When you buy your guitar, chances are that it is correctly strung, and you will
be able to see by looking at the bridge how the knot is tied. The illustration below
shows the correct way to attach nylon strings to the bridge for the classical or
Spanish guitar. After looping in the manner shown, the end should be trimmed so
as to be clear of the soundboard. Otherwise it could cause buzzing.
Approximate settings for comfortable playing action
How the strings attach to the bridge
For acoustic or folk guitars, there is often an arrangement of six pegs in the
lower part of the bridge. The string is simply looped around the peg and then the
peg inserted into its hole to hold it fast.
Electric guitars feature an attachment at the end of the bridge, usually with
six small pins. The loops of the strings are attached around these pins to be held
securely. Jazz guitars often have a raised tailpiece and have their own unique method
of string attachment.
At the peg-head end of the classical guitar, the string should be passed through
the hole in the white bone barrel. Then pass the string back to make a loop around
itself. Finally, holding the string by the end, turn the tuning key so that the
twist you have made winds over the top of the barrel and away from you.
Acoustic folk guitars and electric models usually feature solid peg heads with
large, steelbarrelled tuning machines. As with the classical guitar, the string
is passed through a hole in the top of the barrel, and then the peg is simply turned
to increase its tension. Excess strings should be cut off to avoid tangling in the
tuning key and to keep a generally clean appearance.
Just as there are different types of guitars, there are different types of strings.
Here are the principal types:
- Nylon strings are used on classical guitars. In fact, it is dangerous to
use heavier strings on a classical guitar, because the instrument is not designed
to withstand the high tension they produce. The three lowest strings are made
of silver-plated copper wire wound on a core of nylon strands. The upper three
are pure nylon filaments.
- Steel strings are designed for acoustic folk guitars. The bass strings are
wound on a core of silk or nylon.
- Heavier wound metal strings are designed for electric guitars.
Core and winding materials vary among string makers, and you may wish to experiment
with different types to see which produces the sound you like best.
Strings are also available with different shapes or contours, from flat to fully
rounded. Strings are also sold in light, medium, or heavy gauges. This has to do
with the amount of elasticity in the string: light-gauge strings are more elastic
and therefore easier to play than heavy ones. Again, depending on the kind of music
you play and your own personal taste, you’ll be able to choose the proper string
for you. It’s always worthwhile to try different types of strings on your instrument
to see if a simple change of strings can lead to improved sound and playability.
Raising the Dead
Strings have a natural life cycle. As they are exposed to air and the oils from
your fingers, they tend to lose their elasticity and eventually their ability to
sound cleanly. You can forestall this process by wiping the strings clean with a
soft, dry cloth after you play. Dead strings may be revived temporarily by scrubbing
with soap and water.
Every player seems to have his or her own favorite “brand” of string. Unlike
guitar brands, it’s hard to make general statements about strings. While some guitar
companies have their own name-brand strings, most do not make strings themselves
but buy them from an established maker and repackage them. A reputable dealer or
teacher should be able to recommend a good string for you. Remember also that different
makers use slightly different terminology when referring to nylon, composite, or