Learning to string a Guitar, and related observations.

It was probably dumb luck, really, that all three guitars, with all three sets of 10+ yr old strings, actually mostly managed to get in tune. Mostly is definitely the operative term here, as the acoustic and the backpacker have significant tuning issues. The Fender, on the other hand, even with 20 yr old strings, had no tuning problems at all.

BUT, after the fender also lost a string to old age, I pulled up my boot straps, and went over to my ONLY local music shop: Keyport Music.  There is literally nothing else that isn’t a half an hour drive or better, though there is a Guitar Center somewhere near work, so if matters get desperate, I can make a detour on the way home during the week.  Of course, there are a few shops in Red Bank, but to drive half an hour, and pay for parking JUST to buy guitar strings? I think not.

In any case, the guy at Keyport music was helpful.  Best, and most entertaining, thing a shop clerk has said to me recently: “Take my recommendation; that’s what I’m here for.”  lol.  I’ve decided I like this guy.  To make a short story short – I told him the guitar I needed strings for; he told me which strings he thought would be best for that guitar with a semi-detailed explanation of why which really gives a clue that he knows his instruments.

That meant D’Addario XL super light gauge for my fender, and Martin Custom Light for my Backpacker. I didn’t buy strings for the pink atrocity. I have some on the way for that one, and I’m going to manhandle it a little.  It has bigger problems than the strings.


Do I strictly need to restring these guitars at this stage, seeing as I won’t be using them for but a few more days? Probably not, but strings aren’t expensive, and restringing them is good practice.

It also brought my attention to a serious design flaw with with the backpacker that I think might just explain why this guitar doesn’t seem to stay in tune for more than 10 minutes at a time. I was hoping that was just the very old strings, which I’m sure was not helping, but there’s more to it than that.

IMAG0258 IMAG0259

These pictures are definitely somewhat less than great, so I’m not sure if you can see a hint of the issue here, but if you look at the D string on the headstock, it comes down almost on top of the A string (and boy do I hope I don’t have my letters backwards…).  There’s a reason for this: the top peg turns in the wrong direction. It turns in the opposite direction of the other two pegs on the same side, causing the string to turn the other way.  One of the pegs on the other side (I think the high E, but wouldn’t swear to it at the moment) does the same. It’s set up to turn in the wrong direction.

Also, the screws holding the pegs on, a few of them won’t stay quite tight.  Between those two things, it seems like it might be a miracle I can tune it at all, let alone keep it that way.

Still, I learned how to string a guitar, so yay! I have not done the Fender yet.

First impressions here: My gosh! These strings are hard to press down on! You can see I’ve added a capo (which I’m not sure how to pronounce.  Is it ‘A’ as in cape, or ‘a’ as in cap? Note to self: look this up later to avoid sounding like an idiot if you ever have to say it out loud.).  One of the youtube guides I watched suggested the use of one of these for a beginner – I’d reference it if I could remember which one – as it pulls the strings closer to the fretboard. That made sense to me, having realized how far from the frets the strings on an acoustic are, and wondering how I’m EVER going to be able to form a chord without my fingers crashing into all the wires below, so I picked one up.  And it’s green, so it’s kind of pretty.

Even with the capo, I’m having a hard time right now with these strings.  I’m not sure if that’s because they’re new, or because my old ones were very old, or what, but it makes me feel pretty darn wimpy!  It also tells me that, for the time being, regardless of what guitar I use, I’ll be using light or super light strings at least until I build up some strength, or I’ll just frustrate myself unnecessarily.  There will be enough necessary frustration in this process, so there’s really no reason to add the unnecessary variety to the mix at the moment.

Are new guitar strings typically hard to push down? I don’t know, but I plan to google.

Will restring the fender at another time.

In semi-related news (in that way is totally and completely unrelated to the subject of guitar strings, which is what this post was actually about) – I found an awesome deal on a lefty guitar this morning!  The ebay gods were smiling upon me this pay day, and while I shouldn’t have spent the money, it was too good of a price to let pass by, so I have my very first lefty guitar on it’s way!  Will hold off on saying more about that until it arrives and I’ve had some time to play around with it.

And, I know, yesterday I posted an ‘until next week…’ at the end, BUT things happened, and, I wanted to post about them before I forgot the details.  As it’s after midnight on Friday – and therefore officially Saturday – I think I can safely say at this point

Until Next Week, Rock on!

5 thoughts on “Learning to string a Guitar, and related observations.

  1. Damn. I should really be sleeping, but instead, I’m up reading blogs on my phone and then coming downstairs to the pc to type. Anyway, I don’t think your guitar’s tuning peg is backwards. As far as I know, tuning pegs only turn backward and forward. They essentially just spin, but they don’t drive the strings down like a screw. The string wrapping around itself forces it to go either upward or downward – think of it like a tiny version of wrapping up a garden hose or twine or something.

    I think you should remove that string and then try putting it back in and turning it the other way. I don’t know if the pegs turn to a point and then stop. I’ve never had that happen to my basses, and guitars should be similar. But if it does, when you remove the string, turn the peg in the opposite direction for a while, so that you essentially “rewind” it and then try restringing.

    Also, from what I understand, when you string a guitar or bass, you want to start at the top of the peg and work your way downward. You want to end close to the headstock, not away from it. And, you always want the last turn to be in whatever direction is for tightening – that’s probably more useful for when you’re tuning. So, if you’re out of tune, if you overshoot, loosen the string a little and then tighten it into the right pitch.

    So, to sum up – string the guitar so that the strings move close to the body/headstock, not away from it, and when tuning, end by tightening, not by loosening.

    I hope that’s helpful.


    1. Yeah, I figured that out. The problem here is actually a faulty tuning knob that wasn’t standing up to string tension (hindsight is 20/20). I guess turning it the other way was the only way to get the string to grip, because this is also how the factory strung the silly thing. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I strung it the same way it came out of box. I ordered new tuning pegs for it to see if better pegs will keep it in tune, but the problem could just as easily be the headstock. I’ve already had to remove, sand, and re-place the neck, which was cut unevenly, poorly glued, and coming away from the body. It’s a cheap POS, really, so will probably end up in the trash anyway, but I’ll try frankensteining it, first. For science. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heh. You’ve already done more work to your guitar than I’ve done to any of my basses by working on the neck. I opened the back of one of my basses and cleaned up the wiring about 3 years ago, because one of the knobs wasn’t doing anything, but that’s just some pliers and wires, not actually dismantling, adjusting and reassembling. Congrats!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, I have 2 junk guitars that used to be right handed. I figured they might never end up playable, but throwing a few bucks and some elbow grease into them is worth it to educate myself on the overall structure. I don’t really have anything to lose, since they weren’t playable anyway.
        That’s something I plan to write about once I’ve got the final results. Waiting on warm enough weather to work outside in.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If you’re interested in guitar anatomy (with tips and history and other stuff), I’ve recently started reading The Guitar Book, after someone on another blog did a write-up of the most important music books he’d read included it. I think it was Tom Kendrick’s blog. It should be on my blogroll. Its a fantastic book, and a lot of that stuff applies to bass. Here’s a link from Amazon:


        Liked by 1 person

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