it
all the way
through the peg hole ... snug ... don't pull too tight,
gently take up the slack ...
NOTE: The fatter the string, the more slack it
needs: On the
high-E (thinnest) string, I'll pull it *snug* -- the string is not
down) but off the fretboard. But, on the *low*-E (fattest)
string, I'll pull the
string much less snug, letting it relax enough to lay on the
3. Next, kink the end of the string, at the peg -- to
the right on
the #6, #5, and #4 strings - see illustration above ...
and to the
left on the #3, #2, and #1 strings - see illustration
4. Now, bring the end of the string around ... and
(between the nut and the tuner side of the string) ... then up
itself (see illustration) ... only, unlike the illustration,
on the string, maintaining a very tight wrap.
NOTE: You do not want the string (from the
bridge, up to
the tuners) to be tight ... you do want the wrap of the
around the tuner, to be tight. Capeesh?
Picturing the #3, #2, and #1
5. Start cranking the string up, and you'll notice - as
turns - the string immediately bites down on itself ... it will
stretch beyond that "bite" point - and therein lies the key.
6. All six tuners -- I mean the part that you turn with
in the interest of tightening the strings -- are turned
that the string rests on the INside of each peg.
7. Tune the string up to pitch. Then, grab the string
at the 12th
fret and pull it up, off the fretboard, 2 to 3 inches ... bearing a
of pressure on the string, as you stretch and pull the slack
out of it.
Ummm ... 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.
Repeat the above "stretch.N.tune" procedure until the string
goes out of pitch after pulling on it - it usually takes 5-7
When you are finished, look at the amount of string that has
around each of the tuning pegs -- if you see more than
revolution/full wrap, you could apply less slack on
next time you change strings ... if you see less than 1/2
could allow more slack on your procedure next time
strings. Eventually, you'll get the hang of it and you'll wind up
one revolution, or less, to the amount of string
Finally, you can neatly coil the ends of the strings, or cut
them off with a
small pair of "nippers," as I do.
If you need further clarity concerning the above procedure,
Frank Ford will
repeat the process for you, with photographs of
each and every step
- including a few more cool tips, to boot! THANKS
Procedure for Nylon Strings |
1. Starting with the bridge, as you can see by the
below, you pass the string through the bridge hole, then
loop it around
itself, wrapping - 3 times:
2. Pull on both ends to snug up the wrap as tightly
3. Bring the long end of the string up to the
headstock ... poke it
through the appropriate hole ... pull it snug ... don't pull
but gently take up the slack ... bring the string up
tuner and back towards you ... wrap the end of the string 3
itself (between the tuners and the bridge section of the
string) ... and start
cranking up the slack, tightening each string.
NOTE:You only want the string (from the bridge, up
to the tuners)
to be *snug* - not too tight (nylon strings stretch a whole lot
steel strings do, so I set my nylon strings much more snug,
to begin with,
than I do steel strings). When wrapping around the tuner,
want the wrap of the string to be very tight.
Schedule for Changing
People often ask how frequently strings should be changed
... but the
answer to that question depends on a number of things.
strings start showing a fair amount of oxidation (darkness in
become increasingly difficult to tune, and their sound quality
much to be desired. Once perspiration gets onto the
especially into the windings, oxidation begins, and
quality rapidly deteriorates.
Everyone has different body chemistry, so some may prefer
one brand over
another ... and you'll find your own eventually ... but, generally
new set of strings should be installed once a month - at the
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 ...
may sound "passable."
I use to put a new set on every week or so ... but now that I
Strings, I can go 2-3 months (easy) before needing a new
set! ELIXIRS are
coated, so they don't oxidize very easily and are a pretty safe
bet, no matter
what your body chemistry is like. Elixir's are 3 times
more expensive than conventional strings ... but since they
last ten times
longer, I consider them to be the least expensive strings on
Honestly ... these strings last a remarkably long, long ...
Visit the people who make them ... [Click Here]
Visit the people who sell them ... [Click Here]
Regarding acoustic guitars, wax is not cool ... and
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 any experienced
luthier, and you'll
find no question about the matter.
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
after each playing session, is all the maintenence your
guitar will ever
need. Most players have it backwards -- over attending to
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
I like to clean my guitar when I change the strings, so I 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
thoroughly - same for the fretboard. A little Murphy's Oil
with water (as instructed on the bottle) is excellent! Don't
worry about the
water: STANDING water is what damages wood -- we're
talking about a
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
almond oil ... just a drop or two ... once per year.
Learning to tune your guitar is a process that takes time,
and kind of grows
into a maturity over the first few years of playing. You have to
"ear" ... you must become familiar with the nuances of
what's "sharp" and
what's "flat" and what's "in" pitch. I think a good practice
excersize is to
play with one note ... tuning it to pitch ... raising the pitch and
what "sharp" means ... lowering the pitch, and *hearing*
what "flat" means,
and so on.
NOTE: Electronic tuners are great tools ... especially on
stage, when it can
be hard to listen to the pitch variances involved in tuning.
But aside from
the stage, you should learn to tune your guitar by ear. The
you become with tuning by ear, the better you will be at
accuracy of what you're doing, even when you are using a
tuner. Don't develop a lazy ear by using the tuner
The Internet Tuner
If you want a tuner you can try right here and now, check this
also a bunch of very cool links to other sites.
Here's a simple tutorial that explains the whole process of
Need strings? These bandits have guitar strings for $2 per
set! -- But *no*
Elixir Strings ...
Elderly.com ... you can buy Elixir