I am a beginner at playing the guitar, so I recently bought myself one and then managed to break a string whilst trying to tune it. After getting over the initial disappointment, I have ordered some strings on-line. I have a few questions which I hope to get answered in relation to changing strings

  1. Do broken strings damage the guitar in anyway and is it recommended that I remove the broken string before the new ones arrive.
  2. Do I have to replace all the strings or just the broken one.
  3. What tools/resources would I need apart from the strings, considering that I am a complete beginer.
  4. Any suggestions on what kind of strings to buy.

Any help is greatly appreciated ! Thanks in advance :)

  • String-changing is usually fairly straightforward, but the exact process can vary. What type of guitar is it? Nov 3, 2013 at 23:48
  • @PeterR.Bloomfield Thanks for your reply. Its an acoustic guitar, a falcon , I do not know the exact model type or the type of strings that are currently on it. I would imagine that I would need to change all the strings as it would not be nice to have different kinds of strings that are mixed ?
    – k9ty
    Nov 4, 2013 at 0:49
  • 2
    Ooh, can't wait to see our guitar heads have a go at this question! In the meantime, I would remove just the broken string so that the broken ends don't damage your finish or something by accident. Leave the rest of the strings on--you generally don't want to have all of the strings off at once since that totally releases the tension on your neck and truss rod.
    – NReilingh
    Nov 4, 2013 at 5:05
  • When I got my first guitar, I had the same problem. I was feeding the string through the tuning peg hole first, wrapping it 3x and then feeding a second time. This put all the tension on the edge of the hole which was a little sharp on that guitar. This edge cut the string when under tension. The trick is to wrap it around 2 or 3 times and then slot it through the hole. The tension is then on the round of the peg, not the edge of the hole.
    – horatio
    Nov 8, 2013 at 22:11

4 Answers 4

  1. The guitar isn't damaged by a broken string. The only problem is that you'll need to tune it. Usually when a string breaks for me,the whole guitar/bass gets out of tune. You can either remove it, or leave it as it is. There isn't any difference. It might look better if you remove it.

  2. That's up to you. Usually people change the strings when the are 'old' or have been played a lot and they don't sound that good. So you should change the broken one and then play the guitar to see how it sounds. If you prefer the sound of the new string,replace them all. Otherwise, don't.

  3. You don't need any tools. Maybe just something to cut what's left of the string

    On this video he uses a Stringwinder to tighten the strings. That's not essential if you don't have one. It just makes you tighten your strings faster. You can do that with your hand and it will take a couple of minutes more.

  4. See this article on WikiHow. What strings you want to buy depends on how much money you want to spend. The Daddario strings are good ones,but they cost more than other strings. On thomann they cost 16.30 euros. I would suggest buying them, since they are pretty good. You can try a few different sets, see what sounds best to you.

Also, I would recommend buying a couple sets of new strings, just in case one (or more) strings break (again). That's what a lot of people do.

  • It might be worth adding that a string really shouldn't have broken that soon if it's a new guitar. If it's second-hand, or perhaps an ex-display model, it may be worth replacing all six. Nov 4, 2013 at 11:38
  • @PeterR.Bloomfield Given that the OP is new to guitar, xe may well have accidentally tried to tune the string a third high or something and snapped it as a result. Nov 4, 2013 at 12:48
  • 1
    @PeterR.Bloomfield actually, alot of times, when the instrument isn't the best quality, the strings that it comes with from factory aren't really good. They just put some third-rate strings just to put strings on the guitar Nov 4, 2013 at 16:27
  • @Shevliaskovic : Thanks for the info. Very detailed and it will definitely help me especially the video.
    – k9ty
    Nov 5, 2013 at 9:46
  • @PeterR.Bloomfield In my case, I think it broke as I am new to the guitar and was trying to tune it using an electronic tuner without paying attention to the tension in the string :)
    – k9ty
    Nov 5, 2013 at 9:47

The big question I have is: is this an electric or acoustic guitar? The suggestions answers to these questions depend an awful lot on what kind of guitar you have.

Do broken strings damage the guitar in anyway

Not at all. Think of changing strings as an oil change; something the device is built to have happen regularly.

(I)s it recommended that I remove the broken string before the new ones arrive.

There is no good reason to keep broken strings hanging off your guitar. I would find it a disincentive to practice. I would finish a song and maybe a set with a broken string hanging off, but would change strings first thing after. But the guitar doesn't care.

Do I have to replace all the strings or just the broken one.

It depends on context. For me, I often go months if not years on a set of strings, and my strings break on metal fatigue. Thus, when that happens, I figure the other strings have lost their bloom and are not long for this world, so I change the whole set.

If I broke a string while putting the new set on, I would blame either my ear or tuner for telling me to tighten too much, or the manufacturer for making bad strings. In that case, I would likely get a new single string rather than replace the whole set.

What tools/resources would I need apart from the strings, considering that I am a complete beginer.

For most guitars, you should be able to change strings without anything but your hands. Wire cutters are useful for electric guitars, so you don't have to snake strings that have been bent around your tuners through the bridge, and to trim excess strings when done, but are not necessary. You can also use them and a small paperback to pry out the bridge pins of an acoustic guitar.

If you play a guitar with a locking nut and bridge, such as guitars fitted with Floyd Rose tremolo systems, you will need Allen wrenches and patience.

I also suggest you get an electronic tuner. There are many inexpensive ones that clip onto your headstock. There are some that run in your browser or on you smart phone. The problem, likely the reason you broke the string in the first place, is that your ear does not know what the high E string is supposed to sound like, so you tightened it too tight. I know I went through high E strings all the time as a beginner. Systems like tuning forks or pitch pipes, which require you to listen and compare two notes, are no good until you have a trained ear.

Any suggestions on what kind of strings to buy.

My suggestion for beginner guitarists is to get medium strings from a reputable brand. If you've seen a set of strings advertised in a guitar magazine, that's safe for you. Eventually, you might decide to like brand A over brand B, but you have to get yourself beyond a beginner stage in order to tell the difference.

Similarly, there are guitarists who swear by heavy strings. Electric players will tell you they stay in tune better and give more tone, and acoustic players will say the greater mass allows the instrument to project more. And there are guitarists who swear by light strings. Electric players will say you can bend more and you should leave it to the amp to give you power. What you choose goes to what kind of guitarist you end up being. Right now, medium strings -- somewhere about .010-.046 for electric, .013-.056 for acoustic -- is what you want. If your fingers hurt, you're squeezing the notes too hard and need to develop a lighter touch; that's not the instrument's fault or the strings' fault, it's on you.

Rules of the forum discourage suggesting particular brands, and even if I was to have strong preferences -- I have preferences, but they are not strong -- I wouldn't post them here, because what works for me might not work for you. Guitarist X plays Y strings, and they work for X, but I don't have X's rig or X's gig. My best suggestion: Play medium strings with a medium pick until you can express a reason to change.

  • Second comment on the first post says it's acoustic Nov 4, 2013 at 17:08
  • Well, sure, @Shevliaskovic, but if I write as to cover all bases, that'll mean that more people can use my answer. Nov 4, 2013 at 17:29
  • I typically prefer to have an entire backup instrument for those times when a string decides its had enough. Rather than having to take five right then, I can switch to my backup instrument, even if it's not ideal for a particular song, then replace the string at the end of the set (ALWAYS have at least one set of strings in your case, as well as plenty of picks, and if your axe has active electronics, a spare battery).
    – KeithS
    Nov 5, 2013 at 1:21
  • I would also suggest light strings over mediums for an acoustic. Even the lightest light acoustic strings are the equivalent of an electric guitar's medium-heavy, and that high tension can present that much steeper a learning curve to a beginner.
    – KeithS
    Nov 5, 2013 at 1:23
  • @VarLogRant: Thanks a lot for your detailed post. You make an interesting point about the choice of strings. I was not looking for a suggestion on a particular brand, but more along the lines of whether a particular type of string is better for beginners.
    – k9ty
    Nov 5, 2013 at 9:50

Do broken strings damage the guitar in any way?

No. A broken string will, however, cause a change in the total tension placed on the instrument, especially the neck. Each string places between 15 and 20 pounds of tension on the neck of the guitar, and so when a string breaks this tension is no longer being applied. This can cause the "relief" of the neck, the amount of upward or backward bow it has, to change.

It can be bad, long-term, to dramatically over- or under-tension a neck, however in the short term while you're waiting for a new string, it's fine as long as the instrument remains playable.

Is it recommended that I remove the broken string before the new ones arrive?

You might as well; all it'll do if you keep it on is rattle and clatter against other strings.

Do I have to replace all the strings or just the broken one?

Depends on the age and type of the strings. You're replacing a not-new string with a new string. Depending on how long the current strings have been on the guitar, there can be a noticeable change in brightness between the new replacement string and all the others.

If this guitar was a "display model" hanging on the wall in the store, available for anyone to take down and play to see if they liked it, chances are the strings are older than you know and it's time to replace them anyway (unless the store was nice enough to put a fresh set of strings on it before you took it home). If you saw the strings being replaced in the store, or the guitar you bought came to you in the original packaging, they'e relatively new and you can usually get away with buying a single replacement string.

What tools/resources would I need apart from the strings, considering that I am a complete beginner?

The only hard and fast requirement when replacing a string is some method of tuning it (and all others) after you put it on. You will also, of course, need to know how to replace a guitar string; there are hundreds of good videos and illustrated step-by-step instructions available online, and I won't repeat them here.

What else you need depends on your style of winding the string. Most guitarists will leave enough slack to get two or three good turns around the tuning peg, then cut off the slack. That is my recommendation to you, and it will require a pair of wire cutters, either of the "side nip" or "end nip" variety. In a pinch, you can leave the guitar string at its original length and simply run the extra through the hole in the tuning peg and let it wave in the breeze. A few guitarists prefer to do it this way, because they say cutting the string can damage it.

One more thing most people recommend is a string winder. This is a crank you put on the tuning key, allowing you to wind up the string's slack around the post much more quickly and with less carpal-tunnel than manually twisting the key yourself. It's invaluable for most steel-strung guitars, as the tuning machines on them have a reducing gear which requires up to 30 full turns of the tuning key to rotate the tuning peg just once (the advantage over the more traditional tuning peg is that it's easier to turn the key, and to make fine adjustments to the tuning).

Any suggestions on what kind of strings to buy?

A guitarist's brand of string is their personal preference, based on what sounds best on that specific guitar to that particular player. You didn't mention whether your guitar is an acoustic or electric, and what your budget is. I personally like to pay a little extra for a set and then not have to replace them every week. For my Taylor 114 acoustic, I like Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Light-Mediums. For my electrics, DR Extra Life 10-46 Silver Stars. Both are coated strings, which give the metal some protection from my "acid hands" and so last quite a bit longer than a traditional bare-metal string. The tradeoff is they don't sound quite as bright out of the box. If you like that uber-bright sound of brand-new bare metal strings, you will get very good at replacing them, because they only sound like that for a few sessions at a time before they start to corrode and to collect oil and dead skin from your hands.


One thing to look out for, especially on a "new" guitar is if there is a slight burr on either the nut (at the end of the neck) or the saddle (in the bridge). These are the white plastic or bone pieces that the string rides over. If there a slightly sharp point on either they can wear into the string and if it's over tightened even a little bit, it will break. If you feel a burr on either, take it back to the store where you bought it and ask them to fix it. Failing that, find a luthier in your area and ask if they can do it (music stores often have a guitar repairman on staff).

I've played guitars for many yrs, and I had a new Taylor that had this problem. After breaking many strings I finally checked the nut and found that it had a sharp edge.

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