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Stretching Guitar Strings – Back in the Day
For years I stretched my guitar strings just like everyone else: by hand. As much as I hated stretching guitar strings this way, I never questioned it because that’s how we all did it–there really was no alternative. And like most things guitar-related, everyone had their own way of stretching guitar strings and all argued that theirs was the right way.
I eventually settled on MY way, which I call the “bottle opener stretch” (shown below), and this method served me well for many years. You see a demonstration of this in my article: How to Stretch Guitar Strings.
It seemed to be the best method of all those I’d tried over the years. Regardless, stretching guitar strings was still somewhat imperfect and just kind of a pain in the ass:
- It was a little painful on the fingers
- It took too long–I recon an extra 5-10 minutes to stretch all strings, what with retuning and all
- Even after stretching, some of my strings would continue to go a little flat for a few hours while I played, requiring me to constantly retune
Enter: The String Stretcha™
Then, one fateful day some years ago I encountered a guitar tech quickly zipping a little black device up and down a fresh set of strings he’d just installed. When I asked him about it, he introduced me to “The String Stretcha.” When he said the word “stretcha” I thought he was trying to be cool with some kind of street slang or something, but that’s actually what the device is called: “The Stretcha.”
I did a little homework, watched a few demo videos online, and thought it looked pretty cool. I was mainly impressed with the company’s claims of how quickly you could “properly and thoroughly” stretch all your guitar strings and actually be done with it–not have to continue retuning as was usually the case with stretching guitar strings by hand. That, combined with the guitar tech’s testimonial, convinced me to buy one and give it a try.
How it Works
It’s probably easier to show you how The String Stretcha works than to try and describe it, so I’ll do both. It essentially applies a similar kind of “bottle opener” pressure that I’d been doing with my hands all those years. The big difference is that it slides this pressure evenly up and down the string, unlike using your fingers to make dozens of of little twists all along the string.
First, you seat your string between two grooved contact points on The String Stretcha, as shown below.
Once the string is seated in the two contact points of the Stretcha, move it as close to the bridge as possible. This’ll be your starting point. Then, lift slightly and angle your hand back a bit (like pulling a lever). Slide The String Stretcha all the way down the string toward the nut, and then all the way back to the bridge.
Once you get back to the bridge, remove the Stretcha from the string and tune it back up to pitch. Now run the Stretcha back up and down the string one more time. Tune, and you’re done. Move onto the next string. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Lastly, here’s a video demo from the manufacturer’s website:
The manufacturer does not recommend making more than 2 passes on each string, claiming that you can actually overstretch a string. I’m not sure what this means or what the implications are, but between you and me, I’ve done it 3 times per string with no ill effects. However, 3 times isn’t actually necessary. A string is completely stretched and stable after just 2 runs with the Stretcha.
Recap: What I Liked
- It’s fast. You can thoroughly and completely stretch all 6 (or 7, or 8) strings really quickly. I’ve not timed it, but I think I can have my 7-string guitar done in 3 minutes or less.
- It’s easy. It’s not complicated or difficult to use. Slide it up and down the string a couple times. Bam. Done.
- It stretches evenly and thoroughly. Run The String Stretcha up and down a string twice and that’s it. You’re actually done. The string is totally stable and stays in tune.
Recap: What I Didn’t Like
- Hard to slide on really heavy wound strings. The Stretcha slides effortlessly on unwound strings and lighter wound strings. However, there’s friction on heavier wound strings–roughly anything above a .052 gauge. It’ll still slide, but takes more effort.
- Potential to contact fretboard. While stretching guitar strings with the Stretcha, the leading tip could contact your fretboard if you’re careless. You have to be especially mindful as you get near the nut, where string pressure really pulls the Stretcha downward.
- Potential to lift the string out of the nut slot. As you approach the nut, you can lift the string out of the nut slot. Just place your thumb on top of the nut and you can prevent this.
The Final Verdict
I gotta be honest, I love this thing. Since purchasing The String Stretcha, I’ve completely stopped stretching guitar strings by hand. The things I listed under “don’t like” above are really only minor annoyances and not really problems for me. The time savings and tuning stability that The String Stretcha affords has been great, and I’m glad I don’t have to do the arduous task by hand anymore. My fingers are much happier.
The Stretcha can be found fairly cheap on Amazon.com. I think it’s a good value, unless you just really like the ritual of stretching guitar strings by hand.