What you’ll need:
- String winder (optional, recommended)
- Wire clippers
- Set of new strings
First, remove the old strings currently on the guitar. This is most easily accomplished by loosening the string tension (turning the tuning pegs several times will do it). I prefer to take the wire clippers and cut the strings in half while they are loose. Then I can easily unwrap any excess string that is wrapped around the tuning pegs. The other half can then be pulled through the slots on the south-end of the guitar.
On acoustic guitars and stop-bar electric guitars, the new strings are inserted through the bridge piece on the south-end of the body. For most acoustics, the strings fit inside holes marked in the bridge/guitar top and are held in with small pins. For string-through electric guitar bodies, wherein the strings go through the body of the guitar, you will need to insert the new strings in the correct slot in the back of the guitar.
On a 6-string guitar that has all of the tuning pegs on one side of the guitar (like a Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster, for example) I begin with the low E string, the 6th string. This way the other strings aren’t getting in your way as you work. Thread the 6th string through the appropriate slot and hold it up to the neck so it passes over the top of the 6th string tuning peg. In most cases, I’ll measure up “two tuning pegs” worth of distance (so in this case, the distance of the 4th string tuning peg), and bend a 90-degree angle outward at that point. If you are looking at the face of the guitar, I bend the angle to the left so that the very end of the string is pointing to the left.
Then, thread the string through the appropriate tuning peg up to the 90-degree bend. Next, use your string winder to turn the peg in a counter-clockwise motion to tighten the string. IMPORTANT NOTE: The string should be on the inside of the tuner. On a Stratocaster-style this would mean that the string is on the east-side or right side of the tuning peg, thus creating a straight line from tuning peg, through the nut, down the neck over the saddle. If it is wrapped the other way around the peg, with the string around the west or left side of the tuner, the string is then “on backward” and can result in some less than desirable aftereffects.
(Optional) The first complete wrap around the peg should be ABOVE the hole in the tuning peg, followed by a second complete wrap below the hole. This might take a little practice but it ensures a nice tight wind with minimal slippage at that point.
While you continue to turn the tuning peg counter-clockwise, use your free hand to hold the string taut or tight so that you are winding up all of the excess string. This makes sure that you get a solid, consistent wind as you tighten.
Before tuning the string all the way to the correct pitch, I recommend putting the following five strings on first. Then, after all the strings are in place with substantial tension, tune each one up to the desired pitch.