As a burgeoning — bludgeoning? — Bending Blues Guitarist, I am shocked, SHOCKED!, by the bad advice and the rotten technique I witness on the internets, and on YouTube, demonstrating the wrong way to properly stretch a new set of guitar strings.
Let’s take a look at the bad technique memorialized in internets imagery.
Our first example is the “Under Finger” method employed to “lift up” the strings for the stretching in a dimension and angle you never use while playing!
Here’s another example of the same, bad, “Up-Stretching Strings” technique. What? Why? Why stretch in a direction the strings were never made to move?
Finally, the “Pinch Me, Pull Me, I’m Making a Tent” technique strangles each, precious, string straight away from the fretboard. I think this is the most common — and still utterly wrong — way of stretching your strings.
This way of “Twisty Sideways” bending of the string is sort of on the right path, but with overwhelmingly the wrong execution. Who bends a string like that while playing?
Here’s another “Extreme Kinking” sensation. Again, this is almost the right idea, but the method is impure and rather horrible.
Here is an example — not of a proper string stretching technique — but rather evidence of a simple Blues bend. Bending your strings just like this is actually the only proper way to stretch your strings — if you still feel you must.
The idea behind stretching your guitar strings is so they will stay in tune better. New strings are stretchy, and people who do not have a lot of patience or time to tune their strings, go to extreme measures to stretch their strings to get them to behave in tune.
Unfortunately, straining your strings with the examples you’ve witnessed in this article only creates weak spots in the wire, and if a string is weakened, that means it will not hold any note very well and might very well break while playing. Players are wildly stretching their brand new strings only make them last half as long.
You really don’t need to stretch your strings at all. Just play your guitar. Do some bends. Your strings will more naturally stretch, and then you just re-tune your guitar as you play for a few days. Easy peasy!
If, however, you are dead set against never stretching your strings, here’s the proper way to make them stretch.
Bend them in situ, not straight up, or by bending them against each other or their own spine or windings. Bend each string as if you are playing — but don’t strum or pick. Let the nut and the bridge be the endpoints for your string bends without any right hand interference.
Bend each string at least a step and a half at the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, twelfth, fifteenth and seventeenth frets: All those stops are clearly marked on the neck of your guitar. Or you can bend along each fret if you like. Bend the treble strings up. Bend the bass strings down. Hold each bend to the count of three.
By using my “In Situ Strings Stretch” method — I guarantee your strings will last longer, stay in tune better, and find their natural, most pure, sound and reverberative in the core core faster — because you are training your strings exactly how you want them to ring and behave in precisely the way your fingers plan to play them.