How To String A Classical Guitar
Ahh, the tricky one.
Classical and flamenco (nylon-string) guitars are the scary ones when you’re starting out with stringing (and they’re still a pain when you’ve been doing it for years).
While it’s generally not necessary to ‘tie’ strings on other instruments, when we’re talking about nylon-stringed instruments, we do need to learn a couple of knots.
Don’t panic, don’t panic. You don’t need a scout’s knot-tying badge. It’s not too bad. Honest.
There are lots of variations in classical stringing methods and I’ve tried plenty of them over the years. What I’ll show you here is the method I’ve been using for a while and I believe it’s the easiest.
Tying Nylon Strings at the Bridge
First up, we need to anchor the string at the bridge.
Take a look at your string. Usually, you’ll find that one end has its windings wrapped a little more loosely—essentially, one end is ‘floppier’ and more flexible. This is the side we’ll tie to the bridge.
The raised, squared part at the rear of the bridge is the ‘tie block’. That’s where we tie our strings on.
Tying the Wound Strings to the Classical Bridge
Starting with the sixth string, tie each wound string as indicated:
NOTE: In the photo, I’m demonstrating with the 4th (G) string. I felt it would be useful to see how the completed ties looked as you stepped through the process.
Photo 1. Pass the flexible end through the appropriate hole in the tie block. Leave about two or three inches (50–75mm) free.
Photo 2. Bring the free string-end up and loop it around the rest of the string from the treble side, before pulling it back towards the end of the guitar.
Photo 3. Now, loop the string-end under itself and, as you begin to take out the slack, make sure the ‘knot’ part stays at the rear of the tie block, (i.e. below the top corner). The photo makes this a little more clear.
Hold the string-end so it can’t move (it’s important it stays at the rear, below the corner of the tie-block) and pull tight on the rest of the string. This should lock it so it stays in position on its own.
Tying the Plain Strings to the Classical Bridge
The unwound strings are a bit more slippery. While it’s essentially the same procedure, we’ll loop these twice when we’re knotting them.
Pass the end through the hole in the tie block, leaving two or three inches as before.
Bring up the free-end, around the string from the treble side and pull back.
Photo 4. Loop the end under itself once
Photo 5. Now, loop the free end under again. This time, keep that second loop behind the tie block (below the corner) like you did above. For the top string, it can sometimes be useful to go for a third loop under to make sure it doesn't slip. It's not always necessary but it's not a bad idea to be safe.
Photo 6. Holding the knot in position, pull tight on the rest of the string to lock it down.
Repeat with the others.
That Looks Nice Tip:
If you keep those string-ends all pointing in the same direction, each will be further tied/clamped down by the next string in line. This doesn’t really make a difference to how secure it is but it does make it look neater.
Tying Nylon Strings at the Peghead/Tuner
This method isn’t all that tricky. It’s very secure but it’s actually one of the easier methods of tying at the tuners. Don't worry—it’s probably harder to describe than it is to actually do.
Turn all your tuners so the hole in each is aligned vertically.
Photo A. Bring your string past the nut and pass it over and around the tuning post.
Insert the string end into the hole from the bottom.
Pull the free end through but don't pull all the slack from the rest of the string. Ideally you'll want to end up with around four or five 'wraps' around the tuning post when you're finished. If you leave approximately two to three inches (50–75mm) of slack in the rest of the string, you should come in with the right number of wraps.
Photo B. Loop the free-end over the rest of the string and push it back through the hole in the post.
Photos C and D. Pulling this tight will lock the string nicely into place.
Photo E. Tune it up. You’ll usually wind the string towards the outside of the post but follow your instincts on this—depending on the hole position and the headstock layout, sometimes you might wind towards the inside (see note below).
Keep some tension on the string as you wind it and try to keep the coils neat.
Snip off the excess string-end, but not too near to the hole.
Repeat with the others.
Considerations when Stringing Nylon-String Guitars
On the path from the nut to the tuning post, sometimes the string can kink or bend against the wood of the headstock. I like to avoid this if I can.
While you’ll generally wind the coils towards the outside of the post, if winding in the other direction would prevent a string contacting the headstock, I’d go that way.
Of course, sometimes it’s not actually possible to avoid contact. Avoid it if you can but don’t lose too much sleep over it if you can’t.
It can take a little while for nylon strings to settle in. Tuning can slip flat as they stretch in.
You can help them along a little by stretching them after installing. Use your thumb and fingers to give them a stretch along their length. You can also give them a ‘firm but gentle’ pull to try remove slack from the bridge tie and the post windings.
Don’t go nuts but they’ll definitely benefit from a stretch. Or two. Or three.