Part 1: Strings Change & Neck Adjustment

How to Change Guitar Strings

The first step to any great setup is to change your strings. This is vital to getting a proper setup. Old strings have bad tone and can throw off your intonation.

how to change guitar strings 1
how to change guitar strings 2

Step 1

Start with the new low E string, and string through the back of the body (if you have string-through body) or the bottom of your bridge (ex: Tone Pros Style)

Step 2

Once the string is through the bridge, run it up the neck to it’s corresponding tuning peg.

how to change guitar strings 3
how to change guitar strings 3

Step 3

Wrap the string counter clockwise around the post (minimum of two full wraps). At the end of the final wrap put the string through the whole in tuning post and pull tight.

Step 4

 

Repeat this process for the remaining strings.

how to change guitar strings 5
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Step 5

Now its time to tighten the strings by tuning them up. Turn each tuning knob clockwise until each string is tuned correctly.

Step 6

Once tuned, its time to stretch each string by pulling them outward from the guitar. This helps seat the wraps of the string around each post and will stabilize the overall ability to stay in tune.

Step 7

Clip the ends off, leaving about 1/2 inch of string sticking out of the tuning posts. Don’t go to short or the strings will slip out of the posts.

Pro Tip 1:

When you are “stretching” your strings, you aren’t actually stretching the strings. They don’t stretch. What you are doing is seating the string as tightly as possible on the tuning post. You are removing the slack in the wraps. 

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Pro Tip 2:

Trim the string ends, so there is no string hanging off the headstock. The last thing you want is to poke you or anybody else. Those things are like needles.

Pro Tip 3:

Play the guitar for 5 minutes and retune. Play for another 5 minutes and tune again. After three times your guitar strings should be in a pretty stable tune.

If you have any confusion about guitar string tunings or the name of each string, you can visit wikipedia’s guitar tunings page.

Part 1b : Guitar Neck Adjustment

Neck Relief

 

A lot of guitarists are afraid of the word “truss rod” and anything to do with adjusting it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard horror stories. Perhaps one about how Billy Bob,  from down the street, took a wrench to his Fender Strat’s truss rod, twisted it one too many turns and the truss rod popped right out of the neck, splitting the fretboard from the neck backing.

    While this is possible, it is highly unlikely. You would need to keep cranking on that sucker way past the point that any reasonable person would have stopped.   

Guitar Neck Truss Rod Adjustment

If you just exercise a bit of caution and patience, and turn the allen wrench 1/4 turn at a time, you will be fine. Small adjustments here can make huge differences in the way your neck feels.

   Its a wise idea to let the wood in the guitar settle into its new state after each adjustment. I personally will do up to a half turn in either direction and stop. I come back to it in twenty minutes and re-assess the straightness of the neck.

    The best way to learn this skill, like many others, is to do it. You will be glad that you did. Keep track of the number of 1/4 turns you make. If you get frustrated, at least you know how to return the truss rod to its original state.

Step 1: Look down the neck of your guitar.

G&L ASAT Telecaster TUSQ XL Nut 2

If you’ve been to Guitar Center you’ve probably seen some guy holding the guitar up to his eye, examining the neck. There is a good reason for this. He is checking the bow of the neck for any twists or defects in the straightness of the neck.

Guitar Neck Truss Rod Adjustment
SIghting Neck 1024x683 1

   To check the neck, stand up and hold the guitar so that the headstock is pointed right at your head. Your left hand should help hold the body upright.

   You’ll want to align the neck so that you can see from the nut all the way down to the bridge. The strings are your straight edge, compare the neck to the strings. Is there a slight bow? Is the neck dead straight?

If there is any degree of relief in the neck you will see it bending away from the strings. You can do this on both sides of the neck to check for a twist, but this is rare. Congratulations, you just did your first assessment.

Dead Straight Neck scaled e1585520456183
My Schecter Hellraiser FR with a dead straight neck.

Dead Straight Neck

   Are you a metal player that likes to play runs, sweeps, or a lot of lead work? If so you will probably gravitate toward a dead straight neck.

A dead straight neck offers a more uniform string height over the entire length of the fretboard.

   This allows for faster fingering of notes. The downside is that you may encounter dead spots or fret buzz at certain spots on the neck. Your note clarity may suffer a bit, but if you play with a lot of fuzz or distortion this may not be a problem for you. I prefer a dead straight neck on my Schecter Blackjack and Hellraiser FR.

 

slight neck relief 1 edited
Notice the slight bow in this Tele neck, this is slight neck relief.

Neck with Slight Relief

 Maybe you aren’t so concerned with speed. You play a lot of clean parts, and you are after the perfect tone. You want note clarity. If so, you’ll likely prefer a bit of relief in your neck. 

   I myself like a bit of relief on my G&L Telecaster. It makes it so much easier to use a capo. The notes ring clearer and I don’t need it to play fast.

Neck with a Back Bow

This is ideal for nobody. You’ll want to avoid this at all costs. It is nearly impossible to play cleanly with back bow. The strings will bottom out on the frets and will constantly buzz. If you have back bow, you’ll need to adjust the truss rod before continuing with the setup.

Step 2: Truss Rod Adjustment:

So, if you feel you need to change your guitar’s neck relief the process is simple.

To Add Neck Relief:

  1. Tighten truss rod by 1/4 turn.
  2. Let set for 10 minutes. Recheck.
  3. Repeat until satisfied.

To Subtract Neck Relief (Straighten):

  1. Loosen truss rod by 1/4 turn.
  2. Let set for 10 minutes. Recheck.
  3. Repeat until satisfied.
Guitar Setup Tutorials

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