To maintain the high-quality performance of our 12-string guitar, we must regularly pay attention to the condition of its strings.
If the strings are worn out and old, they can seriously damage the sound and make the instrument unplayable.
When restringing a 12-string guitar, we must pay attention to the following things:
- It is important to use lighter strings – if the strings are too heavy, the neck can bend due to the extra strings on the 12 string guitar
- We must be careful when tightening the guitar strings because they can break if we overdo it.
What tools do we need to change the strings on a 12-string guitar?
- Wire cutters
- Tuning key or String winder
- Allen key
- String action gauge
- Bridge pin puller
- New strings
- Electric tuner
We don’t need every tool in the list, but if we have it, it’ll make restringing much easier and précised.
When we have everything necessary, we can start changing the strings.
Remove the old strings
- We start with loosening the strings one by one by turning the tuning pegs clockwise.
- When we feel the strings are loose enough, we start pulling them out. And don’t forget – we do this for each string individually.
- The next step depends on the type of guitar we have:
- If we have an electric 12 string guitar, we pull out the string through the bottom of the bridge. The exceptions are Epiphone and Gibson 12-string guitars – for them, we should pull down and out the string from the back of the instrument.
- If we have an acoustic 12 string guitar, we have to remove the bridge pins that fix the strings in place. We can use fingers or pliers to pull them out gently, one at a time.
Before putting on the new strings, we advise cleaning the fretboard and polishing the body of the guitar.
Put the new strings
We recommend that each pair of the 12 strings should be installed like they’re 6 strings. It’s easier if we don’t separate them and add the string of each couple individually.
If the body of the guitar Is on the right side and the neck is on the left, we install the thicker strings to the row of bridge pins furthest from the center of the body and the thinnest one to the row in front.
- We start working with the thickest low E string.
- At the end of the string, there is a metal ball that we need to insert into the first bridge pinhole on the back row. After that, we reinserted the bridge pin to secure the string.
- We should be careful that the hole in the ball is not facing upward. It’s good to pull the string gently to ensure it is locked.
- Then we do the same thing with the matching E octave string and add it into the first hole on the front row.
- We repeat these steps for the rest of the pairs, following this order: beginning with A strings, then D, G, and B, and finishing with high E.
- After that, it is time to secure the strings by turning the hole in the tuning post to face down the neck.
- We take the end of the regular high E string and push it through the tuning post on the furthest side from us. We keep the string a bit loose, wrap it around itself and then tighten it. Repeat another couple of times until we have a few rows of string around the tuning post.
- We repeat everything for the rest of the strings by working anti-clockwise.
- We start winding the strings by returning to the low E octave. The string has to be tight and flat. We pull it with the right hand while turning the tuning peg anti-clockwise using the string winder.
- We repeat for each pair of strings.
- We finish by cutting off the excess of each string using the cutters.
Tuning the 12-string guitar
- The easiest way to tune our guitar is by using the electric tuner. We can always do it by ear if we don’t have one.
- We start tuning after every string is installed on the guitar.
- It may take some time to get entirely tuned.
- We advise stretching each string by gently pulling it away from the body. Then play for a while and tune again.
- Watch out for the treble G string because it’s easier to break during tuning.
How often should we change the strings on a 12-string guitar?
- If you feel the strings sticky or see spots on them – it’s time for new ones.
- If one or more strings break, you should replace all of the strings.
- When the string becomes loose, or you have to tune it more often than usual.
- When you notice that your acoustic guitar sounds dull.
How much time does it take to restring a 12-string guitar?
- It may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
How far should strings be from frets?
- It is considered that the standard distance between the strings and the neck is 1.5 mm (0.063 in). Of course, this can vary.
What are the benefits of changing the strings?
- The answer is simple – better sound and better durability.
Restringing a 12 string guitar may seem complicated, but it’s similar to restringing a 6 string guitar.
Yes, it has some additional steps that need to be done, but follow this easy guide, and you will have no problems changing the strings on a 12 string guitar.
Gary has been in love with music since he was a child. His passion is guitars and everything related to them. He is the founder of
Riff-Mag and can’t wait to share his knowledge with you.