First I loosen the old strings about two half-tones (roughly a full turn of each tuner key). Then I completely loosen the strings in the following order:
G; E; D; A If your bass is more than 4 strings, loosen the outside strings, alternating sides, then the center strings with the heaviest center string being last. If a through-body guitar (2nd image), be sure no debris is left in the string hole.
I begin installing the new strings from heaviest to lightest. Be sure to run each string properly over its saddle. Start with the heaviest string (E on 4 strings) and with a bit of tension, measure the string to the 2nd post past its own tuning key post, then cut at a 45* angle with wire cutters, etc.
‘A-string’ and others, may not have a 2nd post past their own, so just pinch at their own post, then slide your hand back so you can measure the distance of 2 posts.
Yes, I skipped all art classes, beginning with kindergarten and my mother never put my stick-figure drawings on the fridge door, so I’ll have to explain my crude illustration – The string goes straight down, all the way into the tuner post hole until it bottoms out. Then give it a sharp bend 90° toward the center of the headstock, then a sharp bend toward the bridge.
Now use your string winder (or your lightning-fast fingers, if you’re old school!) to put just enough tension on the string so there is no visible slack. On 3×3 headstocks (most Gibson style), I like to do outer strings first, then center strings. For inline headstocks (most Fender style), I just go E; A; D; G.
Before starting to tighten a string, look back toward the bridge and be sure you’re not about to rip off a body ear or pickup, etc. Pulling the trigger on my screwgun stringwinder attachment in the situation shown above, would result in disaster!
Yes, I know the string goes UNDER the string guide! I’m just showing how I lube the guide.
Tuning Bass Guitar Strings
Starting with your lightest string (G string if a 4 string bass guitar), tune within roughly within a few halftones (Fb) and continue doing the same through the rest of the strings, though it’s fine to come closer (a halftone or two) for the heaviest strings.
Then go back to the lightest string and tune within a halftone and do the same until you get to E, which you can tune to pitch. Finally, run through the strings again, tuning each to pitch.
Stretch your Bass Guitar Strings
No, this isn’t a pic of a bass guitar, but it does show my method of stretching bass guitar strings using opposing fingers and thumbs to apply mostly horizontal pressure and moving from the bridge to the nut and back again, every couple of inches.
Retune each string as soon as you’ve finished stretching it, so it won’t “steal back” some of that stretch. You may need to go through three or four iterations of this until each string barely needs retuning after it has been stretched.
You should double-check your intonation once you’ve finished the string stretching and retuning process. I’ll cover guitar intonation in a future article.