Learning how to cut guitar strings might seem like a simple task, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier to do just right. If you want your guitar to look neat and you don’t want your new strings flopping around as you play, in this guide, I will show you some things you should do when you cut your guitar strings so that you ensure that you do it safely and soundly.
Table of Contents
1. Have The Right Tool
Guitar strings are just long and thin pieces of metal, but they’re actually tougher than they look.
The best tools you can use to cut guitar strings are diagonal wire cutters, which you might have lying around your house. If you don’t, you can always pick up some for cheap, and they’ll most likely last you forever.
Can you cut guitar strings without wire cutters, though?
Yes, you can cut strings without wire cutters, but they’re not as effective, and some of them are not safe. For example, you should never use a knife to cut your guitar strings. A lot of guitar strings may also be too tough for scissors and nail clippers too.
Therefore, I recommend just doing it properly with some good wire cutters since they’ll be sharp and sturdy enough for any string gauge. Alternatively, you can get one of those all-in-one tools that have the string winder, cutter, and pin puller. These are quite convenient, in my opinion.
- ALL-IN-ONE GUITAR STRING WINDER TOOL – The ergonomic and high-quality design of the D’Addario Accessories Pro-Winder makes string changes quicker and easier than ever before with its built-in clippers, bridge pin puller and peg winder all rolled into one tool.
- MUST HAVE FOR EVERY GUITAR CASE – Why fill up your case with three tools when you can have one that does it all? This indispensable tool has been designed to fit comfortably in your hand and for use on virtually all electric and acoustic guitars, basses, banjos and mandolins. Also available in a bass guitar version.
2. Reduce Tension First Before Removing Strings
A lot of individuals like to cut their old strings before replacing them with new ones because it’s pretty quick and easy. However, you want to loosen your guitar strings to reduce tension before doing so.
While it’s unlikely something irreparable will happen if you cut them while they’re tuned, the sudden loss of tension isn’t really healthy for the guitar, and it might cause some shifting to happen.
For instance, there are a lot of bridges that are supported by your guitar’s string tension; the Floyd Rose and other floating tremolos are the ones that immediately come to mind.
So, please just take a moment to gradually de-tune your strings one by one before cutting them.
Also, most people who have fixed bridges can find a place in the middle of the strings and snip them all at once; however, those who have Floyd Roses and similar bridges should replace each string one at a time to prevent them from moving too much or completely sinking. Doing one string at a time will help you maintain some tension on the bridge as you change each one.
With that in mind, the loosened strings will be easily unwound from the tuning pegs, and you can slip the other side through your electric guitar bridge. For acoustic guitars, all you need to do is lift up the bridge pins to take them out.
Once you have removed your old strings, you can now begin to add new ones, so start coiling and continue reading!
3. Tune & Stretch Your Strings
When you put on a fresh set of strings, you want to ensure that you have enough length for the string to coil around the tuning post and stay in tune securely.
Before cutting the strings, though, tune your guitar to the pitch you intend it to be and gently stretch each string out. This can be done by pulling up on the string, starting towards the bridge and gradually moving up the fretboard towards the nut and back and forth.
Repeat this process a few times for each string.
You’ll probably notice that your cut guitar is a bit out of tune again by doing this. That’s okay, and it means it did, in fact, stretch out. When this happens, simply tune them and stretch again.
Not only does stretching help with tuning stability, but after tuning it up, your string should be adequately wound up where it needs to be.
If you don’t tune your guitar before cutting them, your strings might become too short and too tight when you try to get it up to pitch later, which increases the likelihood of you snapping a string.
4. Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room
After you’ve stretched out your strings and tuned them where they need to be, now it’s time to snip the excess string hanging from your tuners!
Using your wire cutters, I’d recommend cutting the string where you’re leaving about a quarter of an inch of it coming out of the tuning machines.
This is a good length to where the string has enough breathing room to stay secure around the post, and it also looks clean at the same time. It’s also short enough to where you will be a lot less likely to accidentally cut or pierce yourself on the sharp ends.
That’s all! Now you have a well-maintained-looking guitar with strings that won’t get in your way while you’re trying to play.
Sure, cutting guitar strings isn’t exactly rocket science, but there are some considerations you should make when going about it, especially when removing old strings and winding up some new ones that will be trimmed shortly after.
Hopefully, these tips, while they might seem like a cinch, will make the entire process smooth sailing for you. With a pair of wire cutters and some basic preparations, this part of guitar maintenance is made easy!