How to Change Nylon Strings on a Classical Guitar

(For those who use a guitar with steel strings: You can also follow these instructions, but you do not need to loop the strings to secure it through the bridge.)

For every guitarist, knowing how to change strings is a must.

Here are the steps in restringing a classical guitar:

1. Unwinding the old strings.

(That is my personal preference because sometimes I give away the strings that I just used only for a short time. It’s because I just tested them if they fit my guitar well and then I restring my guitar again into better strings. So that’s why I want to preserve the strings. Meanwhile, some people use a string cutter to remove the strings faster and if the strings are already worn out.)

Pic. 1 - Unwinding strings

Pic. 1 – Unwinding strings

Unwinding the strings can be done faster by using a string winder (If you do not know what this is, you can see it in music stores or you can search it on the internet.), but you need to take extra care in using this because over-winding may cause string snapping and/or a broken guitar head gear. Some people say that you need to change one string at a time. That means not totally removing all the old strings from the guitar because the guitar neck still needs the tension caused by the strings attached to it. It’s because the wood is sensitive to different changes on the tension applied to it. On the other hand, some people say that it is okay to remove all the old strings at the same time. As for me, I do both. When I need to clean the guitar neck, bridge, and the other guitar parts, I remove all the strings at the same time. But when I’m not doing a thorough cleaning of the guitar neck and other parts, I change strings one at a time.

Unwinding the strings is done by turning the tuning peg in a clockwise motion (when held the guitar in the playing position). This is the same as when you lower the pitch of the sound produced by the string.

2. Attaching the new strings.

Make sure you know the right place for each string. The strings are numbered from 1 to 6 being the 1st string as the thinnest and the 6th string as the thickest. When you are in a guitar playing position, the string that should be nearest to you or directly below your chin is the thickest one. That is the string labelled as E – 6. While holding the guitar in the playing position, the order of the strings should be E A D G B E (thickest string to thinnest string or 6th to 1st string being the 6th string as the one directly below your chin).

Following the right order of strings:

a. Push the E – 6 string through the bridge’s hole.

Pic. 2 - Pushing Through the Bridge's Hole

Pic. 2 – Pushing Through the Bridge’s Hole

b. Loop the string just like in the picture below:

(Looping the string just like this is not needed if you have guitar bridge beads or string-tie beads. They make this work easier and for some guitarists, they have an aesthetic purpose. If you don’t know these, you can search it on the internet. They are the ones you can attach to the end of the string; they are like the ones attached to the end of steel strings.)

Pic. 3 - Looping the String

Pic. 3 – Looping the String

c. Then loop the string again through itself just like in the picture shown below:

Pic. 4 - Looping again

Pic. 4 – Looping again

d. Pull the string to make the loop tight. The number of loops made is important to make the string secured on the bridge.

Pic. 5 - Tightening the Loop

Pic. 5 – Tightening the Loop

e. After you have secured the string loop, cut the excess string at the bridge, but leave at least half an inch so that the string would not go off. However, you may want to secure the strings more like in the picture shown below. To do this, just insert the excess string in the loop of the next string you are going to attach.

Pic. 6 - Strings Secured

Pic. 6 – Strings Secured

f. Turn the tuning peg so that its hole is facing you and then insert half an inch of the string through it.

Pic. 7 - The Peg's Hole

Pic. 7 – The Peg’s Hole

Pic. 8 - Inserting String in Hole

Pic. 8 – Inserting String in Hole

g. To keep the string in place, press the string by pressing your finger above it after you have looped the string just like in the picture shown below. This will secure the string while you wind it. To wind the string, turn the tuning peg counter-clockwise (just like when you are tuning the string to make the pitch higher) or you can use a string winder. Make sure that as you wind the string, you cover the half inch string that you pushed through the hole is pinched under the same string or the string loop.

Pic. 9 - Pressing the String With Your Finger

Pic. 9 – Pressing the String With Your Finger

Pic. 10 - Winding the String

Pic. 10 – Winding the String

h. Tune each string to set the right tightness and tension. Depending on the brand of the strings (because of the different modifications the companies made to them), the strings may take hours of playing or a few days before it sticks to its right tightness to the guitar. After changing strings, you will notice that even if you have tuned properly, the strings will easily get out of tune. It is because the strings need time to settle its right tightness and tension to the guitar. After tuning a few times and playing with the guitar’s new strings, it will not loosen that much anymore. Although, every guitarist must know that tuning every now and then is needed for a guitar.