Installing Nylon Strings (Guitar Lesson)


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Danny Voris

Installing Nylon Strings

Danny demonstrates how to install nylon strings on a classical guitar.

Taught by Danny Voris in Classical Guitar seriesLength: 12:58Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (06:12) Installing Bass Strings Note: Some of the following information is taken from lesson 4 of Jim Deeming's Phase 1 guitar series.

A. How Do I Know When to Change My Strings?

There are several common symptoms that indicate that your stings need to be changed. Here are the most common indications:

1. The strings feel uncomfortable as a result of excessive build-up of dirt on the strings. Over time, the natural oil and dirt generated by your fingers builds up on the strings.

2. If the guitar is not staying in tune, it is definitely time to change the strings. A guitar with fresh strings should stay in tune for roughly an hour. If you notice that a string instantly goes out of tune, the string either needs to be changed, or it was installed improperly.

3. The bottoms of the strings flatten and blacken from repetitious contact with the frets. Once the strings decrease in mass, their tone diminishes significantly as well.

4. Tone becomes significantly less bright when strings are corroded and in need of a change. Tone is the best indicator of when the strings need changing. Your ears should be familiar with what your guitar should sound like. Old strings loose their brightness and volume. In general, guitar strings begin to sound like rubber bands when they are at the end of their life.

Playing a guitar with dead strings can kill your inspiration. On the other hand, playing with fresh strings can have the opposite effect. You may find yourself taking the guitar out of the case more.

5.Wound strings begin to unravel slightly from contact with frets. This causes a severe drop in tone quality as well as limited playability.

6. Typically, the bass strings last longer than the treble strings. They will not need to be changed quite as often.

B. How Often Should I Change My Strings?

This depends entirely upon the individual. There is no standard life expectancy for a set of guitar strings. Touring professionals have guitar techs that change their strings prior to every single performance. Strings are changed on every guitar including instruments used as backups. Strings are changed on back up guitars regardless of whether they were played at the previous gig! For most of you however, strings will not need to be changed this frequently. To make a long story short, the amount of time you spend practicing and performing is directly proportional to how often you will need to change your strings. If you notice one of the symptoms listed in "Section A," it is most likely time to put on a fresh set. One other factor also determines how often your strings will need to be replaced. Some people’s hands sweat more than others do. If you have sweaty hands, your strings will need to be replaced more frequently.

Note: Although there is no set time interval for changing strings, they should ALWAYS be changed prior to a performance or recording session. This is especially true if you do not perform or record very often. Since people do not have many opportunities to hear / see you perform, you want to make sure that you are doing everything in your power to create the best performance possible. This includes changing your strings prior to every gig.

2. String Size or "Gauge"

Gauge refers to the size of the string in millimeters. String gauge effects your overall playing in three different ways. Nylon strings are typical available in three gauge types: light, medium, and hard tension.

a. String gauge affects your tone in a big way. A higher string gauge may increase overall sustain and volume. Remember, more mass=more volume.

b. Gauge affects the action and setup of your guitar. When switching to a different string gauge, a professional may need to perform a new setup.

c. Gauge also affects comfort while playing. Larger strings put more pressure on the tips of the fingers. This will require a development of harder calluses. More importantly though, gauge effects one’s ability to perform certain techniques such as vibrato. Quite simply, larger strings are harder to manipulate.

3. Brand of String

Unlike electric guitar strings, the brand you choose is quite important. Not all nylon strings are created equal. Danny prefers to use Hannabach bass strings and La Bella strings on the treble side. Matt Brown prefers to use a full La Bella set on his classical guitar. The D'Addario Pro Arte strings are also an excellent and affordable choice.

D. Tools Needed for Changing Strings

1. Needle nose pliers or fingernail clippers are needed to cut the strings.

2. A string winder is useful but not necessary. This tool will drastically reduce the time it takes to change a set of strings.

Removing Old Strings

1. Loosen the string you wish to change at the tuning peg using the string winder. Detach the string from the tuning peg. Then, untie the other end of the string from the bridge. Only remove one string at a time.

2. Once a string is removed, clean the area of fretboard underneath it with a soft cloth. 3M makes a soft scrubbing surface that is ideal for this application. DO NOT USE STEEL WOOL! Steel wool can potentially damage the surface of the fingerboard. Also, it breaks apart and leaves annoying pieces across the fingerboard.

3. Polish the body and headstock to preserve the finish. We recommend Martin or Gibson guitar polish. In addition to enhancing the appearance of your guitar, polish adds needed moisture to the finish. This is quite important, especially if you live in a cool, dry climate.

Installing Bass Strings

Some nylon guitar strings feature a ball end that holds the string tightly against the bridge. Do not use these strings! They can potentially damage your bridge. In addition, they usually don't produce a nice tone. Always install nylon strings that do not feature a ball end. Quality nylon strings must be tied securely to the bridge.

1. Most nylon bass strings feature a loose wrapped end and an end that is wrapped normally. Many guitarists prefer to cut off the loose end. Others prefer to wrap this end around the tuning peg. Do not tie the loosely wrapped end around the bridge!

2. Insert the string through the hole in the bridge. Leave about two inches of string extending out the back of the bridge. This excess string is needed to tie the string to the bridge.

3. Bend the excess string underneath the portion of the string that is in front of the bridge.

4. Tuck the end of the string underneath the portion that lays across the bridge. Tuck the looping section of the string behind the bridge.

Watch Danny in the lesson video for a clear demonstration of steps three and four.

5. Line up the hole in the tuning roller so that it is pointing upwards towards the ceiling. Run the string downwards through roller towards the floor.

6. Wrap the string around itself in a clockwise motion. This step ensures that the string will not slip out of tune.

7. Turn the tuning key with the winder until the string is tuned to pitch. The string should be wrapped around the inside of the roller (middle of the headstock).

Stretching the Strings

If you don't stretch your strings out, you'll fight to keep your guitar in tune over the next several days. The strings are still settling in when you first install them. Soon after installation, the strings wiggle loose at the bridge and tuning pegs. Also, the string stretches to some degree across its entire length. To combat these problems, lightly pull on each string. This process will remove any excess slack across the length of the string. Stretch the strings until they no longer go flat after being stretched.

Note: It is quite helpful to tune every string up a full step and leave them there for about an hour. Then, tune them down to standard pitch. This stretches the strings in a more efficient manner. With this method, you will have a much easier time keeping your strings in tune.
Chapter 2: (06:46) Installing Treble Strings 1. Loosen and remove the old string.

2. Insert the string through the hole in the bridge. Leave about three inches of string extending out the back of the bridge. This excess string is needed to tie the string to the bridge. An extra inch is needed since the treble strings are looped twice instead of once.

3. Bend the excess string underneath the portion of the string that is in front of the bridge.

4. Tuck the end of the string underneath the portion that lays across the bridge. Tuck the looping section of the string behind the bridge. Repeat this step to form a second loop. With the first string, create three loops.

Watch Danny in the lesson video for a demonstration of steps three and four.

5. Line up the hole in the tuning roller so that it is pointing upwards towards the ceiling. Run the string downwards through roller towards the floor.

6. Wrap the string around itself in a clockwise motion. This step ensures that the string will not slip out of tune.

7. Turn the tuning key with the winder until the string is tuned to pitch. The string should be wrapped around the outside of the roller (bottom edge of the headstock).

8. Stretch the string using the method outlined in the previous scene.

9. Cut the excess string extending from the tuners using a pair of nail clippers. Leave about a half inch of string extending from the roller. If you cut the excess string to short, it might slip back through the hole in the roller.

10. Cut the excess string extending from the back of the bridge. If the excess string sits on the top of the body, it will most likely produce an annoying buzzing sound.

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Member Comments about this Lesson

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metastablemetastable replied on April 24th, 2017

I think these two lessons need to be re-recorded with some more detail. The close ups of securing the bridge are shot with Danny's hands covering some of the crucial points. Having the camera in front of Danny, perpendicular to the bridge would probably give a better angle when he is showing how to knot the strings. In the Bass course it doesn't really specify how the strings should sit on the headstock, i.e. do the string turns sit side-by-side or on top of each other? Giving a shot of that for people that have never done this, which I assume is the audience would be more useful. There is a shot in the treble course of what they should look like, if you look at the other strings, but I think it should be called out for anyone new to it. Other than that, it's a nice tutorial, I just think it needs some better camera angles and more detailed explanations in these crucial areas.

Jason.MounceJason.Mounce replied on April 24th, 2017

HI metastable, we definitely agree. These are very old lessons and as a result the camera work isn't nearly as good as what we produce more recently. Unfortunately, any time we've asked Danny to return for more lessons, he's declined our invitation. As a result, we have what we have here. If you're finding this series to be a bit deficient for you, I would recommend giving Pamela Goldsmith's a look as it's as good and actually a little more comprehensive. You may also enjoy some of Marcelo's Flamenco lessons as many of the techniques will cross-over.

dallendouglasdallendouglas replied on April 24th, 2009

Hello, I currently have a Harmony Soverign Guitar vintage 1960 which is just one of my three Guitars. I believe I have had Nylon Stings on it before. Can I install Nylon Strings on it so I can use it for my Classical Practice.I have been told no by some while Yes by others. I don't want to have to buy another Guitar for Classical. Thanks,Dennis Douglas

Classical Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The origins of the classical guitar date back to the fifteenth century. The vihuela, lute, and baroque guitar are the early predecessors of the guitar. With its origins reaching deep into the past, the classical guitar repertoire spans over five hundred years worth of material. Danny Voris explains the techniques necessary to mastering this timeless art form.



Lesson 1

Overview of the Classical Guitar

Danny provides an overview of the topics that will be discussed in this lesson set. He also explains the origin of the classical guitar.

Length: 5:57 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Preparing to Play the Classical Guitar

In this lesson, Danny covers proper posture and how to hold the classical guitar. He also explains how to shape the nails in order to produce the best tone possible.

Length: 19:44 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Installing Nylon Strings

Danny demonstrates how to install nylon strings on a classical guitar.

Length: 12:58 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Left Hand Technique

Danny covers the basics of left hand techniques for classical guitar.

Length: 20:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Finger Independence

For lesson five, Danny discusses left hand finger independence. He also discusses hammer-on and pull-off technique.

Length: 17:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 6, Danny discusses and demonstrates right hand technique for the classical style.

Length: 24:26 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Arpeggios

Lesson 7 is all about arpeggios. Danny provides discussion and exercises designed to build your right hand skills.

Length: 8:43 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 8

The Importance of Scales

Lesson 8 covers scale exercises in the classical format. Danny provides a few patterns that focus on finger independence and position shifts.

Length: 6:26 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Renaissance Period

In lesson 9, Danny begins discussion of the five different musical periods of classical guitar music. He starts with the Renaissance.

Length: 40:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Robert Johnson's Alman

In lesson 10, Danny takes a more in depth look at a Robert Johnson's "Alman." This lesson contains a detailed explanation of fingering.

Length: 27:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Behind the Scenes with Danny Voris

Danny Voris discusses the major music periods and the advent of tonality.

Length: 7:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Baroque Period

Danny discusses and demonstrates a piece from the Baroque period.

Length: 22:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Classical Period

In lesson 13, Danny discusses the Classical period of music.

Length: 20:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Romantic Period

In lesson 14, Danny discusses the Romantic period of music. He demonstrates a famous piece from this period commonly referred to as "Romance."

Length: 21:11 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

The 20th Century

In this lesson, Danny discusses the 20th century influence on classical guitar.

Length: 22:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Danny Voris View Full Biography

A unique guitarist in the region, Wright State alumnus Danny Voris, musically fulfills audiences with a mixture of exciting guitar playing and talented compositional skills. After graduating WSU in 1989, Danny obtained a teaching position at Sinclair Community College. In the fall of 2000, Danny obtained a scholarship to the graduate program at The University of Akron. After graduating the University of Akron in 2002 with a Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance, Danny returned to Dayton. There he began teaching at Jim McCutcheon Music Studios and at The Miami Valley School in Kettering, Ohio.

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