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Classical Guitar Lessons: Changing Your Strings

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[MUSIC]
This is just a lesson
on changing your strings.
I mean, I, we've had a couple inquiries
about it,
so I thought I'd just take you through the
process.
We'll, won't have to change all six of
them in this lesson.
I'm just gonna change two.
I'm gonna change the first string.
As if, you know, to show you how to change
a classical guitar string for
a guitar that has a bridge that contains
only one hole per string.
And then I'm gonna change the sixth
string, the lowest one.
And my, my Wagner, my
Wagner guitar has actually two holes,
there we go, two holes per string in the
bridge, as you can see there,
all right, and so there we go there's
another
shot of it, I'll try to get the glare out
of that shot there, okay.
I don't know what the purpose of that is
necessarily, but it just,
I just know that some guitars have that.
So I'll show you one string per type of,
you know, for the one hole and then for
the two hole.
There are many reasons to change your
strings of course.
Sometimes the, the trebles just get
scratchy.
On the the surface just gets scratchy
after many hours of practicing.
And that scratching of the surface can
actually dull
the sustain of the string, resulting in a
kind of a,
what once was this, [NOISE] can become a
[NOISE] over time.
Slightly dulled sound.
In particular most, the reason most
people change their strings is because the
basses just get too dull.
The basses being wound with steel, what
happens is the oils,
from your fingers, and, and dirt and all
that sort of thing,
they get, gets trapped in between the, the
winding.
And that corrodes the steel after a while
resulting in a need to change the strings
to freshen them up again.
It's recommend actually that before you
have your next practice session that
you wash your hands before every practice
session and
that will help keep your string life
longer.
Also you can for the bass strings the
lower three
[MUSIC]
you can de-tune a string and
give it a little bit of extra life
[MUSIC]
by taking an old cotton cloth,
running it under really hot water.
And while that water is still hot on the
cloth, not a lot, just needs a little bit,
you just need a little bit of a, just run
it really quickly on a really hot faucet.
And then taking it and, taking that cloth
the wet, the part of it that's wet,
and running it across the string a few
times all the way across.
And taking the dry part of that you know
throw away cloth that you have,
an old T-Shirt is perfect for this sort of
thing, and then drying it.
Drying the string.
That actually can add anywhere from one to
three days of extra playing time on it so,
if you're looking to save money and not be
you know buying quite so
many packs of strings, that's one another
way to do it.
So there are different gauges of strings,
in the classical guitar world there we
really basically break that into high
tension, medium tension, and low tension.
High tension of course results, in, in
just a tighter feeling string.
You know, the lower tension the string
feels a little bit floppier and
where the main mainly most players report
that they feel
that difference mostly in the right hand.
Because we don't really do a lot of
bending in classical guitar.
I think for a lot of electric guitars the
gauge of the string has a,
has quite a bit to do with their, their
bending.
But in classical guitar its actually a lot
of it is the right hand feel.
Like we wanna, I like a tighter string.
[SOUND] Like a little bit of higher
tension
a feel in the string for
[MUSIC]
you know, just fast alternation for
scales and that sort of a thing.
I, I say play a lot of concertos.
And I like I don't want the string to give
too much.
You know?
You know?
Pull way too much.
[MUSIC]
But
I don't want too high a tension a string.
[MUSIC].
Because then, the higher the tension the
string,
the more difficult it is to vibrato.
So I mean I have these, I endorse these
strings from Gali in Italy.
These are the ones I use, and they're,
it's a high tension string but
it's not super high.
It's kind of like a medium high really.
Okay so here we go.
Step one, you've got to have one of these
things.
You've got to have a string winder.
See?
This one's orange, which really looks good
against the backdrop here,
this purple, purplish bluish backdrop.
So you want to have one of these, string
winders.
And, you go to the head stock here, and
they, they fit right around the gear here.
The the tuning heads.
The tuning machine head.
And you simply unwind, and you can hear.
[MUSIC]
[SOUND] Now when that
gets to the point where,
there we go, yeah.
Where you start to see that there's no
string left and just a knot,.
There, almost there.
Maybe go a little bit further.
[NOISE] Here we go.
There's not gonna be any more string.
It should just pull right off of this gear
here, this white piece here, the dowel.
It should pull right off of that.
Okay, now, I'm bringing the string around
here, and then.
If you go back here to the bridge, it
should be fairly easy to loosen it.
You may need a little bit of jiggling to
loosen it.
And it should come very easily off the tie
block, particularly a nylon string,
it's a smooth surface.
So there you go, you take this and you
throw it away in a waste
paper basket preferably not on
the floor as I just did, all right and
then we go here and we get your string.
They're usually wrapped around themselves
so
you'll want to maybe find where they're
wrapped around themselves maybe
unravel a little bit and the rest of it
should come out really easy.
Okay, so we're gonna string this for the,
this the,
the single hole bridge, the bridge that
just has a single hole.
The hole in this, the components here of
the bridge just briefly.
Here is the bridge, this long block of
wood is the bridge.
And this white piece right here is the
saddle.
That's the part that the string goes over
it, comes over the saddle.
And, and then that, that string is tied at
the end here at these holes.
And these holes are drilled into what we
call the tie block.
And the tie block is often decorated like
mine is with some ivory or
some kind of purfling on it.
So you want to put the string through the
hole in the tie block.
The hole that’s facing, the hole that’s
facing,
this direction basically facing the the,
the sound, the, the sound hole.
Okay?
And you can see now here that the string
is going through, okay.
And there we are.
Okay.
So here we are.
Now we're gonna pan back a little bit, and
just show you how to tie it.
You wanna wrap the string around itself.
Make a loop like this once.
Okay.
And you want also pull enough out so that
you have enough slack here.
Okay.
You wanna have about two to three inches.
Of extra string in your right hand, if the
guitar is on your lap.
Okay?
All right.
And then you simply come around and
you have to make a second loop or almost
like you're threading a needle.
RIght here on the back of the tie block,
like this.
And then with your left hand, if you can
take that,
that little knot that you made, that
little loop, and
press it down, you take your left hand and
tighten, just like this.
Okay?
Now with the first string, and
the first string can be a very tight a
very high tension string.
So, I always recommend to students that
they make a second go around
like your threading the needle one more on
that back side of the tie block.
This back end of the tie block, like so.
Make sure that knot that you've made, that
second loop that you made,
is behind the tie block.
And then the left hand pull tightly.
And that is a very secure knot.
That is a very secure string.
The string is basically wrapped around
itself three times.
Once near the front side of the tie block
and, and
another in the middle and then one in the
back side of the tie block.
You have to make sure that that last loop
is behind the tie block,
as you can see here if you can get a tight
shot of that.
And here's the extra slack.
What's left of the string,
you can see that that knot is then behind
the tie box, not on top.
If it's on top it could slip though once
you start stringing the string back up.
Okay.
Now, let's pan back here and we're going
to go.
We're going to take my left hand here and
we're going to tie it around itself on the
headstock.
And the tuning machines.
Okay?
Now I want you to see my right hand first
before we do that though.
If you pan back here your right hand
should grab the string and keep it taut.
Your left hand is now going to take this
and
put it through this the white rod here.
Sorry that I don't know the technical term
for this.
But it's the these white rods that connect
the tuning machines to the headstock and
putting it through, through that hole and
down.
Then back then take the end of the string
and put it back up again.
And then watch what I do here I'm going to
make I'm going to
wrap the string around itself.
So I unwrap the string I missed and wrap
the string around itself once,
making this very simple, very simple knot
right here.
See that knot, that the string has wrapped
around itself.
And then you pull tightly and that knot
falls right into the hole and
it stays there.
It doesn't go through the hole, it stays
there.
They make that hole just small enough,
so that, that when you knot the string,
it's not gonna go all the way through.
So there you are.
Now you, because your right hand has been
taut, now you can let go and
just pull, pull with the left hand.
And already you see,
you're getting that sou, you're getting a
sound, as you pull on your left hand.
You can even change the pitch and
everything, right?
Okay, so, now you're ready to go.
Now, with your right hand, now grab that
string that's remaining with
the right hand, wrap it around a finger to
get it real secure onto your finger.
You can see it's wrapped, that string's
wrapped around,
see how that string's wrapped around my
finger.
Okay, now, we do this.
Bring the guitar down.
Put the body of the guitar down onto the
ground.
Take your string winder and you're ready
to go.
Have a play, you know, play the string
every now and then.
And just wind, wind away pretty quickly.
Once that knot catches it's, then that
knot itself will go
around the around that rod and you are
secure then.
And here you can hear that we are, the
pitch is getting higher.
[SOUND] Okay.
[SOUND] Now, at this point, you can let
go, you can let go of the string.
The string is secure at both ends.
And here's what I recommend at this step,
at this stage here.
[SOUND] Making the string a little bit
looser.
[NOISE] And do the little bit of
stretching.
Especially, I stretch, I put my strings on
the, the night before every concert.
And so, in order to get them so that
they've settled enough I kind of advance
or I, I can speed up that process by
grabbing the string between two, hands.
The index and forefinger on both hands.
And just lightly stretching and, and
in others you want it between the two
points of the, of your hands, not you
don't want all that tension going being
pulling on the, on the nut and the bridge.
You don't want that tension pulling on
there, it's maybe a little bit un,
could be unhealthy for the instrument.
I'm just giving you a little bit of pull
like that then I come around.
See how the tone, the pitches,
come down a little bit because I stretched
out the string.
I'll take the string winder again.
[SOUND] I'm at a D right now,
it should be at E.
And then you just pull, you wind it to
your destination.
[SOUND].
Which is E.
Now, the first string being, you know, the
tightest string it's gonna really,
it's gonna slip immediately.
It's all ready slipping down to E flat,
so, and it, and
it may also sound a little bit.
Kinda choked or constipated or tubby
[SOUND] that's because the tension is
a little bit too high on it right now
[SOUND] because it's not,
it hasn't been stretched out yet.
[SOUND].
And that's just a process that you have to
wait out.
I mean, sometimes I like to throughout the
day if I'm changing the strings,
you know, earlier in the day I'll tune the
first string to F.
A half step higher then a half step higher
then E.
So.
[MUSIC]
So this is an F here on the first fret of
the sixth string.
[MUSIC]
I'll tune it to that.
Here we go.
[MUSIC]
And that will again,
that also speed the process up of letting
the strings stretch out a little bit.
And the final step here make sure you get
a,
pair of I don't know toenail clippers is
good.
Scissors.
Something that will cut the string.
Do not leave these loose ends that you
used in the beginning, of course,
to make sure you had enough slack.
Do not leave them hanging on the bridge
because if they're
hanging around they can touch other
strings, they can lay onto the bridge, and
they can produce unwanted vibration or
buzzing.
So clip them probably no more than a
centimeter.
Wanna leave about a centimeter room.
Maybe a little bit less but not much less
than that of string.
That's plenty enough.
And then you go to the back to the
headstock again.
And, and let's see.
And here, in this case, we've got, and
here's where it is down here, huh?
So, then you'll want to clip it again,
about a centimeter away.
You'll really want, you'll definitely want
to clip it them down at this end too.
Because the, especially this much slack
string.
This much left over string can really get
in lots of trouble here in the headstock.
It can you know, if it's wrapped up around
other strings,
or touching other strings, it can produce
unwanted buzzes, or unwanted vibration.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay, so that's for
putting the string through a single hole.
Now, on my guitar I got these fancy two
hole bridges that are a little
bit more coming into, into the public now,
so let's, let's do the sixth string, okay.
[MUSIC]
Again,
same process.
Okay, I'm just gonna wind that down all
the way until I see
that there's probably not gonna be much
string left.
I basically come in to the point where I
tied the knot originally.
And it should just come right out at that
point.
And it does.
All right, and again, removing it from the
bridge.
There we go, just takes a little bit of
moving around.
And it comes out.
And now we take our sixth string, again,
it's wrapped around itself a little bit.
And it comes apart easily after a couple
unwinds there.
Okay.
Now, here's an interesting thing that I,
I've not really heard anybody talk about
or ask about.
There, when you get, with most strings
when you get a string there's,
of course, there's two ends.
And at one end there seems to be a little
bit of separation of the winding.
Winding is a little bit looser and pulled
apart a little bit.
Where as the other end is, is looks like
the rest of the string when its on
the string it's, it's solid, it's, it's
wound tight.
That wound tight one, not the loose one,
the wound tight end is the one that you
wanna put into the bridge.
Edge that's the one you wanna put into the
bridge.
So this two hole I'm gonna turn the guitar
around so that you can see here
this this two hole, these two holes right
here.
Okay?
You wanna,
you wanna start the string through the
hole that the string is,
is lined up with where the string is going
to rest, the where the, the, the, the,
the, the, the line along which the string
is gonna go in a straight line all
the way to the nut, the way it's supposed
to, to, to, to lie along that plane.
It's pretty easy to determine, actually.
You'll see the, from my perspective right
now, it's the hole on the left.
Okay.
So I'm bringing that through.
And this this two hole kind of thing that
came about more
recently made it a little bit easier to
string, make the string, the, to,
to tie the strings to the tie block in
general.
Okay, again, give yourself plenty of slack
here, plenty of room.
You know, you don't need more than two,
three, four inches.
Then, okay you wrap, come around the tie
block, you're basically wrapping
the string around the tie block, through
the second hole.
You see?
Let me bring this around a little bit
better to see this.
Okay, wrapping the tie block around the
tie block like this.
And, and then under and then through that
second hole just like that.
See?
There we go.
Easy.
Much easier than tieing a fishing line on,
with bait, much easier.
Okay?
All right, have a look and that's what you
got there, okay?
And, now, you simply, now
all you have to do is take the this
is hard to do to make sure that it's on
the camera, but there we go.
You take that loose end of the string,
put it underneath, you got to put it
underneath once, just once.
Then pull to the right, pull to your right
and there you go,
you got an instant knot there.
Take both hands right and left pull them
apart from each other to tighten.
You're done, that's all it is.
They, they really made this very easy this
way.
Okay, now again, just as before with the
other string that we did.
The last string that we did you wanna, you
wanna pull,
you wanna keep that knot in place by
taking your right hand and
pulling in this direction with the string
with your right hand.
Keep the string taut between your right
hand and
the bridge so that that knot does not come
loose.
Repeating the same process that we did
with the third string.
Now you take that loose, this, this free
end of the string.
While your right hand is holding the rest
of it taught, and
you go through that hole in the capstan.
My producer is telling me that that's a
capstan.
Thank you producer.
This thing I've been calling a rod.
Pull it through that hole, and then you
got to come up and around.
You got to come around the capstan.
See, like this.
See that loose end of the string coming up
through and around again?
You've got to grab it, there you go.
There's the loose end of your string.
Wrapping, see, coming around the capstan
again.
And here we go.
We need to wrap the string once around
itself.
The loose end of the string has to come
around itself once, like that.
That's all you need.
And you can see that knot there?
Okay?
And now we're going to lay the string into
its groove right here in the nut.
Okay, and now take your right hand,
your free right hand, as long as you're
pulling with your left hand to the left.
Pull with some force, this direction, to
the left.
It will keep the rest of your string taut
all the way along here, to the bridge.
In order to keep this knot from the right
from from slipping out.
Take your free hand, your right hand now,
grab that, grab that end of that string.
Take your guitar with your left hand pull
it down.
You're pulling tight away from, you know,
with your right hand like I could lift the
guitar with this.
So that's the kind of force you want to
have on it with your right hand to keep
the string taught.
Okay and then, while that's in, you take
your, your string winder.
[SOUND] While your right hand is still
pulling,
applying force to keep the string taut.
And, let me see if we can do that, if we
can get a clear shot.
Oh, here we go.
Right?
[SOUND] And you'll see that knot.
That knot that you made where you tied the
string around itself once,
you'll see that knot you know, secure
itself to the capstan, or the rod,
as I was calling it before, and then
you'll feel it,
you'll feel the capstan pull the string
right out of your hand.
That means, that means the knot is secured
to the capstan.
And you're on your way, and of course
we're, we're already almost there.
E-flat.
E.
So there you go.
You wind it to your destination.
Make some adjustments here.
Again now, once you've gotten there, once
you've gotten to the E your destination,
go ahead and bring it down to about C or
B.
[MUSIC]
Or even A.
[MUSIC]
Tune it to your,
your fifth string A if you've got one.
And, and now you can start to do a little
bit of stretching of the string.
Advanced stretching of the string.
Again, you pull between two hands just
at various segments along the string you
pull between two hands.
Like that.
[SOUND] Yeah, see how loose it made it
there.
And then.
That should be about all you need with
most of the other strings.
You don't need the E, the top E the first
string is the one that really.
Although this one's settling pretty well.
It hasn't really moved down that much
from, from E.
Actually it's perfect,
it's already settling in from that
stretching that I did.
[MUSIC]
And then there's your E.
[MUSIC]
Looks like that E is settling in quite
nicely too.
So, if you're changing your strings at
night and you need them for
tomorrow, for like a rehearsal or just for
your general practice and
you don't wanna have a bunch of really
flat strings the next day.
You may wanna try, maybe a quarter tone
sharper than E or even F.
It's, it's, but as I'm saying that, I know
that some luthiers and
guitar dealers might get a little nervous
with that so,
check with your local guitar dealer, your
local guitar store, or
if you've purchased your guitar directly
from your luthier ask them about that one.
If it's, if its kosher to tune the string
a half step higher and leave it over
night.
If not it will settle in just fine in its
position of E.
It may take a couple days.
And there you have it.
Oh, one last step.
I almost forgot the last step.
Take your clippers here.
Take that loose part of the string right
here, right?
And snip that off.
And then go to your head stock.
How much of that we got here?
Not too much, not too much slack here.
That's coming around on the bottom, let's
come back around, and you see that there,
and no more than a centimeter away from
the knot.
You see the knot there?
So I'm gonna clip, I'm not gonna leave any
more extra string or, you know,
extra string, any more than a centimeter
beyond that, knot, cuz again, you don't
want that string, you don't want that
loose string touching the fifth string.
For the fourth string.
If it's too long, it'll end up kind of
like, sort of like an overgrown
overgrown weed, and so it'll just end up
in, in, in the territory of the fifth and
fourth string and cause unnecessary and
unwanted vibration and buzzing.
So there you have it, that's stringing
your guitar.
Have fun with that.
I mean, if you've never done that sort of
thing before.
I mean, I'm probably changing my strings
once a week, even more.
If I, If I have a symphony engagement
sometimes I'll,
be changing them, once before the first
concert, and
then the second time, you know, I'll play
that, my concerto on that night.
I'll go back to the hotel.
Put another new set of strings on for the
next night.
It all depends.
It's different for everybody.
Some, some guitarists are what we
affectionately refer to as string killers.
And they, they have, just the oils in
their hands, or what not.
Just happen to be very acidic to the
strings, and corrode them more.
More quickly.
So, and as far as the, how often to change
the strings,
that's entirely up to you, your body
chemistry and
just how much disposable cash you have
for, for buying extra strings.
It's, it's wildly believed that excessive
smoking and/or coffee
drinking will corrode strings, more so
than not.
So, there's another reason to quit
smoking.
I'll stop joking around now.
Thank you very much, and, you don't
necessarily have to send any videos,
to show me that you're stringing the
guitar correctly, but if you do have any
questions about it or you're, or you're
confused about something from this lesson
and you have questions, please send in
videos, I can help you answer those.
All right, have a great day.
[MUSIC]