How To Change Strings On The Classical or Spanish Guitar

Hi there. I’m Thomas Michaud. In this video I’m going to show you from beginning to end how to change the strings on the classical guitar. Being able to change strings is an important part of leaning how to play guitar. Now, this can be quite an adventure and I know the first time I did it I was in for quite a time, but knowing some tips and tricks along the way will make it a lot easier. It’s the kind of thing that once you’ve done it all the way through it’ll be easier and easier. Second and third time, you’ll be a pro. Let’s get started.

One of the trickiest parts is tying the string up on the bridge as well as tying it so it doesn’t slip out where the machine heads are. I’m going to change the D-string, I’m going to put this D-string on my guitar and let me show you a couple of tricks.

What to Have Ready Before You Start

  • Pack of New Classical Guitar Strings
  • String Winder
  • Wire Clippers
  • Polish Cloth and Guitar Polish (optional)

When you put the string here on the bridge, this is a wound string, slide it through, give it a two-three inches, wrap it around once and then slide it so that the string rests on top of the little end of the string and presses down on it. It’s going to hold it there with pressure. See when I pull the string is on top of the small end of the string and it holds it down with pressure. I’m holding it with a little bit of pressure here as I tie it inside here. These wound strings don’t slip out as easily as the unwound strings. I’m tightening it and then I’m going to pull back just about two or three inches.

Now I’ll pull out my string winder, a must have for changing strings, and wrap it around. I’m looking to see, see, I have about two inches sticking out, and I’m trying to wrap it so that the string is nice and compact, not flying all over the place. Wow, without the string winder this part takes forever. Until it’s tight. Okay, just getting it so it’s tight enough. I’m going to go and tune the string afterwards, I’m not going to worry about that until I change all the strings, but I want to get it so it’s tight enough and it’s not going to slip.

Now, because it’s a wound string it’s probably not going to slip here. If it was the unwound string I would want to do an extra knot there.

One of the things I really like to do is to use wire clippers. First I use them to start to take the old strings off of my guitar. I want to loosen up the strings before I cut them. I don’t want them smacking me in the face for one thing, but also there’s some risk to a really nice handmade nylon string guitar by taking it from high tension to all of a sudden releasing it. This makes it a little more gradual. I’ve already put on the fourth string, I’m going to leave that one, that’s brand new. The rest of them are old.

Once I get them loose enough to where they’re not going to smack me in the face then I cut them right here, close to the bridge and then I clip them up here because it makes it a lot easier to get them off, up here at the top. Then when I’m done I can pull out that short little piece that’s wound around the machine head.

One of the trickiest parts is tying the unwound strings to the machine heads here. It’s tricky because if you don’t do it right what they’ll do is they’ll slip out and as you’re tuning it up it will slowly be slipping and it will seem like the guitar is not getting in tune. At some point it will just pop off. I’ve learned over the years to be extra careful with the unwound strings. I’m going to put them in the machine head and then come around and do a very simple knot, tighten it, so it’s the pressure of the string is forcing the string to stay in place and then tune it up. Let me show you.

I have here a high E string. That’s the thinnest of the unwound strings
I’m just going to get a gauge on how much string I need. I want a lot of string there, so I’m just going to back it up, give me just a couple of inches left over there and do a simple knot. Then, as I wind it, of course, I’m going to use my string winder, I’m going to hold it there so that string is winding around itself. After I wrap it around once it’s going to stay put. Almost there. A lot of winding, but I want the extra windings on the thin strings, so they don’t slip. Okay. That’ll hold it in place.and we’re going to slide it through the bridge like we did with the wound string. Oops, still have a bit of nylon from the old string on here. As I slide it through you’re going to have the same issue here. It wants to slip out easily. I’m going to wrap it around once, wrap it around itself again and then wrap it around itself again. It’s sort of a simple knot. I’m wrapping around three times total. Can you see that? Then I tighten it. I’ve got a little bit of string hanging out here. That’s okay, we can cut that later. We’re going to do something else. I hold it in place, it stays, and on this side I’m going to wrap it through.I’m going to show you a trick to attaching the string on the bridge that will help it not slip out so easily. I’ve got the second string here and I’ve already put on my first string. What I do is I put the second string, the unwound second string, in through the bridge. The first string, I have a little bit hanging out here and I’m putting the second string underneath that part. As I wrap the second string around it’s actually going to hold down that first string at the same time. Wrapping the second string around once, twice, that should give me enough tension there. As I put down it’s actually sitting on top of the little end of the first string. It’s holding it down.It also looks nice there, it looks like a little braided effect, so I’m going to go ahead and tie this string up here like we did in one of my other videos. When I’m done the strings will, one after the other will be tied by the string after it all the way up until I get to the wound strings. It looks good and it holds the string down, makes it harder to pop out or slip out rather. By the way I’m using D’Addario, I really like these titanium D’Addario classical guitar strings. They’re Pro-Arte EJ46TT, titanium is the TT part. I reserve the right to change strings and decide on something new anytime. There’s no absolute right or wrong, but these are the ones I’m enjoying most recently and I think they’re a really good string and they hold up well.I’m putting on the last of the six strings, the bass string, the one with the most winding. Okay, got it through. I’m wrapping around here around on the bridge. I’m holding down the last of the strings and I’m going to wrap it so that the small end is going back into the strings. I don’t want it sticking out the side. As I finish this, one other little tip I want to remind you is if when you’re done any of these little strings are hitting the face of the guitar, the little ends of the strings, you want to either pull them up or even clip them a little because it will make a buzzing sound when you play the guitar. That’s down here, these little ends. I don’t have any of them hitting, but sometimes they’ll be down hitting the guitar and it will make a buzzing sound. You’ll be wondering what’s going on.This, I’ve just put all six strings on  and I’m finishing up, cleaning up. One of the things I want to do is clean up some of the strings that we got poking out here up at the headstock. I want to cut them, but leave a quarter inch or so. If you cut them too short you’re risking them slipping out. There we go, but I don’t want them poking me in the eye either. Use some judgment here. The thinner, the unwound strings rather, are riskier for slipping out. Hopefully if you put enough winding there and you tie them that’s not going to happen.Okay, that’s looking pretty good. I’ve looked over here and I have no strings touching the face of the guitar. Those are going to buzz, and I need to tune up the guitar. Don’t get attached to getting it perfectly in tune. Nylon strings are going to stretch. You want to get it somewhat in tune and then let it sit for a while and come back and tune it again later. To do that what I usually do is I get one of the strings tuned, maybe the low E string. Let’s see, turn on my tuner here. It’s really low. D, D sharp.You want to have a chromatic tuner. A guitar tuner is really difficult to use for this because they don’t register unless you’re in the range of the string. When you first put on strings they’re way out of tune. D sharp. Getting close to E. Okay, it says I’m on E, it’s going to slip fast.

When I first do that I’m going to tune the string a little high, then I’m tuning the other strings by ear. I can do that, I’ve been playing guitar for a while, you might need a tuner for this, it will just take you longer. Going to the high E string. Don’t worry if it’s exactly in tune. I’m providing some tension on both sides of the guitar.

Now I go back and get that A string. You can use your tuner here if you want. Again, don’t worry, it’s going to slip. Just get it to the A and leave it. G sharp. That’s close enough. Going for D. A little sharp, that’s okay. Next G. That’s good, a little sharp and B. See, it’s going to stretch. And A sharp, B, let’s go a little sharp. I want to give them all a little bit sharp. It’s going to stretch, especially those high strings. Now I’m going to leave the guitar to sit for about half an hour and come back and tune it up again later.

Well that’s it for changing the strings. Once you’ve let the guitar sit for a while you’ll probably want to tune it up a few times. The strings will stretch and after sitting overnight they’ll stretch even more, but after a day or two they should be stable.

Thanks for joining me in this video “How to Change Strings on the Classical Guitar”. I look forward to seeing you in one of my other videos. Take care.

 

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