When changing the strings of my bass or guitar, I've been told that this has to be done string by string because apparently, removing all the strings brings damage to the sound of the instrument (they don't tell me what is the damage tho).

Is this true? What is the correct way to change the strings of my instrument?


I have been playing guitars for well over 40 years, and have owned dozens and dozens of them. I have changed the strings on (and done proper set-up for neck flatness, string action, and intonation) probably a hundred in all my years.

Though I can see that there might be some benefit from changing the strings out one at a time, I can also confess that I have never had a single problem result from taking them all off, and then carefully restringing, after taking the time to polish the frets.

As MickeyF stated, if your guitar becomes damaged from removing all the strings at once, it's probably not all that well made, or you made the mistake of cutting them off without first un-winding them to a slack state in the first place.

Bottom line, you can remove all the strings, and not fear that the sound of the guitar will change or degrade.

  • or you made the mistake of cutting them off without first un-winding them to a slack state in the first place - +1 . It's the sudden release of tension that is potentially most damaging. I once bought a bass and asked them to put different strings on it. When I called to ask if it was ready, I was told "we snipped off the old strings and we're putting on new ones now". I canceled the order. – Stinkfoot Feb 12 '18 at 2:24
  • +1 for noting that, with all the strings removed, it’s easy to clean the frets and the fretboard and, if needed, apply a little oil. – trw Jan 16 at 2:17

No, it won't affect the sound - although a new set of strings in itself will.

The best way is to change the strings one at a time, bringing the new one to pitch each time. That way, the tension on the neck is kept fairly static, although there's not a lot wrong with relieving it of all tension - there's not a lot of point, and it then takes longer for the new strings to settle into tune.

EDIT: all I can think of is that if the bridge isn't a fixed sort, with all the strings off, it will move out of place and the guitar will have to be re-intonated. Not a particularly difficult task, but one avoided by keeping the bridge trapped under the tension of the remaining strings.

  • So it won't "deoctavate" the guitar? I already asked and this is what they tell me – sant016 Feb 11 '18 at 16:25
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    Who the heck are 'they'? Never heard of 'deoctavate'. – Tim Feb 11 '18 at 16:32
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    I would even go so far as to say that if removing all the strings at once has a noticeable effect on the guitar, then the strings are over-tensioned, too heavy, it is a poorly made guitar, or some combination of the above. In general, except that the instrument will sound better depending on just how badly the strings needed changing, and that they may need some stretching in, depending on the type, you should see no effect at all. – mickeyf Feb 11 '18 at 16:36
  • It's just I don't know how to say it. "deoctavate" for me means that if I play an open E for example, in the fret 12 it won't be an E. – sant016 Feb 11 '18 at 17:26
  • @sant016 - term is intonation - guitar should be in tune with itself: When open string is E and the 12th fret is E from the next octave, the guitar is properly intoned. If 12th fret is sharp or flat, the guitar's intonation is off. That is not necessarily fatal-intonation can be adjusted on most guitars - on some it's easier than on others. But if the neck is more than slightly warped or nut or bridge are damaged, it can be a serious problem. What "they" mean is that releasing all the tension on the neck could cause the neck to get "bent out of shape" and ruin the guitar's intonation. – Stinkfoot Feb 12 '18 at 2:37

It's already been mentioned but if you have a bass with a non-fixed bridge (e.g. many hollow body instruments, Hofner,Gretsch) removing all the strings at once will cause the bridge to move and the intonation will be affected. Change strings on these instruments one at a time. Never leave any bass for more than a few days with no string tension unless you slacken the truss rod. Some necks will develop an unrecoverable back-bow.

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