Restringing an acoustic guitar will cost between 6$ and $30 depending on the brand of string. If you’re a beginner you may prefer to have someone at your local music store restring the guitar. In this case, the cost will be between $20 and $40.
Guitar not staying in tune?
Or feeling a little more difficult to play. It might be time for a string change. But if you are fairly new to the acoustic guitar you might be wondering how much it costs to restring your guitar? In the following article, we’ll cover the three different scenarios acoustic guitarists find themselves in concerning strings and some ballpark costs you might encounter when restringing.
How much to restring a guitar if you have been playing for a while
$6 – $30 e.g. the cost for a new set of strings
If you have been playing guitar for any period of time, there is no excuse not to know how to restring your guitar yourself! You are going to break strings, or your strings are going to get old at some point. It’s just not economical to have someone charge you to perform this basic task every time.
Restringing a guitar involves four basic steps.
- Buying a set of new strings
- Removing the old strings
- Installing the new strings
- Tuning the guitar
Buying new Strings
The first thing you are going to get asked when buying new strings is your string gauge preference. String gauge refers to the thickness of the strings, measured in thousands of an inch.
When referring to string gauges, either the high E (1st string) and low E (6th string) are used, or just the high E. For example, a set of light acoustic guitar strings with a high E of .11 thousandths of an inch and a low E of .52 thousandths of an inch would be referred to as a set of 11 to 52s or just as a set of 11s
Generally speaking, acoustic guitar strings are available in the following gauges:
* Based on Ernie Ball 80/20 bronze acoustic guitar strings
|String||Extra lights 10 to 50’||Light 11 to 52’||Medium Light 12 to 54’||Medium 13 to 56’|
There are, of course, many variations on the above, depending on the manufacturer and the range of strings they offer. But, for the most part, if you mention extra light, light, medium-light, or medium (or 10’s, 11’s, 12’s, or 13’s) you will be on the same page as the person behind the counter.
What gauge strings should you use?
String gauge is a trade-off between playability and tone. For example, the lighter the string, the easier it is to press down (fret), and the lower your action can be set to.
Thicker/heavier strings, on the other hand, have a greater capacity for tension due to their increased mass. This makes them harder to play but also results in a warmer, fuller tone, at least in most cases.
If reasonably new to the guitar, I’d recommend light gauge string e.g. 11’s or 10’s. As your hand strength develops you may like to experiment with 12s or 13s. But it’s not a case of the more experienced a guitarist becomes the heavier gauge string they will play. It mostly comes back to personal preference and what helps you play the way you like to play.
Removing the old strings
I can still remember cutting a set of strings when much younger and somehow ending up with the high E string embedded deeply in the top of my thumb. Since then, I have always remembered to take care when removing strings.
The best way to do this is to place the guitar flat on its back on a towel to prevent it from being scratched or moving around. If you don’t own a neck rest, use a second towel to support the headstock and then loosen the strings, one at a time.
From here you can either cut them with a pair of pliers or unwind them from the headstock completely.
Once the strings are removed from the headstock you can ‘pop’ the bridge pins and remove the ‘ball end’ of the string. If you have a string winder you may even have a fixing peg tool attached to the winder. If not, fixing pegs can be stubborn to remove. If so, this guide might be useful.
Installing New Strings
Armed with your new set of strings it’s now time to install them on your acoustic guitar. For the most part, this is fairly self-explanatory but remember to check the orientation of your guitar e.g. if you are left-handed don’t put the strings on upside down (it happens). I also like to work from outside to in e.g. install the high E and low E first, followed by the B and A strings, and lastly the G and D strings.
Start by inserting the ball end of the string into the bridge pinhole. The pins come with slots on one side, allowing the strings to be fixed. Ensure the ball end of the string sits beneath the end of the pin and that it is firmly in place.
Next insert the other end of the string into the appropriate tuner and begin tightening counterclockwise to make sure the strings are guided onto the inside face of the tuners. Your light strings will be attached to the closest tuners and will work their way up the headstock based on the gauge of string.
Leave sufficient slack on the string to allow enough length to wrap the tuners. Don’t tune to concert pitch, instead ensure the strings are on firmly but not overly tight. Do this for all strings.
Once all strings are installed on the guitar you can begin tuning. Ideally, you will have a tuner on hand, if not I’d recommend getting yourself one. Otherwise, you will need to use a reference note to tune the low E string to E. If you don’t have another instrument available, use your computer to ‘Google’ the sound of a low E acoustic guitar string.
The strings of your guitar must be tuned relative to each other to allow for the guitar to produce accurate chords and for anything other than single notes played in isolation to sound correct.
Again this is a fairly simple concept. The A string should be tuned to A, which is the note produced when playing the 5th fret of your low E string. Simply play the 5th fret of your low E string and match the A string to this tone.
You should then repeat this for all strings (you will get faster at this, the more often you do it) except the G string which should be tuned to the 4th fret of the B string.
You can read our in-depth guide to tuning your acoustic guitar here.
A tip for keeping your guitar in tune
Once your guitar is in tune, stretch the strings using a moderate amount of force but not sufficient enough to damage the guitar or remove the bridge pins. Stretching the strings will remove some of the ‘play’ in the strings and provide greater tuning stability.
Repeat this step 2 – 3 times e.g. tune-up, stretch, and tune-up again. While it may seem like more work, trust me it will save you time in the long run.
How much Does it cost to pay to have your guitar restrung
$20 – $60 including the cost of a new set of strings
If you are a beginner and haven’t restrung your guitar before, chances are you are going to get the wrong gauge of string, mess up the order of the strings, or even worse break your high E and B strings. This can become frustrating and may even be enough to discourage a beginner before they have gotten started.
If this is the case, you will be well served to speak to your local music store and get a price on having them restring your guitar for you.
Music stores typically offer restringing services for anywhere from $20 – $60 including the cost of a new set of strings. But don’t just assume the price, be sure to confirm first, as the definition of ‘restringing’ is often open to interpretation.
Be specific about what you expect to be paying e.g. to have a new set of strings installed on your guitar. You don’t want to find yourself handing over $120+ because the store set up the guitar for you, which in itself may be good value but isn’t what you specifically wanted.
In many cases, music stores will offer a ‘restringing’ service that involves nut and saddle adjustment, and fingerboard cleaning. While not a full ‘setup’. If your guitar hasn’t had a lot of attention in recent times, this level of maintenance will often result in your guitar becoming more ‘playable’.
How much to restring a guitar if your guitar requires a setup
$120+ including the cost of a new set of strings
Even if you are an experienced guitarist, your guitar will benefit from a setup from time to time. Guitars, being mostly an organic product tend to be affected by changes in season, humidity, and just regular wear and tear from playing. This can impact your guitar’s overall playability, tone, and intonation.
While performing basic maintenance on your guitar is a valuable skill you can learn yourself, you may want to weigh up whether it is worth learning the more complicated tasks of truss rod adjustment and fret dressing or letting a professional handle this for you.
I feel it is a good idea to learn the basics of guitar setup and maintenance and I enjoy working on my guitars, but this will largely come down to how much of a ‘guitar geek’ you wish to be and how you enjoy spending your time e.g. do you like working on guitars or would you prefer to play them exclusively?
If you are going to have your guitar set up correctly, the guitar will be restrung along with some additional services, which may include:
- Truss Rod Adjustment
- Adjustment of the action e.g. saddle and nut height adjustment
- Adjusting intonation
- Fingerboard cleaning and conditioning
Fret leveling and dressing may or may not be included.
It’s best to check first and assess whether this is required for your guitar. Fret leveling is the ‘art’ of aligning the top of the guitar’s fretboard wires to be level with each other by filing down any raised frets. Fret wires can become worn due to the guitar’s strings being pressed against them regularly.
Fret dressing and/or crowning is the art of shaping the fret wires after they have been leveled. E.g. when leveling frets, the top of any fret wires that have been filed will need to be reshaped to ensure a nice rounded top making them easier to play.
There isn’t a one size fits all answer to the question of how much it costs to restring an acoustic guitar. There are different options available depending on your level of experience e.g. what you can take care of yourself, and the condition of your guitar.
If you are just getting started with acoustic guitars, I’d recommend learning how to restring your guitar correctly along with some basic maintenance e.g. how to clean your guitar’s fingerboard and body and make minor adjustments to the truss rod to fine-tune your neck relief. But otherwise, especially if new to the guitar you will be best served to focus on learning how to play before instead of working on your guitar.