How to Restring a Guitar (Classical): guides on restringing-cum-cleaning a guitar for beginners

Can I change guitar strings at home by myself? Surely you can! Anyone can do it easily. I’m going to show you step by step with pictures and videos on how to restring a guitar classical as well as clean and condition since it is a good opportunity and convenient to do so when you have removed all the strings.

Guitar strings will get corroded, over-stretched over time and become brittle and hard to tune. The frequency you need to replace the strings depends on how often and how hard you play the guitar. The harder you play, the more often you need to change the strings. The period varies from 1 month to 3 months or 100 hours of playing, even when you rarely play since the strings will wear with the elements, the sweat and oil you left on them from your fingers when you played your guitar last. When the notes become dull and the strings become hard to tune, it’s time to change the strings. 

There are three different types of guitars: Classical, Acoustic, and Electric. Simply identify with reference to the below pictures and choose the one you are going to work on.

Here are the step-by-step guides on restringing a classical guitar. For different types of guitars, please check out our guide on How to Change Electric Guitar Strings and How to Change Acoustic Guitar Strings.

Prepare the following tools and get started:

It is best to change the whole set of the six strings to get the same level of tone since new strings will give out brighter and richer tones. However, if any one of the strings breaks while other strings are relatively new,  you can just replace that broken string.

How to Change Guitar Strings Classical Guitar:

1, Remove Old Guitar Strings

Loosen the tension of the old strings by turning down the machine heads.

2, Free the Old Strings

Remove the old strings from the machine head by pulling them through the hole. Then push the strings through the bridge to free them from the special knots. After restringing, you can put the old strings into the new string envelopes or bags and dumb them safely.

3, Remove loose particles

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

Use a can of compressed air or a super-soft brush (MusicNomad The Nomad String, Body, & Hardware Cleaning Tool) to remove any loose particles on the surface before you start cleaning your guitar with anything else. This helps avoid scratching your guitar with the loose particles adhered to the surface when cleaning with the cloth afterward.

4, Clean and Lubricate the Guitar Nut

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

The nut is the little piece that the strings slot through. Dirt and grime will be accumulated over time and the strings may get stuck in the slots then causing tuning problems.

  • Use dental floss or your old strings to run through the slots a couple of times to remove the dirt stuck in the slots. 
  • Lubricate the nut slots once or twice a year for avoiding string binding and ensuring smooth tuning. You can find many lubricants on the market for nut lubrication. 
  • For a quick fix, you can rub some graphite from a pencil into the string slots generously by simply coloring the slots. A more permanent way is to grind the graphite to a powder and mix it with a small dollop of Vaseline. Then use a toothpick to put a little bit of this graphite paste into the nut slots. 

5, Clean the frets and fretboard

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

Dirt will adhere to the frets and fretboard, particularly those made of unfinished rosewood or ebony. The frets will oxidize and lose shininess over time as well.

Brush the fretboard and the frets gently with an old toothbrush to clean out the grime. If the dirt is too heavy, you can use an old pick with sharp edges to remove the heavy dirt, especially the grime accumulated at the fret grooves on both sides. Similar tools like credit cards and plastic spatulas will do as well. For maple fretboard or fretboard with big and delicate inlays, simply clean it with a soft microfiber cloth with a guitar cleaner.

Although a lot of people say that you can use fine steel wool to clean the frets, I strongly recommend NEVER using it as somehow the fibers from the steel wool may get stuck in and ruin the pickups even if you use masking tape to cover them. Never take the chance on this!

6, Polish the Frets (Optional)

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

Before polishing your frets, apply masking tapes on both sides of the frets or simply use steel protectors to protect the fretboard from scratching.  Many different products can be used for polishing the frets.

Miracle Polishing Cloth is probably the cheapest choice, then Lizard Spit MP 15 Ultimate Fret Polishing System and MusicNomad FRINE Fret Polishing Kit are more expensive but you can get a better result out of them.

7, Condition the Fretboard and Bridge

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

Unfinished fretboards may dry out and crack with time, except maple fretboards with lacquer finish. Conditioning the wood will help prevent the dirt from easily adhering to the wood and make the fretboard look nice too. 

Conditioning the wood 2-3 times a year according to the humidity. You may have to do this more frequently if you are in a very dry environment. Either any brands of Lemon Oil or Music Nomad F-One Oil are great for the job. Put one to two drops of the oil on each fret and lightly rub it with a cloth and let the wood suck the quantity for around 10 minutes. Then remove the excess oil with a cloth. Repeat the process if the wood is still too dry. You can oil the bridge if it is unfinished wood.

Remember, NEVER use lemon oil on a maple fretboard.

8, Clean the Headstock, Neck, and Body

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

Use a microfiber cloth with guitar cleaner to wipe the headstock, neck, and body to remove the fingerprints and dirt adhering to the guitar surface. I highly recommend that Music Nomad The Guitar One All in 1 Cleaner would be the best choice. However, any other brands of guitar cleaners such as Dunlop 654 Formula 65 Guitar Polish & Cleaner and D’Addario Shine Guitar Spray would be fine.

9, Polish Guitar Body (Optional)

The picture shown is an acoustic guitar. It would be similar to a classical guitar.

You can use Music Nomad Pro Strength Guitar Polish to polish the guitar if you want it to be shiny nicely again. The MusicNomad Premium Guitar Cleaner and Polish Care Kit is a good choice including the One All-in-1 Cleaner and the Guitar Polish, F-ONE Oil Fretboard Cleaner, and also two 16-inch x 12-inch lint-free, washable premium microfiber cloths. There are also some alternative products such as Ernie Ball Instrument Polish and Fender Custom Shop Guitar Polish.

Squeeze a little bit of polish gel on the cloth and gently rub it on the guitar body. Do it slowly and make sure the polish is on every part of the guitar, then use a clean cloth to rub the polish off. You can repeat this process a couple of times if your guitar was really dull.

10, Tie New Strings on the Guitar Bridge (6th, 5th, and 4th strings)

We start at the low E(6th string) first. The string ends may have different textures. Feed the consistent end through the bridge little hole about 5-8cm then bring it back over the bridge and curl it around the string. Tuck the tail under the created loop and pull to tighten it. Repeat this process for the A(5th string) and the D(4th string).

Remember the tail needs to be over the lip of the bridge heading to the base of the guitar. Otherwise, the knots won’t be secured enough.

11, Twist the knot for the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings

*The 2ns and 3rd strings are differently tied which is not recommended.

For the rest of the strings G(3rd string), B(2nd string), and high e(1st string), we do the same process as the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings to feed the consistent end through the bridge little hole about 5-8cm then bring it back over the bridge and curl it around the string. However, we have to tuck the string under the loop 2 times instead of 1 to secure the knot.

Remember the tail needs to be over the lip of the bridge heading to the base of the guitar. Otherwise, the knots won’t be secured enough.

12, Attach the Strings to Machine Heads

Turn the machine head of the string until the hole of the plastic roller faces up. Pass the string through the hole then pull it taut so the long end of the string should be sticking out the back of the headstock. Put the string back up through the headstock by passing above the white plastic roller and keeping the tension on the string when you do that. Then loop the end of the string underneath itself that is on the fretboard then pull it taut again with one hand. Use the other hand to wind the tuner to tighten the string. Repeat this process for the rest of the strings.

Remember the strings should be always tightened on top of the roller not underneath.

13, Stretch the Strings

Stretch your new strings after you have replaced them by gently pulling up on the strings but not too hard or else they will break.

14, It’s All Done! Now You Can Tune Your Guitar

What to do next? 

You have new strings on your guitar now. The next step is to learn to tune your guitar and even set it up like a professional. Please check our guide on How To Tune A Guitar and How To Set Up A Guitar(coming soon). 

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AUTHOR

Gavin W has been mastering several types of music instruments like guitar, drum, bass, and audio mixing tools for over 15 years. He has participated in many rock shows such as Hajin Chan and Super Junior concerts. He was the guitarist of a pop-rock band called Pendular, which has won some significant awards like Asian Beat, Champion in Warehouse Youth Band Competition, and No Drug Music Contest. He is also active in the music education sector and has been a music tutor in schools and music learning centres since 2008.

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