Restring and Tune


Well, this is a page I didn't think I would be doing but was asked to get it on the website by a number of people. The explaination will apply to 95% of the instruments (nylon string instruments usually require the wrapped-around-itself method)out there but there are those tuners that other methods would work better. It was first taught to me by Bill Cumpiano from Stringfellow Guitars. Up until that time, I was always putting the string through the post and sending it around and under then over the original entry point and pulling it up and over to lock it in. Bill explained that this was causing some of the problems that I was having with keeping the instrument in tune. I've used his way ever since and have not had a problem to this day. Hopefully, my explaination will be as clear as his and won't be to confusing. Here it is....

First - Prepping the Neck

I've have had customers ask if it is alright to take all the strings off at one time which is done all the time when an instrument is getting worked on. When you back the strings off gradually, the neck is relaxed back with a gradual drop of tension on the neck at one time and prevents problems from arising. The problem that can happen is when you cut the strings off under full tension. Don't be shocked, I've seen this done in the past by other repairmen. When this happens, all the tension is let off the neck at once and the neck can be shocked from the sudden decrease in tension. Never mind the neck, the cut string ends can go flying off in any direction and hit you. Those that I have seen do this at least had the smarts to put their other hand across the neck so that the string ends don't hit them. The string is still attached at the headstock and has enough length to fly up and catch you in the face or arm. There are those times when you don't want to have all the strings removed completely such as on an archtop guitar, banjo or mandolin (free-standing bridges). If you are comfortable with resetting the bridge position for the intonation on this type off instrument, then have at it. Once I get the strings off, I'll get things ready for the new strings. This involves checking and tightening the tuners if needed, cleaning the fingerboard (and around the pickups and bridge on an electric) and making sure everything is snug and where it should be. Now to get the strings on.

Restringing the Instrument

With the instrument laying on a table or bench (for me, the headstock is to my left), I turn the tuners to position holes in the tuning post to be around the 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock postion on the bass side and 10 o'clock to 4 o'clock position on the treble (see Diagram_1). For an instrument with all the tuners on one side of the headstock,ie. Fender strat, position the holes in the 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock position. Take the ball end of the string and secure it in the bridge. Those with Floyd Rose-type tremolos, cut the ball end off and secure the cut end into the saddle block and tighten. Taking the opposite end of the string, I'll now send it through the tuner post from the center of the headstock going to the outside of the headstock. At this point, I'll hold on to the loose end of the string with my left hand and with my right hand positioned around the nut area, I'll take the string and lift up about two to three inches or so from the fingerboard. Usually, I'll use the last two fingers on my right hand to lift the string while my index finger holds the string in the correct nut slot. This will allow for the two or so wraps of the string around the post that I want when finally tightening the string to tension. For Strat and tele style guitars, with only one string tree, you would want to get at least 4-5 wraps (or possibly more) around the post to make sure that you have enough angle pulling the string securely down in the nut slots for those two strings. Now, with the loose end of the string in my left hand, I'll pull the string snug to create a sharp bend in it. With the right hand, I'll pull the string snug to create a sharp bend on the opposite side of the string post. These two sharp bends are what wil keep the string locked in place. Once done, I slide my right-hand index finger behind the nut (towards the headstock) keeping the tension with my last two fingers taut. This will help keep the angle of the string going on to the post down to help keep the wraps going in a downward progression. With my left hand I now start to wind the string on to the tuner. At this point, the string should be wrapping from the center of the headstock and NOT to the outside face of the post. Also, NEVER let the string cross over itself. This only causes misery down the road as the string will cut into itself causing premature breaking and the gaps that happen constantly cause the string to keep trying to settle in and tuning trouble now happens. I just had a customer with an instrument that kept going out of tune when bending a string. The cause, the gaps created when overlapping occurs when putting the string on. Once the string has adequate tension to keep it in place at the nut slot. I can let go with my right hand and finish bringing the string to pitch. By having the wrap of the string progressively work downward, you keep as much tension on the nut slot so the string won't pop out of the slot and maintain secure contact with the nut for better tone. You can cut the string close to the post at this time. With the string brought up to pitch, I'll now start pulling with my right hand on the individual string to get some of the stretch out of it. When doing this part, never keep the hand in the same position. Move the right hand along the length of the string as much as possible to prevent an area of the string from becoming a weak spot. Once you get through all the strings with this process, tune to pitch and you're done


This way has worked for me for decades. The whole process can be done in about 10 minutes or less unless you are in the middle of a gig, then just get theIn my time of repairing instruments, I have found that some tuning post get worn and don't hold the sharp bends the way that they should. In these cases, I will use the wrapped-around-itself method to accomplish what needs to be done but only as a last case scenerio. This method (above) will also work on slotted-headstock instruments. Classical guitars require that the wrapped-around-itself method to work and hold the string in place on the post. It's funny but in the time it took me to come up with this page I could have performed 25 restring and tunes doing it the above way. Hopefully, this comes across in a clear enough manner that you understand how it's done