Introduction: How to Re-string a Classical Guitar

Introduction: Changing strings on a guitar is something that can make a world of a difference in the sound of your playing, and the general well-being of your guitar. I remember when I first learned guitar that it was a little tedious and sometimes frustrating so I didn’t like to do it much. But as I became more experienced in playing, and began to play for audiences, I realized how important it was. Changing strings on a guitar is something that happens less frequently than it should. This is a tendency a lot with beginners, or casual guitar players. However, when you change the strings on a guitar there is a noticeable change in sound: it becomes richer, and fuller for example. So the purpose of these instructions are to teach you how to re-string your classical guitar so that you can keep it sounding great.

Here are some materials that will be needed: new guitar strings, guitar, wire cutters, string winder (optional), something to help you tune the new strings correctly (I recommend a guitar tuner).

Step 1: Determine If You Need to Re-string Your Guitar

There are various indicators for when you should change your guitar strings including: Rust or other discoloration of the strings, keeping the strings in tune is more difficult than usual, you can’t remember the last time you changed the strings, the tone of the strings sounds “dead.” Of course if you break a string you will need to re-string it as well. If you feel like you see any of these indicators then it’s time to change the strings.

Step 2: Get the Right Strings

Remember that acoustic and classical guitars use different strings. Each package will tell you, but classical guitars use nylon strings, rather than steel. Using the wrong type of string can cause damage to the guitar. Also choose the gauge of string you would like. Lighter is generally easier to play, but have less sustain to them, meaning it doesn’t ring out as long. Heavier gauge is more powerful and has more sustain, but is harder to play.

Step 3: Know Which String Is Which

Standard tuning for a guitar, going from lowest string to highest string is tuned like this: E, A, D, G, B, e. The lower case “e” always means the high string. Most strings will come with instructions as to which string is which. For example: color coding the strings. They will have a little bit of paint on the bottom to determine which string is which (This is how D’Addario does it).

Step 4: Loosen the Old String

Twist the tuning peg so that the string loosens. If the guitar is stringed correctly, then you should turn each tuning peg counter clock-wise in order to loosen the string.

Step 5: Remove the String

Once the string has been loosened quite a bit (you should be able to pull the string from the fret board pretty far) then untie the bottom of the string at the bridge of the guitar. If you are having a hard time getting it untied, it’s usually a good indicator that you need to loosen the string even more. Using the wire cutters to loosen the string from the bridge is helpful. Just be careful not to scratch the guitar.

Step 6: Attach the New String to the Bridge

Putting on the new string can be a bit tedious, but over time with practice it will become simpler and faster.

Feed the new string through the hole located in the bridge. Feed the string around itself by going underneath it (between the string and the guitar’s body). Then feed it through itself again a few more times. I usually do it 3 times, and then pull it tight. It needs to be pulled tight in order for it to not come undone. When you tune the strings the tension is very high, and so if it isn’t tight enough it will untie itself. To ensure it’s tight pull it on opposite ends of the string at the same time.

Step 7: Feed the String Through the Tuning Machine

This step is pretty simple, but if done wrong can cause some problems. Feed the string through the hole in the tuning machine. Make sure it also feeds through the groove on the nut of the guitar. If it isn’t in the groove of the nut as you begin tightening the string, it can cause damage to the strings.

Step 8: Wrap the String Around the Tuning Machine

You will need to wrap the string around the tuning machine a few times before you can begin tightening so that it remains in place. Otherwise the string will come undone. Pull it tight as you wrap it. Also make sure to wrap over the far side of the tuning machine, rather than under it so that when you use the tuning head it will be going in the right direction.

Step 9: Tune the String

Turn the tuning head clockwise while pulling the excess string tight. If you don’t hold it tight it can come undone. As you turn the tuning head clockwise the pitch of the plucked string should become higher. If it isn’t you probably fed the string the wrong way. Using a tuner you can determine when your string is at the right pitch. As you tune it up to the right pitch, I find it helpful to occasionally press down on a fret (usually the 5th) and pull upwards on the string to help it flex. Be careful not to tune too fast at high tension or it could snap the string. This is also when you would use your string winder if you have one.

Step 10: Clip the String

Using a pair of wire cutters, cut the excess string so that it is out of the way, and so your guitar doesn’t look like a mess at the head.

Step 11: Repeat

Do the steps again for each string, other than step 1. You will most likely change all your strings at once, unless you break a string while performing, or after already recently changing your strings. Remember that the strings have to become used to the tension and will be in need of re-tuning for the next little while. Usually within the week, depending on how much you play, they should not have to be retuned often.