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12 String Guitar Maintenance


How To String A 12 String Acoustic Guitar



How To Change Strings On A 12 String Guitar

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Changing the Strings on a 12 String Acoustic Guitar can be a little more complicated than a changing strings on a 6 string acoustic.  This is because once you take the current strings off you may not remember where the strings actually are supposed to lay on the fret board.  This is true especially for beginners.  Below we will describe the process in bullet points to help you on your 12 string guitar string change.  One word of caution, when changing strings it's a good idea to wear eye protection.  The ends of the strings are typically very thin, pointy, and sharp. The string ends tend to fly & whip around a bit when your changing the strings.  Also, be careful as the ends of the strings are very sharp and can cut your hands very easily.  Also, watch pets and little children when changing your strings as well.  Pets and small children could play with the strings and can get hurt.

  1. Take a quick look at how your current 12 string is set up and strung.  You will want to mimic this when applying the new guitar strings to the 12 string guitar.
  2. Remove the Old Strings - The easiest way to remove your strings is to first loosen the tuning pegs at the head of your guitar.  There is also a tool that can be bought at most guitar stores to help you turn tuners more quickly.  It looks like a plastic wrench with an indentation on the end that fits your tuning peg.  Once your tuning pegs are loosened you should remove the strings from the pegs.  It's a good idea to use pliers when your removing the string from the peg hole.  This allows you to get a better grip on the string. 
  3. Removing the Pegs At the Bridge - At this point your are going to look at the bridge of your guitar.  You will see 12 Pegs that hold the strings onto the bridge of your guitar.  Now that you strings are loosened you should be able to remove these pegs. Note:  You may need pliers to remove all these pegs.  Most 12 strings are setup so that your higher octave strings are in the row closest to the sound hole on your acoustic.  The Lower octave strings are in the other row.  Just keep that in mind because you will need to remember this when putting the new strings on the guitar. 
  4. Removing the strings from the bridge - Now that you have removed the bridge pegs you should be able to pull out the ball end of the strings from the bridge.  If they will not fit through the peg hole you can reach your hand inside the sound hole on your guitar and try to get the strings out from inside the guitar as well. Some people prefer to cut their stings off with wire cutters to more easily remove the strings.  Please make sure you have loosened the strings before you use wire cutters as the string tension could cause the strings to fly around and possibly hurt you in the process.  Be very careful using wire cutters on your guitar stings
  5. Gauge of Strings - Since a 12 string guitar can be a little more challenging than a six string to play, it may be a good idea to purchase some light gauge strings.  Most companies including Martin sell light gauge guitar strings and they tend to be a bit easier on the hands when playing the guitar.  The 11th and 12th E strings are usually packaged together, and the 9th and 10th A Stings are packaged together as well, and so on...  They do this so it's not as confusing when your actually putting strings on the guitar.  And when you start to put the stings on to your guitar remember the Lighter gauge E string (.030 in. Light Gauge) goes above the heavier gauge E string (.054 in. Light Gauge).  This goes for the E, A, D, and G Strings as well.  The B and High E Strings have the same gauge for both of those stings.  So both B strings would be .016 in. gauge and the high E strings would both be .012 in. for light gauge strings
  6. Bridge Piece - The Bridge piece may fall out when you take off all your old strings.  Make sure to replace it before adding the new strings.
  7. Start with the E String (.030 in. Light Gauge) string and put the ball end of the sting into the 1st peg hole (or pull it through from the inside of guitar) on the bridge and put the peg in the hole as well.  You should pull the string taunt to make sure the string locks into the peg end.  The peg end will have a notch to fit the string into and make sure the peg doesn't start to lift with string tension.  This will happen when it's not locked in properly. 
  8. Place the String on the Nut Indentation - Take the string and make sure it fits into the proper indentation on the plastic or bone nut at the beginning of your headstock.
  9. Wrap String Around Tuning Peg - Now start from the inside of the tuning peg and wrap the string around the tuning peg counter clockwise (It's counter clockwise for the 1st six tuning pegs, the other six are clockwise).  Try to wrap it around the peg 2 or 3 times and then take the end of the string through the tiny hole on the peg over top of your string wrap.  This will keep your wrap tight.  Once you start to tighten you will see any slack start to tighten up. Use pliers to help with the process if necessary.  You will need some pliers to pull it taunt.  Start winding the tuner so that the string is getting more tension.  *Important you will repeat this process for the 1st six strings, but remember when you get to the six strings on the other side of the head stock you will wrap starting from the inside of the peg head Clockwise.  This is just since the these tuning pegs are on the other side of the headstock.
  10. Guitar String Ends Can be Dangerous - Some folks use wire cutters and cut the useless ends of the strings off. This way they are not flying around etc.  It's usually a good idea to leave about a half inch at the end, but it's up to you. 
  11. Repeat this process for the other strings - Once your done wrapping all the strings it's time to tune your guitar.  Keep in mind this is the 1st time these strings have had tension on them, so it may take a few tunings before you guitar stays in perfect tune. Try stretching the strings a little bit before you tune up, this can help keep them in tune as well.  Good luck changing the strings on your 12 String guitar.


These ideas above should help you in your efforts to change your strings on your 12 string acoustic guitar.  Keep in mind every guitar is not the same, and that yours may have some subtle differences.  For the most part these steps should help you on our future string changes.  Please consult a guitar tech with any questions or if you need assistance.  Also, visit our 6 String Guitar String Change Page below.  If your looking for Guitar Maintenance Tips click here.