Why Nylon Strings?
There are a number of reasons why a teacher might want to use nylon strings over steel:
- The strings are softer, therefore easier on the fingers of young learners.
- They have a gentler sound than steel-string guitars.
- The neck is easier to maintain because the tension on the strings is much less than on a steel-string guitar. This means that there is no truss rod to help keep the neck in the proper position because there doesn’t need to be.
- They come in all sizes to fit the various young musicians in your group.
Awesome right? But what if a string pops or wears out on your nylon-string guitar? It looks like some fancy knot-work down there at at the bridge. This handy step-by-step guide will help you re-string your first nylon-string guitar.
There are various reasons why strings might need to be replaced. The main one is that strings wear out. The three silver-wound nylon strings on a typical nylon-string guitar are particularly susceptible to wearing out at the fret markings. They can wear right through to the nylon filament underneath. Old strings, for a number of reasons can just break unexpectedly. Also, when young musicians are learning to tune their guitars on their own, strings are often wound too high and will pop. You will find that the silver-wound nylon strings will need to be replaced much more often than the three clear nylon strings. So what do you do when a string inevitably breaks or needs to be replaced?
What You Need
Just like anything you do, having the proper tools is paramount. Here is what you will need:
- String cutter and string winder multi-tool—This fancy tool is easy to find but you could also get a string cutter and a string winder separate that do the same thing.
- Spray Cleaner and cloth—While you have the strings off, you might as well clean the instrument.
- Guitar Repair Stand—This is optional because much of this can be done on your lap.
Step 1: Taking off the old strings
You could unwind it and then unravel the knots or you could unwind, cut it, then unravel. Just cutting and unraveling works too but then you risk the string popping up into your face. From personal experience, unwinding, cutting, and unraveling it is much easier and you have no need to hold onto the string after it’s been removed.
Step 2: Routing the new string in the holes and tying the knots
Unravel your new strings from the package. If you are stringing the 6th E string, and it has a ‘wobbly end’ that is the end that goes into the bridge. It is there to help secure the bridge knot. I recommend tying the bridge knot first. The stringing process is much easier if you begin at the bridge. To tie the bridge knot, follow these steps:
- After it is through the hole, wrap the end of the string under the rest of it on the other side of the bridge to make a loop to the right of the instrument.
- Pull it tight but with a little bit of slack left at the bottom to loop the string through one more time.
- Once you routed the string through the slack at the bottom of the bridge, pull it tight to anchor the string in place. You do not have to be gentle. They are designed to take a bit of abuse.
Leave a fair bit of slack in the string but not enough to crowd the tuning pegs. To tie the peg knots, follow these steps:
1. Route the string through the hole in the tuning peg on the top-side of the the guitar.
Wrap it around the other side and route it back through the same hole. This is optional for the 6th E string. It is common practice for all the others. It helps to anchor it in place.
In the third picture above, hold the string with your hand and guide it into place with your forefinger while pulling it with the rest of your fingers. Use the multi-tool to wind it up and trim the excess.
Step 3: Winding it up
Depending on what string you are winding, determines which way the wind goes. Check this picture for reference.
Step 4: Stretching and tuning
Brand-new strings will not stay in tune because they need to be properly stretched. Manual stretching of the new strings can be an effective way for your strings to get in tune and stay there sooner.
You will need to tune the string a couple of times after stretching. Use an electronic tuner to get the string as close as possible to in-tune as you can. The more often it’s in tune, the more it stays that way consistently.
I hope this calms your fears about restringing a nylon-string guitar. I can now do an entire nylon-string guitar in 15 minutes. Pretty quick! Let me know your thoughts.
Until next time, Happy Musicking!