Changing strings – nylon-string classical guitar

Photos: Miloš Berka

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Here’s what you need for the procedure: A string winder comes in very handy for taking off and putting on the strings, and a tuner is needed to get the guitar up to pitch. I use a pair of scissors to make life a little easier for myself (see below). A polishing cloth may come in handy for cleaning and/or protecting your guitar.

There are different string tensions available. Unlike on a steel string or an electric, you can use any type of classical guitar string on your guitar without the need for a complete set-up. A differently tensioned set won’t noticeably affect your intonation, but it will make a difference in the guitar’s feel, action and sound – feel free to experiment.

I’m a big guy with a strong touch, so I use high-tension sets…

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First you need to slacken the strings completely. If your guitar’s tuners are particularly hard to turn, use one or two drops of light oil on the cogs, or try loosening the (black) screws which hold the cogs to the tuner posts by a tiny amount.

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Once the strings are free from tension, I use the scissors to cut each string into two pieces. I find this makes taking the strings off a little easier, because you don’t have to feed all the string through either the tuner or the bridge for removal.

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Untie the knot at the bridge…

…then remove the old string from the bridge…

…as well as the tuner.

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Feed one end of the fresh string through the neck-facing side of the bridge.

Take the short end sticking out towards end of the body…

…and tie it into a sling, by first feeding the short end under the long piece and then tying to itself.

The final result should look somewhat like this.

Some guitarists use a different technique on the lower three strings, utilising only one large loop. Both ways are valid, but the slightly more elaborate way seems to work best for me.

Here’s a picture of a Ramírez strung in the other way:

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Feed the other end of the string through the appropriate tuner…

…pull it through and lock it in by putting the string end underneath the part going to the fingerboard…

…and then wind it to pitch.

This is what the result should look like.

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I find it easiest to string up a classical guitar from the nut upward, so I work in pairs – E-e, A-b, D-g.

You can do some string-stretching on a nylon-strung guitar, just the way you’d do it on an steel-string or electric, but in general nylon strings need much longer to settle into pitch. So, don’t be annoyed or alarmed if you have to retune rather often during the first few days of use!

By the way: Some professional classical guitarists don’t change the whole set each time. The three top strings, which are all-nylon, usually tend to stay useable for longer than the three bass strings, made of a thin fiber core and spun with soft metal.

There’s no real scope for intonation-adjustment on a classical guitar, so once the strings are on you’re ready to go.

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