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Changing your Telecaster’s Strings

Changing Telecaster Guitar Strings.

A surprisingly high number of guitar players don’t know how to change electric guitar strings properly! Here’s a simple guide to getting it right every time.

1. When to change your strings?

Change strings regularly, even if they don’t break. How often you change your strings depends on what sound you go for, and how often you play. If you’re playing 2 hours a day you need to change them as often as every 2-3 weeks. If you play in a band you may want a new set every time you play a gig.

Some people don’t like to change their guitar strings and prefer the sound of "old" strings.

Strings are made of steel, so oil and dirt from your fingers accumulates and makes the sound dull, but humidity causes corrosion as well, even when you’re not playing.

It’s not difficult to change strings, but you may need a few tries to get it right, and you may snap a few strings at first, so you could practice on old strings before getting the new ones out! Breaking your new E string when you’ve just bought them is not funny!

2. What string gauge to choose.

Selecting the string gauge you use on your Telecaster is completely a matter of personal taste. Thinner strings are easier to bend, but thicker strings can sound fuller. Most folks choose their string gauge by experience in how they feel and sound. Changing the gauge (thickness of string) will mean adjusting the guitar action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard), so stick to the same gauge if you can unless you have a reason to change. Most people experiment with different gauges and then settle on one set size. Then they setup their guitar — or have a guitar tech setup their guitar– to accommodate their chosen gauge.

Very occasionally, you might get a bad string in the pack that won’t tune properly, in which case you should just replace it. But as I said that is only occasionally.

3. Removing the old strings.

  • Only remove 3 strings at a time – either the top or bottom 3. This will keep some tension on the neck at all times.
  • A Telecaster has 6 tuning pegs in line, so work thickest to thinnest – 6, 5, 4 then 3, 2, 1.
  • If you’re tuning some other guitar and it has 3 tuning pegs each side, work toward the center– 6, 5, 4 then 1, 2, 3.

4. Clean the fretboard while you’re at it.

Once you have 3 of the strings off, clean the fingerboard and frets, and remove any accumulated dirt and grease. You may even need to scrape this off, if so be VERY gentle! Twice a year oil the fretboard lightly to moisturize it and prevent any cracking. Then clean the other side when the other 3 strings are removed.

5. Finally, putting on the new strings.

  • Take each new string in order.
  • Pull it through the ferrule in the body from the back and through the hole in the bridge.
  • Pull it tight and measure 2 posts up from the one you will use, and bend the string here at a sharp angle.
  • Run the bent string through the correct post and bend it again where it enters the post when pulled tight. Your bends should make a z shape so the string runs straight up, bends across at 90 degrees and through the post, then bends back up again.
  • Hold the string tightly at the first bend and wind the turning key.
  • Always wind so the string wraps from the inside of the post out.
  • Repeat with the other strings.
  • When all strings are on, give a couple of firm tugs to each string to stretch it, which will help it stay in tune better when you tune the guitar.
  • Cut off any spare string at the end.

Now you’re ready to tune your Telecaster and twang on!

Here’s a YouTube video that should echo the method discussed above:

Video Courtesy of

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9 Responses to “Changing your Telecaster’s Strings”
  1. supedersen says:

    Its a myth that you cant remove all strings at once. Off cause you can and this makes it easier to clean up the fretboard and other parts of the guitar

  2. Laney Jones says:

    I found a fingernail buffer that has a suede finish on one side, is slightly curved, and has a handle on the other side. Every time I change strings, I DO remove all the strings at once, but take the tension off them slowly. Then I use the suede buffer to clean the fretboard and polish the frets. It makes the fretboard glide, and the frets shiny clean. Bending strings on a nicely polished fret is so much easier than a greasy, dirty one. The suede buffer will actually take a lot of the minute scratches off the fret. I have guitars that are 30 years old, 38 years old,and one that is 74 years old (a 1936 Gibson L7). All the frets are clean and in good shape. I have never had a guitar refretted. Make sure that you find a suede one, and don’t use an emory board!

  3. rogerzilla says:

    For Klusons, which are of course the best tuners:

    1. Have the slots in line with the neck to start with.

    2. Thread the string through the body, bridge and nut and then, with pliers or wire cutters, cut it to length two tuners’ reach beyond the target one. You’ll need to estimate this distance for the top two strings.

    3. Push the end of the string into the hollow shaft as far as it will go.

    4. Bend the string up (away from the nut) and out of its slot then put a kink in it and take it clockwise halfway around the post. To save time, you can wind it on a turn or two by hand, but this isn’t necessary.

    5. Get your string winder and tighten it, keeping some tension on it and encouraging it to wind downwards on the post in a neat coil.

    The beauty of Klusons is that there are no loose sharp ends, hence the onetime “safety” tag. They are also lighter than most alternatives.

  4. Dave Best Dave Best says:

    I take all the strings off at once so I can do a proper clean of the fretboard. Haven’t had any buzz or other neck-related issues. Anyone have a different perspective.

  5. I have always taken one string off at a time, then wiped off the fretboard, replaced and tuned the string. It does keep steady tension on the neck. If the tension is changed, you might end up with buzzes. Works for me.

  6. choggy53 choggy53 says:

    I haven’t played my mim fsr for a while because of an injury. I loosend the strings and put it back in the bag, and now I am ready to play again. I was wondering, should I buy new strings, or can I just retune the ones I have on it ? btw it’s a 2014 and I only played it once, before I got hurt, and I’ve only had itl less than a year.

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