Old bass strings may lose their tone and become harder to keep in tune. You might feel comfortable at first having a teacher or someone at a music store change your strings for you, but eventually you will need to know how to do it yourself. Changing the strings on a bass is not as difficult as it may seem and the best way to learn how to do this is by practicing. New bass strings cost a little more than guitar strings; the first few times you change the strings yourself, buy a cheaper set to get used to it. How often you change your strings depends entirely on how much you play, but if the same strings have been on it for months, it’s probably time for a new set.
Most strings attach at the headstock in the same way, but on some basses (like traditional Fenders) all of the machine heads will be on the top of the headstock.. Other basses may have either one or two of the machine heads on the bottom of the headstock. Before removing the old strings from the bass, examine the way they’re attached and try to duplicate that with the new string. The strings should always wind around and come away from the posts towards the middle of the head-stock.
Follow the series of photos below for a basic description of how to change a string. Before trying it yourself, read through the quick tips for beginners on the following page.
Turn the machine head to loosen the string.
Remove the old string from the tuning post.
Pull the old string through the bridge and remove it from the bass.
Thread the new string through the hole in the bridge and pull it through to the headstock. Make sure the string is taught and resting in the correct groove in the nut, then measure between 4 and 5 inches past the machine head the string is being attached to and cut the excess off with a wire cutter.
Insert the freshly cut end of the string directly into the hole inside the tuning post and bend the string downward into the groove on the post.
Tighten the string until the slack is all taken up and the string sounds like a note. Check to make sure the string is sitting in the correct space on the nut; at the bridge, make sure the string is resting on the saddle properly. At the tuning posts, each string should coil down under itself and should come away from the post toward the middle of the head-stock.
You can cut the old string off the bass, but you may want to unwind it instead and save it as a spare in case you break a string later. You can temporarily bring old bass strings back from the dead for a short time by putting them in a pot of boiling water for ten minutes.
Check to make sure you have the correct string in your hand before putting it on the bass, it’s easy to mix them up if you don’t check and double check.. Bass strings come in different gauges, from light to medium to heavy. Lights are better for beginners, but the heavier, thicker strings get a meatier tone. Bass strings also come in round wound (standard) and flat wound styles. Flat wound strings are smooth and tend to have a warmer mellower tone. Flat wounds are recommended for fretless bass; the rough texture of round wound strings can chew up a fretless neck pretty quickly.
Be sure to wind the string around the tuning post in the proper direction (see photos), and leave enough slack to wind the string around the post several times. The string should wind around the post underneath itself to form a nice, neat coil. If you’re unsure of how much string to cut off the end, overcompensate and give yourself more string to wind on the post. Be careful not to cut too much off the end.
Once the extra slack is taken up and the string is taught, tune it very gradually to pitch, being careful not to over tighten the new string.
Check the ends of the string to make sure it is sitting correctly on the proper saddle and space on the nut.
New strings (especially bass strings) will go out of tune very quickly until they are broken in. You can massage the new string with your thumbs and fingers once it’s on the bass, working along the entire length of the bass, slightly stretching the string out and helping to break it in. Then retune the string and repeat this process a few times for each string.
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