There’s a debate in the guitar world, a friendly argument between two schools of thought around changing guitar strings.
One side says you should only ever change guitar strings one at a time.
The other says you should remove them all at once.
So, can I take all the strings off my guitar at once?
Removing all the strings from your guitar at the same time will not impact the integrity of the guitar itself.
Any guitar that sustains damage or needs repair because all the strings were removed at the same time, had much bigger underlying problems.
It is perfectly fine to remove all the old strings from your guitar, and then replace them with new strings.
Is it bad to take all strings off guitar
Some guitarists argue that it’s bad to remove all the strings at the same time.
They say it’s because the neck is under tension, and to remove all the tension at once will deform or cause structural issues with the guitar.
The neck of the guitar is supposed to be really stable and rigid.
So, if you allow it to go from a lot of tension to no tension, this change may cause problems.
The problem with this thought is that you’re under the assumption your guitar is fragile and needs to be cared for like a baby.
The truth of the matter is that guitars can be smack around a lot, and sustain not permanent damage, it happens all the time.
Guitars are strong! At least any decent guitar from a reputable brand.
While the strings do provide a lot of tension on the neck, relative to the maximum tension your guitar COULD sustain, it’s barely anything.
Guitar necks can be under nearly 200 pounds of tension.
That’s a lot, however, guitars aren’t sitting around waiting for a child to come along, play with the tuners, and suddenly snap in half when the tension gets to 201 pounds of tension.
No, rather most guitars could probably withstand double the tension it usually holds, without issue.
The metal truss rod inside the neck of the guitar is well… metal.
The entire job of a truss rod is to offset the tension from the strings.
Therefore, this entire debate is forgetting one critical hidden part of the guitar, the truss rod.
It’s not going to bend into a pretzel overnight.
Should the truss rod begin to curve, it’s literally designed to be adjusted, or rotated to solve this very problem.
String tension is literally a joke to a well built guitar.
In fact many luthiers recommend that if you have to store a guitar for a long duration where it won’t be played, you should de-tune the guitar.
De-tuning or loosening the strings will take all the tension off the neck.
You would also want to ease the truss rod, but without tension on the neck what’s going to happen to the guitar?
Taking all the strings off an acoustic guitar is perfectly fine, there’s no need to worry.
Is it better to change guitar strings one at a time?
If you’re really worried about your guitar, changing strings one at a time isn’t going to hurt.
I personally wouldn’t change strings this way, but you won’t be hurting the guitar by changing them one by one.
The Idea would be that you would only be removing one string’s tension at a time, therefore lessening the swing in tension the neck would sustain.
This is true, there will be a lesser swing in the amount of tension if you go one by one.
It’s just not necessary to do this, but if you prefer to change strings this way, there’s no reason you can’t
Why you should remove all your guitar strings at the same time
By removing all the strings at the same time, you gain a couple benefits vs changing guitar strings one by one.
If you remove all the string at once, it will make cleaning and spotting fret wear much easier.
Cleaning your fretboard is a necessity during every string change.
An unattended fretboard can quickly turn into a gross mess of forgotten finger grime.
You should be thoroughly cleaning your fretboard everytime you change strings.
If you take strings off one by one, you’re making the cleaning process more difficult on yourself.
Further, you don’t want to get cleaning solution or cloth fibres on the new strings.
Taking all the strings off will allow you access to clean the frets, easily and quickly.
It’s also much harder to spot fret wear if you don’t have all the strings off.
Frets wear down over time, and it can be much more easily observed and monitored if you have the strings off.
So, there’s a couple reason I like to change all my strings at once.
Working as a guitar tech, we never changed strings one by one, and never had any issues.
In theory, yes, removing all the string smay cause swings in tension, which again, in theory, may stress the neck.
However, I’d love to see proof that this actually damages anything on the guitar, to the point where it’s worth avoiding.
It’s like saying you should never drink out of a glass water cup, because you can chip your tooth.
That’s very true, you could chip your tooth, but every day millions of people successfully navigate a glass of water to their face.
Just like with the silly analogy above, you might put strain on your guitar by removing all the strings at the same time, but it’s negligible.
Take all the strings off your guitar at once, it allows for easier cleaning, and to spot any issues with your guitar.
If you’re worried about tension issues, you can certainly change the strings of your acoustic guitar, one by one, it won’t harm anything.
The take away should be that guitars are tools, work horses.
Yes, the can be ornate, and some people have a lot of sentimental value on their guitar.
That doesn’t change the fact that every well built guitar is a tool designed to sustain neck tension for the duration of the instrument’s life.
In other words, if taking all the strings off at once causes problems on your guitar, your guitar has bigger issues prior to the strings coming off.