How to Change Your Classical Guitar Strings
If you are a beginner you may be a little intimidated by the prospect of restringing your classical guitar but it is a skill that is worth learning and one which will prevent you from having to visit the guitar shop for help. Over the course of time strings do wear and will eventually break so it is worth restringing regularly to avoid this happening. On the other hand you don't want to waste the money spent on good strings by replacing them unnecessarily. Strings don't break very often but when they do it is generally the result of wear or overtightening the knot at the bridge. So when is the right time to restring your guitar?
There are a few tell-tale signs that your strings need replacing. The D string will begin to show distress at fret 2. This could mean that the metal winding is close to cutting through, leaving the string unprotected and in danger of snapping. The bass strings will begin to sound woolly meaning that the higher harmonics start to disappear and the sound of the instrument will lack volume and sustain. This issue is the result of corrosion which is caused by the grease in the fingers and any creams or lotions used on the hands. It is wise to wash your hands before playing as good hygiene will result in a longer life for your strings. Poor technique will also lead to excessive wear. Heavy finger pressure will cause increased string and fret wear so a lighter touch is best.
You may be wondering roughly how long strings should last. Well that will depend on how often you play and your playing style. The harder you work the guitar the quicker the strings wear out. Amateurs may be less concerned about or less aware off the degradation in sound and replace their strings only once a year whereas a professional musician may change theirs several time each month. You will find that the top strings will outlast the bass strings. The top strings do not degrade but they do stress, sometimes unevenly, and this can lead to poor intonation.
Strings need time to settle before they can be used to perform effectively and so it is best to restring your instrument at least 10 days before you are due to perform. If you only play in private then this is not an issue. The time it takes the strings to settle varies between the various makes so it helps to stick to the same brand once you have discovered which you prefer. There is no big secret to getting the strings to settle. Don't over tighten the strings, simply tune the guitar a few times each day to keep the strings at the right tension and they will settle quicker.
Changing Nylon Strings
Classical and Flamenco guitars are strung with nylon strings (three treble strings which are clear or opaque and three bass strings which have a metal coating) and these tie onto the bridge. The system originated with gut strings. There are a number of ways to tie them and the method you use should be a matter of personal choice but here we will provide our suggestions and guidance as to the entire procedure for replacing your strings. As you gain confidence you can explore the different methods that musicians use when restringing.
Before you start it helps to have the right equipment to hand for the task. You will find that a string winder, a wire clipper and a tuner will prove useful.
Your first task is to remove the existing strings. This can involve cutting them which should be done with care. There is a lot of tension on those strings and releasing this suddenly could cause damage to your guitar. It is best to unwind each string a little to release the tension before you cut it. We suggest that you start with the low E string and then cut the high E string. Then repeat the procedure with the A and B string and finally cut the middle two strings. Alternatively unwind the strings at the headstock and remove without cutting. Remove each string in turn carefully. Do not start working with new strings until you have cut and removed all of the old strings.
You are now ready to start stringing your guitar. You can add the strings in any order but we would suggest starting with string 6 and then applying string 5 and so on. This is because string 6 settles the fastest and so will provide a good basis to tune to when you have finished stringing.
Before you start stringing it is a good idea to stick a Post-It note or similar onto the guitar above the bridge to prevent damage to the top.
Place the guitar on your lap or a secure surface and take your first string. Take the end of the string and pass it through the appropriate hole in the bridge. Pull it through until you have enough string to work with. This will be about three inches but you will learn exactly how much you need with practice.
Take the free end and tuck it under the string from the treble side and then pass it back toward the end of the guitar away from the string creating a bend. Then pass the free end under the loop you have created one or more times to fashion the knot and finish with the loose end trapped below the back corner of the bridge. Some people will pass the end around more times when knotting the treble strings then the bass strings as they are more prone to slipping. Pull gently to tension the knot but be careful not to pull too hard.
Now it is time to move to the other end of your instrument. Take the free end of the string and pass it towards the head. Turn the appropriate roller so that the hole is pointing a little up and towards the head of the guitar. Pass the string through the hole from underneath and pull it through leaving a little slack. Pass the free end of the string across the top of the roller and the tensioned string and then turn the tuning peg to wind the string around the roller and over the free end of the string. This will hold the loose end in place. Continue turning the roller and guide the string to ensure that it is neatly coiled and that each coil is adjacent to and not lying over the previous one. The coils should work towards the tuning peg and should not reach the sides of the peghead. If you leave the correct amount of slack when you pass the string through the hole in the roller you should achieve 4 to 6 wraps or coils. Trim the remaining free end.
Repeat the same procedure with each string in turn. When you form your knot at the bridge tuck in the loose end of the previous string for a tidier look and trim the excess. When you have completed all of the strings you should tune the instrument beginning with string 6.
The following videos show slightly different techniques for restringing a classical guitar.
With time and practice you will learn to restring your instrument proficiently and doubtless discover your own preferences and techniques. Always use high quality strings from the best manufacturers and you can find these right here at London Guitar Studio. If you have any questions about guitar strings our expert team are always happy to help so do pop in or give us call!