There comes a time in every bassist’s life when you will have to replace your strings. Even with regular cleaning, the inevitable wear and tear of playing plus the oils and dirt from your fingers will cause the string to break or become muddy sounding. While it is just fine to have a guitar tech do it for you when possible, it’s not always convenient to do so. If a string breaks while you are in the studio or in live performance, and you don’t have a backup instrument, this ability will prove crucial to you.
Before You Begin: Things to Consider
You should always have at least one spare set of strings available. You don’t want to be without strings in the middle of a gig should a string snap. While you are buying your strings, consider purchasing a string winder, as well. This inexpensive, easy-to-use tool will speed up the process of string replacement, especially after you have done it a few times.
Although many bassists will remove all strings at once and replace them in the same fashion, this is not the recommended method. This method can cause strain on the neck and possibly cause it to warp. It is best to remove and replace one string at a time.
How often should you replace your strings? There are no hard and fast rules here, but it largely depends on how often you play. If you gig frequently, you may need to replace them every couple of months or sooner. Even if you don’t play often, you should replace them every 6 months or so. Do not believe any stories of that “legendary bass player” who never replaced his strings; they would have broken or become unplayable at same point. At best, they’d simply sound terrible.
Starting with the largest string, gently loosen and remove the string. For your safety, do not cut the strings, as this can cause injury. Wipe the area underneath with a soft dry cloth to remove dust and dirt.
Push the replacement string through the first opening in the back of the bass. Feed the string through to the front and stretch all the way to the headstock of the guitar. Make sure the string is resting in the first string saddle and nut.
Insert the string into the first tuning post and pull some string through. Bend the string at a right angle and carefully rotate the tuning key counter clockwise to tighten up the string. Make sure to guide the string into place on the tuning post with your finger. Do not tighten all the way until all the strings are in place.
Repeat this procedure with the remaining strings one at a time, working from the largest string to the smallest, in order.
Tighten all the strings and tune the bass once all the strings are in place. If necessary, cut off any excess string from the pegs with wire cutters.
After a final tuning, your newly-strung bass will be ready to play!
Wasn’t That Easy?
As you can see, replacing strings is not all that difficult. With time and practice, this process can take mere minutes to accomplish. It will also save you quite a bit of money over hauling your bass to the repair shop every few months.