Change Tune-O-Matic strings like a Pro
Author: Artist Guitars
Change your Tune-O-Matic Electric Guitar Strings like a Pro
Learn how to change your electric guitar strings on a Tune-O-Matic style fixed bridge guitar like a pro. This tutorial is for your Tune-O-Matic bridge guitars such as our LP Style. Check out how to change other styles of guitar strings here.
When you change your strings be careful to keep your guitar in tune at all times, and replace one string at a time (1 by 1). Your guitar likes to be tuned, if you take off all the strings it can affect the neck.
1. Lay Down the Guitar
Lie your guitar down on a nice flat surface (a desk or table is often a good place). Make sure there are no bits of debris to scratch your guitar.
2. Remove your Strings
Remove just one of your strings at a time (it's really important to do these one at a time). Just keep loosening the machine head untill the string is completely loose, when the string is loose you can just unwind from the machine head. Complete all the steps before removing the next string.
Pro tip - Use a string winder! A string winder will make this step a lot easier and quicker
3. Pull Through
Now that your string is loose (make sure it's really loose) you can remove the string from the machine head by pulling the string through the hole.
4. Free the String
Freeing the string from the machine heads, we can push it through the Tune-O-Matic bridge to free it from the guitar. The ball end of the string will pop out the bridge. Guide it with your free hand to avoid scratching the body of the guitar.
5. Trim the Top and Bottom of the String
Using side cutters, cut the curled end of the worn-out string to make it easier to feed entirely through the bridge and out the back of the bridge.
6. Remove the String
Remove your new guitar string from the packaging and feed the end without the ball into the Tune-O-Matic bridge. Make sure the ball end fits firmly into the slot. Any excess string can be trimmed later when you have completed the steps.
7. Insert the New String and Extend
Once you have fed the string through the bridge, extend it to the machine heads and feed it all the way through the corresponding machine head.
8. Wind the String Around the Machine Head
The next step is to start winding the string around the machine head. First, we have to pull the string back out approximately 4-5cm. I use the first fret as a good guide. Pulling the string tight through the machine head with one hand, use the other hand to pull the string back 1 fret. This will allow the string approximately 2-3 turns around the machine head which will be plenty for the string to stay in tune. It not only looks tidy but too few turns can cause string slippage. Too many turns can cause the string to constantly go out of tune.
9. Begin Turning the Tuner
As you wind the string, make sure to lift the string away from the nut. The string sliding through the nut can cause it to wear out and make the string sit lower. This can cause unwanted buzzing and worse, string muting. The nut will need replacement and the guitar will require a complete setup by an expert guitar technician. This can cost over $100.
Before the string is tuned to pitch, now is a great time to add some lubricant to the nut and the saddle. This will help the strings slip through the nut and saddle. The lubricant will lubricate the two contact points and avoid additional wear on the nut and saddle. Helping keep the strings in tune and avoid strings getting stuck which can lead to breakages. Apply some Lubrication along the string slots of the nut and the bridge to lubricate the slots where the strings sit.
11. Tune Up to Pitch
Now we can tension up the string until it's in pitch before starting on the next string. Once the string starts to tense up without your hand holding it tight, you can begin tuning it to the correct pitch. The string is still stretchy at the moment, so pull gently but firmly on the string to help stretch it. This will help the string stay in tune. The guitar will go out of tune more often over the first few days with new strings before they settle down and stay in tune longer.
This is a critical step to a perfect string change. Play the note, then pull on the string, re-tune, and play the note again. Does it sound like the string is lower in pitch? If it does, you have some slack in your string and you need to re-tune it back up to pitch. Pull on the string again and test it to see if the note changes pitch at all, you might need to do this 5-8 times before the string remains within its correct pitch.
12. Clean Up
Trim the excess string 1cm away from the machine head for a tidy, professional look. Be careful not to accidentally cut the guitar string.
Congratulations! You now know how to change your strings like a professional!