[How-To] Stringing a Vintage Electric Guitar Like a Pro

Hey guys, welcome to Blue Buzz Music!

In another article from a few days ago, we’ve learned how to string a modern electric guitar – it wasn’t easy, but we eventually figured it out (or at least I hope so).

Anyways, this is the continuation of the previous post that puts emphasis on the second time of electric guitars – vintage ones.

While the process is indeed quite similar, there are a few things that make this one unique – we’ll get to the actual process in a second.

Hopefully, this guide is detailed enough. I’ve also included a short video tutorial at the end of this post to make things a little easier for the visual learners.

Anyways, let’s get to it already!

You will need:

  1. Some wire cutters,
  2. Phillips head screwdriver,
  3. An electronic tuner.

You will also find that a string winder is also helpful.

Don’t get intimidated by the number of steps!
Most take a few seconds to complete!

  1. The first thing to do is to remove the plastic plate on the back of the guitar covering the bottom of the tremolo system and the tailpiece block.
  2. This will allow you to remove the strings from the body more easily. Start with the bass E string. Slacken off the string and pull it off the tuning peg.
  3. This should be easy to do with the slot head as once the string is slackened it will simply pull out and straight off.
  4. At this point, you can either try to straighten out the windings a little so that they will pull back through the bridge/tremolo holes or cut off the end of the string so that the windings are removed.
  5. I prefer the cutting method because there are no windings to get caught in the bridge and tremolo system.
  6. Once the string is cut you should take care with the cut ends because they tend to be a lot sharper than the ordinary ends of the string.
  7. You should, therefore, make sure that you don’t cut yourself when taking the string off the guitar.
  8. Push the string back through the body and remove it from the tailpiece block.
  9. Remove the new string from the pack and unwind it so that it is straight. Push the string up through the tailpiece block and then through the hole in the body and the hole in the tremolo/bridge plate.
  10. Pull the string through so that it sits solidly in the tailpiece recess.
  11. You can check this by looking at the back of the guitar.
  12. Turn the machine head so that the slot is following the same line as the neck and then lay the string in the slot and pull from the other side so that it is hand tight.
  13. Take the wire cutter and cut the string so that it goes about 2 to 3 inches after the slot of the machine head.
  14. This is about the width of 3 fingers.
  15. Once the string has been cut, remove it from the slot and then poke the cut end down into the machine head slot so that it fits into the hole at the bottom.
  16. Once it is in the hole, bend the string into the slot and hold it with your right hand in place by both pushing the string down towards the fretboard and making it go through the correct slot in the nut.
  17. Next, put some tension on the string by pulling it down towards the bridge end of the body.
  18. Wind the machine head so that the string starts to tighten.
  19. Keep the string low towards the headstock so that the windings form above where the string meets the machine head spindle.
  20. Continue winding and applying tension to the string, letting it slip through your fingers as the windings form.
  21. Once the string is tight enough, you can release the tension from it, and the windings should stay in place on the machine head.
  22. The concave shape of the tuning peg tends to make the windings on it tighten up against each other and this, in turn, helps to reduce tuning problems as the string is less likely to slip and unreleased tension in the windings is eliminated.
  23. Continue to tighten up the string until you get it to concert pitch as shown by your electronic tuner.
  24. It is important to try and remove any slack in the string that has been caused by winding it onto the tuning peg.
  25. To do this, pull the string away from the body stretching it. This will tend to make the windings lie more evenly and tighten them up against the tuning peg.
  26. You can then repeat this procedure with the A, D and G strings tuning them up as you go.

As mentioned before, most people have more trouble with the B and E strings because they are so much thinner.

However, the technique is really just the same.

But you need to make sure that you apply enough tension to the string both towards the headstock and towards the body of the guitar.

If you do have problems, there is a quick workaround:

  • Try bending the string with your fingernail before you push it into the hole.
  • You then cut the string after the bend allowing about a ½ inch of the string end to go into the hole.
  • Push the end of the string into the hole and the bent part through the slot.
  • You can then manually wind the string round halfway to the other side of the slot and then pull it back through the slot. Make sure that you are winding the string on in the correct direction though.
  • Try to manually wind the string around the tuning peg normally for a couple of turns before applying tension to the string as already described above.
  • By pulling the string back through the slot after half a turn at the start, you are essentially locking the string onto the machine head.
  • This has the effect of both stopping it springing off the tuning peg and helping to stop any string slippage which might cause tuning problems.

As you can see, the process of fitting the strings into a vintage guitar is quite similar to the modern one – with a couple of things here and there to keep an eye on.

Here is the YouTube video (as promised) to make things a little more clear if you happened to drown in a lot of text and had a problem following!

If you happen to like this tutorial, there is a lot more here at Blue Buzz Music – I try to update my content as often as possible to post the most useful material here!

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