Changing the strings of a classical guitar with nylon strings can be tricky. You’ll need to learn to tie the strings firmly and securely knot them to prevent them from slipping or snapping. But don’t worry; with a bit of patience and the help of my guide, you’ll be restringing your classical guitar in mere minutes.
It is crucial to learn how to restring a classical guitar, and it is definitely not as complicated a task as you might think. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into my step-by-step guide for restringing a nylon-string classical guitar.
How to restring a classical guitar: step-by-step guide
Actually, the only tool you really need to restring your classical guitar is a new set of nylon strings. But there are some tools that can make the process a lot easier.
- New set of strings: This is the only “must have” thing you need for restringing a classical guitar.
- Nail clippers or scissors: To cut the excess parts of the strings, it is a good idea to have a nail clipper or scissors.
- Cleaning materials: Another good idea is to have some cleaning materials like microfiber cloth and lemon oil. This way, when changing the strings, you can take the opportunity to clean your guitar, especially the fretboard.
Step 1: Tune down the guitar and remove the old strings
The first thing to do in the restringing process is to tune down all the strings until the strings are loose enough to unwind easily and have no tension. Then, unwind and pull out the strings from the headstock and unwrap the knot at the bridge. Finally, remove the strings from the bridge by pulling them out of the saddle holes individually.
Step 2: Clean the guitar (optional)
While cleaning your guitar is not a “must” for the restringing process, this is always a good opportunity to give your instrument a quick wipe-down, at the very least.
Dust often accumulates above the bridge area. You can use a clean rag or a microfiber cloth to wipe the dust off.
The most important part of a guitar to clean is the fretboard. The grime and finger oils accumulate over time on the fretboard. Use a slightly damp cloth to rub the fretboard, and if it is extra dirty, use some steel wool or guitar-safe degreaser.
After the cleaning, apply a small amount of lemon oil to the fretboard to rehydrate it. But be sure not to use too much oil; this can cause the fretboard to get too oily. Also, avoid using lemon oil on the classical guitar’s body, as it can damage the finish. Leave the lemon oil for around 30 seconds to 1 minute to dry out before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Adjust the height of the nut and bridge (if needed)
After cleaning the guitar, adjust the height of the nut or bridge if needed. This way, you can control the action and tension of the strings. Generally, classical guitars have a 3 to 4 mm string action on the 12th fret. So you can lower or raise the saddle or nut to control the action, increasing or decreasing the string tension.
For instance, if you want to lower the action by 0.5 mm, you should lower the saddle two times that amount or 1 mm.
Check out this video to visualize the process of adjusting the action of a classical guitar:
Step 4: Tie the treble strings to the bridge
After cleaning your classical guitar and adjusting the action, it is time to start putting on the new strings. First, place your guitar face up on your lap (I find that this is the easiest position to work with).
A set of classical guitar strings is broken into 3 treble strings and 3 bass strings. The treble strings (G, B, and high E) are thinner and made entirely of nylon, while the bass strings (Low E, A, and D) are thicker and have a layer of silver or copper around the nylon core.
To start restringing the treble strings, take the high E string and pass it through the applicable hole in the bridge. Push the string through the hole until there are around 2 to 3 inches of excess string length on the other side of the bridge hole. This excess string will be used for the loop and the knot that secures the string.
Now, wrap it over the bridge tie block and under the main part of the string. Then cross over the string on the tie block and wrap it under the excess string on the other side. Finally, cross over the string again, and loop under. Pull the string tight to secure it properly.
I know this can be confusing, so watch this video that walks you through the bridge-tying process:
And this is it. You have just tied your first string! Now you can apply the same technique to the B and G strings.
Step 5: Tie the bass strings to the bridge
Restringing the bass strings is a bit easier than higher strings. The main difference with bass strings is that you only need a single loop instead of tying multiple loops.
All the other processes are exactly the same. Feed the string through the hole and loop it a single time, tuck it under the excess string below the bridge, and pull it tight.
Step 6: Tie the strings to the tuning pegs
After knotting the strings at the bridge, secure them to the tuning pegs of your classical guitar. For this step, take the string and pass it through its tuning peg on the guitar’s headstock. Make sure the string always passes through the hole toward the backside of the guitar.
If the hole is in a difficult position, turn the peg to make the hole face in a more accessible direction.
Next, loop the string around the tuner and feed it through the loop. Pull tight, creating a loose knot on the tuner.
Repeat the process for all six strings.
Step 7: Tune the classical guitar
After the strings are all secured at the bridge and the tuning pegs, it is time to tune them to the correct pitch. Slowly raise the tension of all six strings until they start to make an audible pitch, and then use a tuner to tune the guitar strings to the proper pitch. In general, I recommend tuning the low E string first and moving incrementally to the higher strings.
After tuning each individual string, you should then retune all previously tuned strings. This is because each adjustment to the guitar’s tension will knock the other strings out of tune. Tuning in this way also preserves the tuning stability of your classical guitar and prevents it from going out of tune as often.
For example, after tuning the D string, go back and retune the A string and the low E string.
Step 8: Stretch the strings and retune
After successfully tuning the classical guitar, stretch all the strings by placing your index finger on the third fret and pulling up on the string about 2-3 inches at the soundhole. This will inevitably knock all the strings out of tune again, but it will increase your tuning stability. Finally, retune your guitar once again.
Step 9: Trim the excess string lengths
When all the strings are in place and tuned, it is time to cut the excess string lengths from the pegs. For this, you can use your scissors or nail clipper. If there are any excess strings around the bridge, you can also trim them.
Trimming is more than just a process about aesthetical parts of things, as too-long strings can sometimes cause buzzing.
How to choose your classical guitar strings
So, now you know how to restring a classical guitar, but what type of strings should you use? There are several things to consider when choosing classical guitar strings, such as the material, the string gauge, and the tension.
While classical guitar strings are made of various materials, the most common material by far is nylon. The treble strings are pure nylon, while the bass strings come with bronze or silver wrappings over a nylon core. Historically, classical guitars were strung with gut strings made from the lining of sheep stomachs. However, with the increase in the production of nylon, gut strings quickly fell out of favor as they were more expensive and more difficult to mass produce.
You can also occasionally find classical guitar strings made of black nylon, carbon fiber, and composite. Black nylon has a warmer tone than traditional clear nylon strings, while composite and carbon fiber have a much brighter sound and are less common.
Never use steel or nickel strings on a classical guitar, as the instrument is not designed to handle the tension of these types of strings.
Classical guitar strings come in various gauges (thicknesses) that affect the tension and heaviness of the strings.
Thinner strings are easier to play as you can bend and use various techniques easier. But thicker strings sound fuller and better. Thinner strings also tend to break easier.
Tension is another important factor to consider when choosing your string gauge. Heavier string gauges have a higher tension and are, therefore, harder to press down. However, this added tension makes the classical guitar louder overall.
Lev’s picks: classical guitar strings
Here are some of my top picks for classical guitar strings.
- D’Addario ProArte
- Augustine Classic Nylon Normal Tension
- Hannabach Low Tension Silver Special
- Savarez Corum Alliance
Things to consider when stringing a classical guitar
Here are a few things to consider when restringing a classical guitar.
Be patient with the tuning, as the tuning can go flat quickly as the new strings stretch out. So give some time for the new strings to settle in, play them for a while, and stretch out the strings, as I covered in the step-by-step guide. After a few hours of playing, the classical guitar’s tuning should be stabilized.
Wash your hands
Whenever you play guitar, washing your hands is a good idea to prevent the strings from getting gunky, oily, and dirty. This way, you can increase the string life, keep your fingerboard clean and decrease how often you’ll need to change the strings.
When to change the strings
While there is no definitive answer to this, I advise changing the nylon strings every 3 months or after 100 hours of play. But many factors affect the frequency, so this is more of a personal decision.
You can check my article “How Often To Change Guitar Strings?” to learn more about this topic.
So, now you have read and completed the steps for restringing your classical guitar, and your guitar should be sounding crisp and clear! The restringing process may seem complex and intimidating, but you can get it done quickly and easily with the proper technique, tools, and patience.
If it was your first time restringing your guitar, and you had some struggles, do not worry! Every musician has been there before. Remember that it gets easier every time!