How to string a guitar

For the last twelve years, I’ve been fitting strings as recommended by Robbie Gladwell – and it works. I used to be of the once-through-the-hole-is-good-enough school of thought but after setting-up fifteen guitars in an afternoon for a Gibson/Epiphone showcase, I had it demonstrated, very publicly, that a secure string winding can make all the difference between playing in tune and sounding crap. Hitherto, I would simply thread the string through the machine-head and wind on, creating the 90 degree bend I’d always trusted. I was of the opinion that, provided the string was neatly wound onto the capstan and stretched before playing, everything would be hunky dory.

Whatever happened to distract me from the task in hand that particular afternoon, I don’t know – a stray phone call perhaps – but as chance would have it, the one guitar whose strings weren’t properly bedded in was the same one selected for a demo. When Robbie went for a big bend, mid-solo, the results were predictable and I could feel my face glowing with embarrassment!

He was very decent about the whole thing and assured me that once I’d got into the way of the Gibson fitting method I’d never use any other and, do you know, he was dead right! Ever since then I’ve elected to use this method of string fitting, whatever the guitar. It’s become second nature and whenever possible I’ve sought to recommend it to others.

It’s much easier to see in the flesh than to try and explain but the string is fed through the machine-head as normal; leaving a small amount of slack in the string’s playing length. Once through the hole you double back, around the capstan on the side opposite the machine-head button. Go under the string where it originally went through the hole, then pull upwards and forwards towards the headstock.

Keeping gentle pressure on the loose string end as you turn the machine-head button and you’ll see that the string becomes locked onto itself. Once there are a couple of descending turns underpinning the “lock” and the string is up to pitch, simply cut off the excess as close as possible to avoid being spiked. Give them all a stretch playing and off you go.

So, to summarise:

  • Through the hole and round the bend
  • Under and up, cut the end
  • Do it right and keep it tight
  • Play in tune for the rest of the night.
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5 Responses to “How to string a guitar”

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  1. says:

    Excellent article.
    I think the words “towards the headstock” should also be highlighted in bold !

  2. kevin morris says:

    I’ve been stringing my guitars in the manner you describe for years and highly recommend it.

    I’ve tried several times to explain over the phone to a friend who lives many miles away from me and thought that I’d send him your blog as instruction, but I’m afraid it isn’t really clear from your decription how you do this.

    I guess the best method of learning is to see it done!

    • RedDogMusic says:

      I guess that is the best way… there’s only so much you can describe in words! On the bright side, at least we’re managing to spread these words of guitar wisdom to the musical masses.

  3. Graham says:

    Thanks for pointing out that there’s more than one way to string a guitar.

    It’s usually too dull a subject for anyone to explain well !

    The magic tricks described above are at about 3:30 and 7:00 in this tubage..

    I did tend to just fudge it with a 90 degree kink before, but it would be hard
    to tune (especially the low strings) and it wouldn’t last more than a week.


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