Changing your guitar strings is a must when they get old or simply break, and not all of us have a pair of pliers or wire cutters lying around.
Guitar strings can be cut with other tools apart from pliers, including scissors, pocketknife tools, or some strong nail clippers. You can also use bending techniques that will break the string at the place you want.
No matter how you cut or break the string it’s important to be careful not to prick your fingers with the sharp string ends, and also keep them away from your eyes.
I’m going to show you a few easy ways to cut your guitar strings if you don’t have pliers, and at least one of these methods is bound to work for you.
What Do I Need to Cut Guitar Strings?
Let’s take a look at a list of things you might have lying around your house that could be used to cut your guitar strings, and honestly you are bound to have something you can use as a tool.
The list below should give you some good ideas, and what you end up using might depend whether you are cutting a string to remove it from your guitar, or cutting the end off after fitting a new string.
Cut Guitar Strings with a Pocket Knife
Almost everyone has a pocketknife, and if not you can always grab one at a dollar shop.
Some pocketknives have pliers built-in with a side cutting function, and many also have a small pair of scissors that would do the job.
Cut Guitar Strings with a Sharp Craft Knife
Using the edge of the knife blade you can kink the guitar string sharply, and then flexing the string back and forth at that point will cause it to break.
This will work quite well for the thin strings, but will be much harder for thick strings, and can leave a messy end on the cut string with the outer winding coming away from the core a bit.
Cut Guitar Strings with a Pair of Scissors
You could also kink a guitar string over the sharp edge of some scissors, or simply use them to cut the string. The easiest way is to have the string as close to the hinge as possible when cutting it.
If you have a more industrial pair of scissors they are less likely to get damaged, and something like a pair of kitchen shears would be a good choice.
Start by cutting a small thin string and observer for any damage on the scissors before moving to heavier strings.
Cut Guitar Strings with Some Nail Clippers
This might be a desperate move unless you really don’t care about your nail cutters. They are unlikely to survive without damage, however they are cheap and if it’s all you have they will get the job done.
Cut Guitar Strings with Two Coins
If you have a loose guitar string and just need to break it at one point, then you can hold the string firmly between two coins. Hold the string firmly in one hand, and bend the string back and forth with the coins until it breaks at the edge of the coins.
Like other bending methods, this can leave a jagged edge on large wound strings where the break occurs.
Cut Guitar Strings Using the Tuning Post
If you have already changed your strings and need to cut off the excess string at the tuning post, then one way is to bend the string back and forth at the post, and it will break off without leaving a sharp edge sticking out.
Some guitarists always do it this way, but others don’t like this method as the winding on the larger string can recoil a bit, with the chance of poor tuning stability later on.
The best way is to experiment for yourself and see if you get good results.
If you have wound the strings correctly on the post (especially the higher strings), then you should get a good result.
Cut Guitar Strings with Sharp Humor
Yes, a good joke or some sharp wit are known to cut through almost anything. Try it at your own peril, as really funny humor may accidentally cut your guitar in half.
How Do You Take Guitar Strings Off Without Tools?
Taking guitar strings off without tools isn’t too hard, and I have done it many times myself so I can keep strings as emergency spares.
When you see string change video tutorials they will normally cut the strings off for the sake of speed, and also a guitar shop has no need to keep old strings.
So if you want to keep the strings, just release the string tension by unwinding the tuning peg until the string is loose enough to unwind off the post.
- The tricky part is pulling the coiled end through the bridge to take the string off your guitar.
- You can help this by straightening the coiled part a little with your fingers first, but be careful with the smallest strings as it’s VERY easy to prick your fingers with the sharp end.
The bridge on an acoustic guitar will be the hardest to pull a kinked string though, and you may need to coil the string around a couple of fingers to have enough grip to pull the string out of the bridge.
Should I Cut My Guitar Strings?
Some guitarists prefer not to cut the end off strings after fitting new ones, and prefer to leave them hanging out.
If you are inclined to leave your string ends uncut, then a good option is to hold each string between your thumb and a coin near the post, and then zip the edge of the coin up to the string end.
This will cause the string to coil up tightly so you don’t have sharp ends sticking out to poke you in the eye!
The Best Tools for Cutting Guitar Strings
Side Cutters / Wire Cutters
In my experience, a pair of side-cutters are the best option for cutting guitar strings, and are great for cutting the string off neatly at the post without leaving a sharp string edge poking out.
There are many names for them such as wire cutters, diagonal cutting pliers, diagonal cutting nippers, shear tool, or flush cut pliers.
Your best option is to plan ahead for the next string change/break, and buy some side cutters in advance.
Make sure they are good quality hardened steel (or stainless steel). A small pair is best that are designed to cut very close to one edge, this allows for a clean string cut with no sharp edges sticking out.
Guitar String Cutters
You can of course buy dedicated guitar string cutters of different qualities, and some of them are just branded side cutters that will cost you more money than a pair from a hardware store.
You can also get some cheap cutters like the ones below, and they will do an acceptable job.
A bonus with these cheap tools is they also have a pin puller for acoustic guitar bridge pins, and a tuning peg winder to make changing strings faster.