1. Before restringing for Nashville tuning, measure the action in standard tuning with normal strings.
This dial caliper provides precise readings in thousandths of an inch. 2. A close-up of the dial caliper
used to measure action.
Take Preliminary Measurements
Before you start any guitar project, first
analyze the instrument’s general setup.
Write these measurements down, so you
can refer to them later if you decide
to return your guitar to its original
1. Tune the guitar to concert pitch. To
measure the string action—the height
of the strings from the frets—I like to
use my trusty old dial caliper, though
alternatively you can use a precision
metal ruler or string-action gauge.
I typically measure from the top of
the 12th fret to the top of the low E
string (Photos 1 and 2), and then
record the measurement. I do the
same for the high E string.
2. Note the amount of relief in the neck,
and then measure the string height at
the nut. (For a detailed explanation of
how to measure neck relief and string
height at the nut, see “DIY: How to
Intonate a Flattop Guitar,” April 2012,
or go to YouTube to view the companion
video for that PG article. YouTube
search term: DIY: How to Set Up and
Intonate an Acoustic Guitar.)
Restring the Guitar
Now you’re ready to remove the old strings
and install the new ones.
1. Be sure the new strings are the correct
gauge. The easiest and most popular
way to do this is to string your guitar
with the four octave strings from a light-gauge
12-string set, as well as one each
of the set’s doubled 1st and 2nd strings.
From 1st to 6th string, these high-strung
gauges are typically .010, .014, .008,
.012, .018, and .027. Simply install the
strings as you would normally.
2. Tune to pitch as follows: High E
(1st string) and B (2nd) are tuned
to standard guitar pitch. Next, tune
G, D, A and E (3rd–6th) one octave
higher than normal. Strum the chords
to a favorite song and dig the jangly,
3. After removing the standard strings and restringing with high-strung gauges, check that all
open strings vibrate freely when seated in the original nut. 4. With Nashville tuning, strings 4–6
are replaced with thinner gauges and tuned one octave higher. Only one string is wound—the 6th.
In most cases, these thinner strings can actually be played in the wider, original nut slots (shown
here), in which case you’d stop at this point. But for optimum sound and playing comfort—string
spacing is noticeably affected when using these thinner strings in the original nut—savvy guitarists
equip their instrument with a new nut that’s cut for the specialized high-strung gauges.
1. Check action. If it needs to be altered,
either adjust the truss rod for the proper
relief (it should have a slight forward
bow) or adjust the saddle height, or both.
Tip: If you have any doubts about how
to adjust a truss rod, get a guitar repair
book or study the manual that came
with your instrument. Many manufacturers
offer free online instructions for
adjusting the truss rods on their guitars.
2. Examine how the strings sit in the nut
slots. Even though the new strings have
much smaller diameters and look out of
place in the large nut slots, it’s only the
slots’ depths that matters in relation to
the frets, and that remains unchanged.
To check string height at the 1st fret,
hold each string at the 2nd fret and
tap the string down onto the 1st fret to
determine if there’s a small gap between
string and fret (Photo 3). If so, you’ll
be able to play the guitar as it is and
bask in the sound of Nashville tuning.
Even if all the open strings clear the
1st fret and vibrate freely, the string
spacing will be noticeably affected, and
the new low strings may look and feel
considerably spread out (Photo 4).
You have two choices here: One is
to do nothing further—if the guitar
plays and sounds great, then you are
ready to roll (and rock). But on our particular
guitar, the strings no longer lined
up perfectly along the neck, so we opted
for the second choice: Make a new nut.
Step 4: (Optional)
5. To loosen the original nut, use a small
hammer to gently tap a wood block
against the front and back of the nut.
6. Carefully pry out the original nut.
Remove the Original Nut
Before you remove the old nut, take a
moment to look at the distance between
the low E (6th) and high E (1st) strings,
and also notice how each one lines up
along the edge of the neck.
Now you are ready to remove the
1. If there is a build-up of lacquer
around the nut ends, use a razorblade
to score along the nut edges. This
prevents the lacquer from chipping
when you remove the nut.
Tip: It’s a good idea to measure and record
the distance between the two outside
strings, as well as their individual distances
from the fretboard edge at the 1st fret.
These three measurements will allow you
to calculate string spacing on the new nut.
2. Next, using a piece of scrap wood
(approximately 6" x 2" x 1/2") and a
small hammer (I use my fret hammer),
gently tap on the front and back edges
of the nut until it is loose enough to
remove (Photo 5).
Tip: The wood block needs to be wide
enough to span the whole front or back of
the nut, so there will be equal pressure along
the nut surface when you tap the block.
3. A jeweler’s flathead screwdriver works
well for prying out the loose nut