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How to Restring a Classical Guitar Guide

How to Restring a Classical Guitar Guide
Latest posts by Calum Vaughan (see all)

Learning a new instrument can be full of challenges – deciding to buy the instrument can be a tough start to the journey, followed by the purchasing of accessories and music books. This is the case for any instrument, but I’ve always found it particularly true when it comes to the classical guitar.

Not only do you have to deal with all of the above, but you have the classic obstacle of having to restring the classical guitar! I can remember when I was told by my guitar tutor that it was time to get them restrung – I was absolutely terrified as it seemed so complicated, but luckily he was there to help me.

I’ve decided to return the favor by producing this guide on how to restring a classical guitar. It should help you get started if you are a beginner, and save you a pretty penny if you have been taking your instrument to Guitar Center all these years just to get restrung.

Read on to find out how to restring a guitar, why you should restring it yourself, some of my top recommendations for classical guitar tools, and more!

Bottom Line Up Front: Whilst it may seem intimidating to begin with, restringing a classical guitar is actually pretty simple once you know what you are doing, but it will help to watch some videos online or ask a professional for help. Then, as long as you have a toolkit such as the G String Music

Knowing when to Restring Your Classical Guitar

Before you get started on learning how to restring your guitar, it’s going to be important to know when it is appropriate to do so.

With electric and acoustic guitars, this is often quite obvious – the strings will become scratchy and rusty to the touch, and could even become thinner in places. In general, it will be pretty obvious, but this is not always the case with classical guitars.

If you play the classical guitar, you will already be aware that they make use of nylon strings as opposed to metal strings. As a result, this leads a lot of people to believe that classical guitars do not need to be restrung frequently.

I have met many people that believe you do not have to restring them at all, and this is only necessary when a string snaps.

This could not be further from the truth. It is always going to be necessary to restring any guitar when a string snaps – you’d be missing a string otherwise. However, classical guitar strings should generally be restrung every three to four months.

This depends on how much you play it – if you are only playing it a couple of times a week, then you could easily get away with only restringing them every six months.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that you will need to resort to timekeeping such as this, as you will be able to hear when your classical guitar needs restringing.

The sound will begin to sound flat as if someone has sucked the rich tones out of your guitar. The tone will generally just sound a bit duller. This is quite difficult to notice as a beginner, but once you restring your acoustic, you will notice a huge difference.

If you are ever unsure, feel free to ask a classical guitarist friend or even take your guitar to Guitar Center and ask for their opinion. Just make sure that you don’t let them charge you for restringing, you should learn to do it yourself!

Why Should You Learn to Restring Your Classical Guitar?

Restring a Guitar

As I just mentioned, it’s a great idea to learn how to restring your classical guitar by yourself. Sure,  you could just take it to Guitar Center two or three times a year, what would be the problem with that? I used to do this myself as it only cost $20 for a restring, so I wasn’t bothered about spending $60 a year.

However, I am so glad that I learned to do it myself, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, it helped me gain a more well-rounded understanding of the instrument.

As you will see in the next section, restringing a classical guitar requires you to be aware of all the essential parts of the guitar such as the body, bridge, neck, and tuning pegs. I learned a lot about the architecture of my classical guitar, and this was all down to learning how to restring it.

Secondly, I tend to follow life with an attitude of “if you want something done right, do it yourself”. There were several occasions that I took my classical guitar to get restrung, and I simply did not like the way it was done.

The tension did not feel right, the tuning was not how I liked it, and even the strings were not to my preference. When I complained that I was not happy with the restring, they told me that I should do it myself next time – and that’s exactly what I did!

Finally, knowing how to restring a classical guitar means that you will never be stuck without strings in a sticky situation. Imagine that you are practicing before a big concert or rehearsal, only to snap your E string an hour before showtime!

You wouldn’t have time to run down to the shop and get it restrung, but if you have some spare strings on you, you’d be restrung in no time!

Ultimately, restringing a classical guitar is just a good skill to have – plain and simple. You’ll be learning a new skill, saving yourself some money, and saving yourself a lot of hassle and time during those pesky string snaps. Plus, you can help your friends out and teach them how to do it too, it’s a win-win!

How to Restring Your Classic Guitar: a Step by Step Guide

Now that we’ve taken a look at when and why you should restring your classical guitar, it’s time to get down to the details and take a look at exactly how you should do it. Grab your guitar and follow along, you’ll be restringing your classical guitar in no time!

It might be worth taking a look at some videos and images online for each step or even asking for some help from your local guitar shop. It can be tricky to explain through writing, but learning it through hands-on experience is pretty easy.

Step 1: Detuning the Strings

The first step that you will need to take towards restringing your classical guitar is a pretty obvious one – you need to remove the restrings. You must do this correctly – do not be tempted to cut the strings off with a pair of scissors as the sudden change in tension can damage your guitar in all sorts of ways.

Instead, slowly twist the tuning pegs of each string to detune them until they are fully slacked and there is no tension. Then gently pull the strings out of their tuning pegs – this should be easy and will not require any force.

Step 2: Cutting the Strings

Restring a Guitar

Once you have detuned the strings and removed the strings from the tuning pegs, you will now need to get the strings off the bridge, as they will still be attached.

Start by removing the bulk of the string by taking some wire cutters and cutting the string at the bridge, leaving only a couple of centimeters of string attached. These remaining bits should be easily removed with your fingers, but you may need to use the wire cutter for some stubborn strings.

Step 3: Beginning the Restring

You’re now ready to get started! Begin by grabbing your strings, ensuring that you have carefully chosen the right strings for your guitar.  Take each string, and insert it into its appropriate slot on the bridge. You should find these slots at the bottom of the bridge.

Step 4: Wrapping the High E String

This next step is quite tricky. You will now need to take each string and wrap it around the bridge to create the bridge tension. Begin with the high E string. Take the excess string from under the bridge and form an outside loop with the remaining string, about two inches in length.

Loop the string two times over, leaving enough tension to reach the next string with the excess string. Tighten the loop exactly like how you would tie your shoelaces.

Step 5: Wrapping the Bass Strings

Once the high E string is wrapped, you can repeat the process for the B string, ensuring that you remember to leave slack and tuck it into the next string – this keeps the bridge nice and tidy. However, after completing this, you must move over to the bass side, wrapping the low E string.

Due to the bass strings being thicker, one loop should suffice. You can do this for the Low E, A, and D strings. However, don’t pull the D string tight just yet…

Here’s our complete guide on how to restring a bass guitar.

Step 6: Tucking the G string Into the D string

Now that you have looped the D string without pulling it tight, we are going to head back to the G string, as this will be tucked into the D. Loop it and pull it tight, tucking the excess string into the looped D. Only then should you pull the D loop tight.

Step 7: Attaching the Strings to the Headstock

Restring a Guitar

The strings should all now be attached to the bridge with decent tension, so it’s time to connect them to the headstock. Take the low E and bring it to the headstock, inserting it into the small hole on the low E tuning peg. Make sure you don’t get confused as to which peg is for which string, it’s a mistake I made when I first started!

Once you have inserted the string, take it out from the other side and loop it back around much like in the early steps, pulling the string tight after one loop. You should notice that there is now some tension when you lift the string. Go ahead and cut the excess string with your wire cutters.

Step 8: Tightening the String

Contrary to common belief you should always restring and tighten each string individually – don’t attach them all first and then tighten them all, as this can cause tuning instability. Simply take the tuning peg for the low E string that you attached, and begin to tune it up. Do this slowly, as you are dealing with tension.

Step 9: Rinse & Repeat

You will now need to reread steps 7 and 8 and repeat them for each string. By the end of this step, you should essentially have a fully restrung classical guitar, albeit a messy one!

Step 10: Tidy up the Excess String

Congratulations, you have successfully restrung your classical guitar. The only thing remaining is to tidy up that excess string dangling from your headstock. Some electric guitarists think this looks cool, but I’ve always thought it looks a bit silly, and can even be dangerous if it pokes someone in the eye during a performance!

Simply take your wire cutters and trim the excess string. I like to leave a tiny bit of excess, perhaps just a couple of centimeters, as it makes it easier to remove the strings in the future.

My Top Recommendations for Classical Guitar Restringing Tools

Well, that step-by-step guide should hopefully have left you with everything you need to know about restringing your classical guitar! It can be a stressful process, to begin with, but once you know what you’re doing, you’ll find it super easy.

One thing that makes the restringing process significantly easier is having some restringing tools. I’ve put together a list of some that I would recommend, hopefully, they will help you as much as they helped me!

Jim Dunlop String Cutter System 65 Guitar Tools (DGT07)

Jim Dunlop String Cutter System 65 Guitar Tools (DGT07)

The first tool that someone restringing a classical guitar needs is a string cutter – that might sound obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people I have seen attempt to use scissors or even a knife. Any wire cutters should do the trick, but I’m a particularly big fan of this string cutter produced by Jim Dunlop.

The tool is designed specifically to cut guitar strings and therefore cut with perfect precision every time, something that I have struggled with when it comes to using standard wire cutters. They are also lightweight and easy to maneuver, and there’s something about the dark and metallic aesthetic that I like!

At the end of the day, this is just a string cutter so it’s nothing too exciting, but it’s a necessary tool and Jim Dunlop does the job perfectly. It’s a little bit on the pricey side, but it’s the kind of thing that you only need to purchase once, so it’s worth it.

Pros

  • Designed specifically for cutting guitar strings, including classical
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Sleek black and metallic aesthetic

Cons

  • A little on the pricey side for a single-use tool

D’Addario Pro-Winder String Winder and Cutter

D'Addario Pro-Winder String Winder and Cutter

The next classical guitar restringing tool that I would recommend is the D’Addario Pro-Winder String Winder and Cutter. Much like the last tool, this is essentially a string cutter designed for guitar use, but there’s a twist – it includes a string winder!

This is essentially a mechanical tool that will rapidly wind up your guitar strings for you, saving you from having to twist the tuning pegs over and over again.

It’s a really handy tool and it could be argued that it is a significant upgrade over the previously mentioned Jim Dunlop string cutter. However, I have to say that whilst this is a useful two-in-one tool, I think there is a slight sacrifice in quality.

The cutter itself doesn’t feel as heavy-duty, and the winder is made of fragile feeling plastic. I’ve never had any problems using it so I would still recommend it, but it’s worth mentioning.

Pros

  • Includes both a string cutter and a string winder
  • Even cheaper than the Jim Dunlop tool, yet with double the features
  • Lightweight and easy to use

Cons

  • The quality is a little low, feeling cheap, weak, and plasticky in places
  • The cutting tool is not quite as effective as the Jim Dunlop equivalent

G-String Music’s Guitar Neck Rest Support Cradle + Guitar String Winder and Cutter Tool

The final tool on my recommendation list simply has to be G-String Music’s Guitar Neck Rest Support Cradle + Guitar String Winder and Cutter Tool. As the name suggests, this tool provides next-level three-in-one functionality, including a string cutter, a string winder, and most uniquely a neck support cradle!

This cradle provides a place for you to rest your guitar neck when you are restringing it, making it easy for you to fiddle around with the strings whilst ensuring that the guitar isn’t damaged.

It also includes a two-in-one cutter and winder tool, which I must say still does not match the quality of the Jim Dunlop string cutter. However, I would still say that it is of a higher quality than the D’Addario equivalent, and it’s similarly priced too. For an all-in-one restringing tool, you can’t do much better than this!

FAQs

We sure have covered a lot throughout this guide – we’ve taken a look at why it is important to learn to restring your classical guitar, when to do it, how to do it, and which tools you should acquire to make the process as simple as possible!

To round things off, I’ve written the following FAQ to answer any of those last burning questions that you may have. I hope they are useful to you!

Question: What Tools do You Need to Restring a Classical Guitar?

Answer: To restring a classical guitar, you only really need string cutters and spare strings, although it helps to also have string winders and a neck rest cradle.

Question: Is Restringing a Classical Guitar the Same Process as for Electric Guitars?

Answer: Restringing a classical guitar is very similar to electric guitars, except you have to tie knots and apply tension manually, whereas electric guitar strings are typically designed so that this is not necessary.

Question: Is It Better to Have a Professional Restring Your Classical Guitar?

Answer: It can be great to have a professional restring your classical guitar first so that you can learn from them, but learning to restring it yourself will save you money, and time, and be super convenient for when it is needed.

Question: How Do You Safely Remove Strings from a Classical Guitar?

Answer: Never cut the strings directly from the guitar – always ensure that you fully tune them down first to remove all tension, and only then should you remove and cut them.

Final Thoughts

That brings us to the end of this guide on how to restring a classical guitar. Take it from me – as someone who has been playing this instrument for over 15 years, I can’t imagine going back to taking my guitar to Guitar Center for restringing.

It’s much more convenient to learn how to do it yourself, and whilst it may be difficult the first time, you will get the hang of it in no time.

Remember to search for images and videos to help you along with this step-by-step guide, and it may even be worth printing the guide out and having a professional talk you through it.

Regardless of which you choose, don’t forget to equip yourself with the right tools. I couldn’t recommend the G-String Music’s Guitar Neck Rest Support + Cutter/Winder, you won’t need anything else once you have this multitool!

I wish you all the best for restringing your classical guitar, and remember – have some perseverance. This can be a difficult skill to learn, but once you have mastered it, it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier!