Knowing how to string a classical guitar can save you money over time, since guitar shops will charge to place the strings for you. Stringing a classical guitar is slightly different than stringing a steel string acoustic guitar because of the material used to make classical guitar strings and the way the strings are affixed to the guitar's bridge. In some ways, stringing a classical guitar is a bit more difficult, but with a bit of practice you can change your classical guitar strings quickly and efficiently.
To string your classical guitar you will need:
- New set of nylon classical guitar strings
- String winder (optional)
- Scissors and wire cutters
- Guitar tuner
- Remove the old strings. Some guitarists will argue whether it is best to remove all the strings at once or to replace them one at a time. Generally, one at a time seems to be a better option, since it maintains the tension on the guitar neck rather than loosening it all at once and then tightening it again. To ensure you know which strings are old and which are new, you can mark the strings before you start. A small piece of cellophane tape wrapped around each old string before you begin is an easy-to-use marker.
- Thread the strings through the guitar bridge. Classical guitar strings are threaded through holes in the bridge. The strings then must be tied in place. The traditional "knot" involves wrapping the string around itself, then tucking the end under the resulting loop. The end can be looped under once for the bass strings, but must be looped under several times to secure the treble strings. Some classical guitarists tie a knot at the ends of the strings rather than using the looping method, or combine the two methods to ensure the strings are securely held.
- Attach the strings to the tuning pegs. As with the bridge, the strings must be securely wrapped around the tuning pegs in order to remain in place. Whereas steel strings will "bite" into the pegs, the nylon strings of a classical guitar will slip off if they are not looped over themselves on the tuning pegs. Some practice and experimentation might be in order to determine a method you are comfortable with. Some guitarists will also stretch the strings before affixing them to the pegs so that they will settle into tune faster. If desired, trim the ends of the strings with scissors or wire cutters to make the headstock look neater.
- Tune the strings. After all strings have been placed, tune them with the guitar tuner. You will probably have to retune the guitar several times over the next few weeks as the strings settle. Classical guitar strings, particularly the treble strings, will slip and stretch for a short period of time before they reach a point where they can hold a stable tone.
If you are planning a performance, new strings can greatly improve the sound of your guitar, but be sure to change them a few weeks ahead of time to give the strings a chance to settle in.
Classical guitars should always be strung with nylon strings designed specifically for the classical guitar. Regular steel strings will place excessive stress on the neck of the guitar and could cause permanent damage.