One of the most annoying aspects of playing bass is changing the strings. Since bass strings are thicker than guitar strings, switching them out can be a challenge. And this is bad enough for a traditional four-string bass – imagine restringing a bass guitar with more than six strings! If you need to change out your bass strings, we offer you a convenient guide here. Read these simple steps on how to restring a bass guitar plus some best practices to ensure you don’t continue playing on old strings!
Bottom line up front: Are your bass strings dirty or just sound dead? If so, it’s time to change them. All you need are a fresh set of strings and simple tools, such as a wirecutter.
Start by removing the old strings. Clean the fretboard. Insert each string in its corresponding position. Crimp the strings and trim them. Wind down and tune, and you’re ready to go! We go into more detail throughout the article.
How Often Do You Need to Change Your Bass Strings?
There is no simple answer to this question. All bass players have different preferences for their bass strings. Every player also has varying techniques and some players require more frequent string changes than others.
And if you play the bass more than other musicians, you’ll have to change your strings more frequently. Most bass players also notice they don’t have to change their strings as often if they use a pick.
Fortunately, most bass players don’t need to change their strings as frequently. But you’ll need to properly maintain your strings. Wipe them down daily with a cloth that has a bit of string cleaner or rubbing alcohol on it.
Make sure you wash your hands before playing. If you’re on tour and are struggling to clean your strings regularly, you’ll need to replace them more frequently.
Common Reasons for Restringing Your Bass
While all bass players should restring their bass regularly, there are some reasons why you may want to change out your bass earlier.
Wrong String Size
There are a variety of string sizes out there. Specific string sizes match different styles of playing. Maybe you were using stock strings before and realized you want something different.
Or maybe you bought strings and didn’t realize they’re the wrong size. Even if your strings are the correct size, you may want to try a new string manufacturer or even string material.
Dirty bass strings are more than gross and unsightly. If your strings are too dirty, they may no longer stay in tune or may lose their tone. Sure, you can clean your strings. But if you haven’t given your strings a good wipe down in a while, the strings could lose their character.
How to Restring Your Bass
Now that you know the importance of restringing your bass, let’s learn how to put a fresh set of strings on your bass!
Tools You’ll Need:
- A new set of strings
- Wirecutter (or alternative winding and cutting tools)
Step 1: Remove the Old Strings
Start by removing the old strings. Tune the strings all the way down and cut them one by one. Be sure to cut the strings near the pickup area. Why is it important to de-tune the strings? The neck will adjust better to the tension change. You also don’t have to cut them, but many players do to quicken the process.
From here, remove the strings from the bridge and tuning post. What do you do with the old strings? You shouldn’t reuse old strings. Fortunately, you can recycle them.
Step 2: Clean the Fretboard
Before installing your new strings, give the fretboard a good cleaning. Every bass manufacturer has best practices when maintaining and cleaning your bass.
If you can’t find any, wipe down your fretboard with a clean, dry cloth. For a good clean, use a fretboard cleaner. Pledge products also work well if you’re on a budget.
Step 3: Identify Each String
You’ll want to be sure you insert each string in the right area. Do this by removing each string from the packaging and identifying them. You can do this by looking at the color ball on the end or by reading the label on the packaging.
Step 4: Insert the New Strings
Now you’re ready to install your new strings! Insert each string through the bridge entry. Pull it all the way through, being careful not to grind it across the bridge hole. Align the string over the nut guides and bridge saddle.
Step 5: Crimp
To crimp the strings, remove the string up to the turning post. Make sure you measure an additional two or three inches. Bend the string at a 90-degree angle. This is crimping the string. Attach the crimped part to the tuner.
Step 6: Trim
After crimping, measure the extra inch or half-inch of string from where you crimped it. Trim that part off with your wire cutters. After trimming, be sure to remove any twists. Do this by removing the string from the tuning post and slightly from the bridge. Reinsert the string and re-align it.
Step 7: Wind Down
Turn the tuning key to the right to tighten the string. Make sure your string stays pushed down on the post. Twist the tuning key until the ball end is secure on the bridge. The string should be tight but should also have some slack.
Step 8: Tune
Tune your new strings. You can use a tuner or tune by ear. Don’t fret if your strings keep going out of tune. This is normal; your strings have to get used to the tension. You can also stretch the strings so it stays in tune.
Go down the length of each string, pulling lightly around the 12th fret. Try tuning your strings again. Stretch your strings some more if you’re still struggling to tune them.
Finishing Your Bass Set-Up
If you’re using new string specifications, you’ll have to set up other areas of your bass. Your string size affects the action, truss rod, and intonation.
Keep in mind, if you installed strings of the same size, you can skip this step. You may want to double-check, just in case.
Start by measuring the neck relief. After tuning your bass, hold the lowest string on the first fret with your fretting hand. With your picking hand, position your thumb at the bridge and stretch your hand so your index finger taps a fret between your thumb and the finger on your other hand.
Start tapping the lower string with your index finger on the picking hand. Gauge how much space is between the string and the fretboard. The space should be the size of one or two cards.
From here, you can adjust the truss rod. Keep in mind, this takes skill and proper tools. If you’re not comfortable with this, take your bass to a repair technician.
If you do have the skill and tools, either tighten or loosen it, whatever you think the bass needs. Do this until you have the desired gap between the string and fretboard.
Adjust the saddle height. Measure the distance between the string and fretboard at the 12th fret. Using a wrench, adjust the saddle to achieve the ideal height.
Check the tuning. Play each string open to ensure it’s in tune. If the notes are sharp, there’s a chance the strings are too short. Move the saddle from the neck to lengthen the string.
If your strings are flat, there’s a chance the strings are too long. Move the saddle toward the neck instead. Using a hex screw and tine hex wrench, turn the wrench clockwise to raise the saddle and counter-clockwise to lower it.
Common Problems when Restringing Your Bass
Have you tried these steps and are still having issues? There are common problems that bass players face when switching out their strings.
Strings Are Lifeless
If one or more of your strings sound dead, you may be using the wrong type of string. Make sure you’re using the right strings to model specifications or if you properly set up your bass if using a new string size.
You should also research and ensure your strings are right for your playing style. If you already covered these areas, maybe experiment with a new brand of strings.
Understand that certain strings don’t sound as punchy as other strings. For example, it’s normal for the E or B string to not sound as great compared to another string, such as the A string.
This is a problem that most bass players will experience. You install a fresh set of strings, only for them to sound bad. There were probably issues with the way you installed the strings don’t fret, this is totally normal.
Not all bassists learn the art of restringing right away. Oftentimes, if you install the strings too close to the pickup poles, it can distort the sound.
There are other best practices to know to get a solid, consistent sound after restringing your bass. First, take a look at the tuning. Most bass players tune their bass slightly lower than preferred right after restringing.
Some bassists even had problems with the way their strings sounded after stretching them out. However, some bass players said they push the string down hard over the saddle, which helps them keep a consistent sound.
I suggest looking at all of these possibilities to see how you can improve the sound of your strings.
Can You Ask Anyone for Help?
Absolutely! There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to help you restring your bass, especially if you’re new. First, ask your bass teacher or any of your more experienced bass-playing friends.
If that doesn’t work, head over to YouTube and watch tutorials. There are also numerous bass forums as well as bass threads on Reddit and Quora. Members of those threads will be more than willing to help you with your problems!
I wouldn’t suggest going to a bass repair professional unless something is truly wrong with your bass. If you’re unsure, you can always take your bass into your local repair shop or music store and ask.
Question: Is it Easy to Restring a Bass?
Answer: It depends on the person. Some find restringing a bass to be easy and others avoid it. As stated previously, there are many resources to help you restring your bass.
Asking a bass teacher, your friends, watching tutorials on YouTube, and asking forums are all options. If you think replacing the strings isn’t solving your problems, take your bass to the local repair shop or music store.
Question: Is it Harder to Restring a Guitar or Bass?
Answer: Changing guitar strings is typically easier than changing bass strings. But restringing a guitar can also be difficult for some players, especially beginners.
Question: What Should I Tune My Bass to?
Answer: If you’re playing a four-string bass, the standard tuning (from top to bottom) is E, A, D, G. But there are various alternative tunings that may fit your style of music better. Be sure to know your ideal tuning before switching out your strings.
Question: Can a Professional Restring My Bass for Me?
Answer: There are professionals that can restring your bass, but it will cost you money.
The service may cost up to $50 (sometimes even more). If you restring your own bass, it usually costs you a fraction of that cost. That’s because all you need to buy are the strings and the right tools.
It’s worth it to attempt restringing your bass yourself and the process is easier than it sounds. I suggest going to a professional if you’re installing a new string size or if your first restringing attempt failed.
Question: How Do I Know which Bass Strings to Buy?
Answer: First, refer to the bass model’s specifications. If you’re playing those strings and they’re not giving you the sound you want, change the string gauge.
The thickness of the string determines both the tone and the feel you want. The heavier your strings, the richer your sound. Unfortunately, these strings are harder to play. I don’t suggest changing the string gauge until you’re more experienced at playing.
You can always experiment with different materials. Bass string materials vary between stainless steel, nickel, bronze, and other metals. The material is important because it determines your strings’ overall performance.
Nickel strings are popular because they have a rich sound but stainless steel sounds brighter. Choose a metal like bronze if you want a crisper sound.
Restringing a bass guitar is a challenge for all players. This isn’t a skill that most players immediately learn, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t gotten the hang of restringing your bass. However, restringing your bass regularly is important. We hope our guide helped you restring your bass as well as choosing the best strings.
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