Changing strings: All At Once, or One-At-a-Time?

What follows was written in response to a question on Facebook about the advisability of removing and replacing a guitar’s strings one-at-a-time vs. taking them all off and then replacing the set. There were, of course, arguments on each side, so this is merely my personal experience…

I have been playing the same Martin D-35 guitar I acquired new in 1965, which has–except for its trip from the factory–been strung only with light gauge strings. When I change the strings (which, for a few decades, I would do three times a week–I’d put on a new set for Friday’s gig, another set for Saturday’s, and then a new set Monday to get me through the teaching week), I loosen all the strings, and then snip them all off…  In the late 1980s, my pace slowed way down, and ultimately I became the consummately lazy string changer, as I was no longer playing in a band, and really don’t mind dead strings when I play for myself, so now string changes are but every few months.

I worked in a Martin shop for almost a decade, and later became a Martin dealer myself for a couple of decades more: I did the same on all the instruments–new and used–purchased for resale.

I can honestly say that I have seen no downside to this technique after >1000 string changes on the guitar I still play daily, or on any of the thousands of guitars that have passed through the shops.

From my perspective, other than just speed, the upsides for this cut-’em-off-replace-’em-all technique are that:

(1) After removing all the strings, it’s easy to clean the dust off the peghead and between the sound hole and bridge.

(2) After placing all the strings through the bridge, it’s very easy to reach inside to make sure that each string’s ball is snuggly up against the bridge plate–a rather important step, IMHO.

(3–maybe) Having removed all the strings facilitates putting them on in a sequence that precludes always being in your own way when you attach them to the tuners’ spools, i.e. strings 1 & 6, then 2 & 5, then 3 & 4.

YMMV, of course, but after thousands of guitars and having changed my own beloved D-35’s strings all those times for well over a half a century, I have found absolutely no reason not to do it this way. I shall be happy to report back after further extended testing. 🙂

BTW, I should add that while I do follow this  same method when I change banjo, mandolin, etc. strings, I do not do or advise this on instruments having sound posts, as they are likely to fall out of position, and I really don’t enjoy resetting them.

One thought on “Changing strings: All At Once, or One-At-a-Time?”

  1. Exactly, Zepp! I’ve always changed all at once, except for the fiddle, which I change one at a time, but even less often than the banjo & guitar.

    I have yet to attempt to change the strings (hair, actually) on the fiddle bow, though.

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