When you are new to the guitar, many questions come up. But one simple thing that is often not considered is how to cut guitar strings. At some point, you will need to change the strings. Upon doing so, you will quickly realize that each string has a lot of extra length. This will need to be removed by cutting the extra material. But how?
Guitar strings should be cut close to the machine heads without leaving enough length to create injuries to your fingers when tuning. This can be done with side cutters or special tools made specifically for cutting strings.
In this article, we will explore the different ways to cut strings and look at why it’s important to do so.
Why Should You Cut Guitar Strings?
Cutting guitar strings is important for two main reasons. The first reason has to do with safety. If the strings are not cut, they will flop around as you play your guitar. This can potentially cause injury to your eyes and even your hands and fingers.
Manufacturers provide this extra length to make sure their strings fit every guitar possible. But they do expect that the guitarists will trim the strings once they are installed.
The second reason why cutting guitar strings is important has to do with performance. If the extra length of the string is hanging over your fretboard, this will make it harder to play the instrument. While you may have seen some guitar players leave the strings uncut, this will only distract you from playing.
And if you are a beginner, you will want to be as comfortable and focused as possible to master this instrument. It also makes it that much harder to put your guitar into the case!
Best Tools For Cutting Guitar Strings
Now that we know why it’s important to cut guitar strings, let’s look at how to do it. Once your new strings are installed and tuned up, it’s time to trim the extra length. The first thing to consider is what to use to cut them. There are a few tools that we recommend.
Guitar String Cutters
The best way to cut guitar strings is with a pair of specialized cutters. There are a few different guitar string cutting tools on the market that make the job incredibly easy. Some come as part of a set that also includes a winder to help install the strings. These are probably the best choice and should be in every guitar player’s case.
These cutters are sold in most music stores and can be picked up when you buy strings. This way, you will make quick work out of the job and will only need one tool to do it. They are also very affordable, so there is no excuse not to have a pair.
This is our recommended method when it comes to cutting guitar strings. We suggest the cutter made by D’addario here.
If you don’t have access to string cutters, then a regular pair of side cutters will do the job just fine. These are the type of cutting pliers that you would find in any home workshop and are very common. Just be sure that they are sharp and can cut through the string material.
If you have an old pair of side cutters lying around, test them on a spare piece of string before cutting the ones on your guitar. This will ensure that they are sharp enough to do the job without damaging the strings.
This is also a recommended method of cutting guitar strings.
How To Cut Guitar Strings Using Other Methods
If you don’t have access to the tools we recommend, there are a few other methods that can be used.
In a pinch, you can also use a regular pair of scissors. This is not ideal, but it will work in a pinch. Not all scissors will work, as some are just too flimsy. But if you have a pair of heavy-duty kitchen scissors, they should cut through the strings just fine, depending on the gauge.
Be very careful when using this method as you can easily damage the strings or even cause personal injury. There is also the chance of damaging the scissors if they are of low quality or if the strings are very thick. We only recommend this if you have no other options available.
As an absolute last resort, you can use a pair of nail clippers. We don’t recommend this as it’s very easy to damage the strings as well as the nail clippers. But if you have nothing else, it will work in a pinch.
Just be sure to use the larger clippers and not the smaller ones meant for fingernails. The smaller ones will likely not be able to cut through the guitar strings or even get them to sit in between the blades.
If you have a pocket knife, you may also have a tool built into it that can come in handy. Some pocket knives have a pair of scissors that would work good for cutting guitar strings. Some knives also come with a pair of cutting pliers that would do the job quite easily.
At the very least, if the knife itself is sharp enough, you might be able to break the string across it by repeated bending. Just be careful not to cut yourself in the process!
Use Your Fingers
If you don’t have any kind of utility to cut the strings at all, there is one other method that involves strong fingers and motion. Simply grasp the string and move it back and forth in the machine head until it snaps on its own.
Using this method requires you to weaken the string at the point that it comes out of the tuner shaft by mechanical force. The thinner strings are easier to break this way, but the thicker ones will take time.
Here is a video that shows you how to do it.
Where To Cut Guitar Strings
While some articles talk about cutting the strings to remove them, we are focusing on trimming the excess material that is left at the tuners. This is important to mention because you want to make sure to cut off the right amount at the tuners to prevent injury to your hands.
Leaving too much sticking out of the machine heads can cause injury, so it’s important to clip them at the right spot.
Most guitarists trim the strings, with a small amount left sticking out of the tuners. But this can catch your hands or fingers. The correct amount of extra string material to leave sticking out of the tuner is around 1/4″.
Then, once cut to the right length, bend the remaining string around the tuning peg so that it forms to the round contour of the shaft. This way, the string end cannot catch on to anything or anyone.
Trimming the extra material is part of the process when changing your strings. Not only is it important for safety, but it also prevents any rattling or vibration when playing. It will also provide a better experience overall as the fretboard is free of any obstructions.
We suggest that you invest in the correct tool for the job to make the process as easy as possible. Strings will need to be changed for the entire time you play the guitar. Might as well have what you need to keep it easy and fast.
Do I need to cut my guitar strings?
Trimming the extra length of string is very important and should be done with every new set. Not only is it important for safety reasons, but it also prevents any obstructions or unwanted noises from vibration or rattling.
Why do guitar players leave strings uncut?
Most players who do not trim the extra string material at the tuners believe that it looks cool. They normally coil the strings in order to prevent injury.
Some players also feel that it requires too much time and so if a string breaks at a gig, a quick change will usually be done with the extra length left uncut.