Nylon guitar strings are light, mellow, and easy to pick. However, they’re known to stretch more than most strings due to their natural flexibility. If your nylon guitar strings don’t stop stretching, they’ll ruin the intonation and become nearly impossible to strum or pick. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to stop the overstretching process.
When your nylon guitar strings keep stretching, try reducing the action, manually stretching the strings to their limits, and tuning them. You could also try longer practice sessions to break the strings in or change the tuning pegs. Keep in mind that guitar strings need to stretch for a few days.
In this post, we’ll break down what you can do to stop your nylon guitar strings from stretching, how to prevent it from happening down the road, and why nylon strings stretch so much. Enjoy!
How to Make Nylon Strings Stop Stretching
To make nylon strings stop stretching, try these five tips:
- Reduce the guitar’s action. If the action is too high, it’ll put constant tension and strain on the nylon strings. Low the action by rotating the adjustment nut to lower the truss rod. You can also file the underside of the nut and the saddle if the truss rod won’t lower the action enough to stop stretching the strings.
- Manually stretch the strings. Stretching the strings will prevent them from non-stop stretching when you practice or perform. This process typically consists of bending the strings up and down, hammering on and off, and more. We’ll cover a detailed method later in the article.
- Tune the strings correctly. If you tune the strings without threading about 1.5 to 2 inches of nylon through the tuning peg, you’ll overstretch them every time. Slide this measurement through the hole, wrap it to face outward, then wind the tuning peg while firmly holding the bridge pin with the other hand.
- Practice for a couple of hours daily for a few days. Strumming, fingerpicking, and fretting the guitar are the best ways to stretch the nylon strings. Since stretching the strings stops them from slowly stretching down the road, you can fastrack the process. Remember to be gentle with new guitar strings, especially with nylon.
- Change the tuning pegs. Tuning pegs get worn under the pressure of the strings. This process typically takes several years, but it can strain and stretch the strings. If your tuning pegs are loose or bent in a different direction, it’s time to swap them out. Get a new set of like-for-like tuning pegs and replace each of them.
It’s important to remember that nylon strings stretch more than steel strings. If you’re used to steel strings, a new nylon set might take a bit of getting used to. Fortunately, there are quite a few things that affect how long it takes for the strings to stretch. Read on for more details regarding a nylon guitar string stretching timeline.
How Long Do Nylon Strings Take to Stretch?
Nylon strings take up to four days to stretch. However, it depends on how often you strum and fingerpick. If you play your guitar for several hours each day, it might only take a couple of days for your nylon strings to break in. Those who only go with 30-minute practice sessions might find it could take up to a week for the strings to stretch completely.
These factors influence how long it takes for your strings to stretch:
- How often you play the guitar: According to Tone Topics, nylon strings usually take between two to four days to stop stretching. Once they’re broken in, you don’t have to worry about them stretching other than when you tune them. Playing the guitar more often and in longer sessions will reduce the stretching time.
- The quality of the nylon strings: If you choose high-end nylon strings, they typically don’t take too long to break in. Not only that, but they last longer and hold their intonation much better. It’s worth spending a little bit more to get top-shelf nylon strings if you want to accelerate the stretching process.
- Whether or not you manually stretch the strings: If you stretch the strings right when you attach them to the guitar, they’ll finish stretching much sooner. There’s no doubt that they’ll still take a couple of days to break in, but you won’t have to deal with constantly tuning the guitar. It only takes a couple of minutes to manually stretch nylon strings.
- The guitar’s truss rod: If the truss rod is flat, the strings will naturally stretch. However, if the truss rod is slightly bowed inward, there won’t be enough tension on the strings to stretch them. Make sure the guitar neck is as flat as possible. If the strings buzz, take a little bit of pressure off of the truss rod.
- The style of playing you prefer: If you strum heavy, you’ll likely stretch the strings pretty quickly. Make sure you don’t slam the nylon strings when you first install them. These strings are quite flexible, but they’ll bend and break if they’re not gradually stretched. Fingerpicking is a bit slower when it comes to stretching nylon strings.
Keeping these factors in mind, you can expect most nylon strings to stretch for less than a week. If your strings keep stretching, there’s likely an issue with the instrument. They also might stretch for a bit longer if you don’t play the guitar for several days after installing the new nylon strings. However, there are a handful of reasons your nylon strings might not stop stretching.
Why Won’t Nylon Guitar Strings Stop Stretching?
Your nylon strings won’t stop stretching because the action is too high, they’re brand new strings, your tuning pegs are cranked backward, or they’re tuned too tightly. Another possibility is that you have your nylon strings tuned in the wrong key, which means they’re a full octave higher than they should be.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these possible causes:
- The action needs to be adjusted. While all guitar strings eventually stop stretching, some take a little more time than others. If you feel like your nylon strings are constantly stretching, consider adjusting the action. When the action is too tight, it’ll pull the strings from both sides until they snap.
- The nylon strings are brand-new. Nylon strings are as stretchy as can be. They’re often considered to be the most flexible guitar strings. However, this means you’ll have to deal with a lot of natural stretching, tuning, etc. Wait for a few days (or about three to five hours) of practicing before worrying if there’s a problem.
- The tuning pegs are misaligned. If your guitar’s tuning pegs are facing anywhere other than they’re supposed to, they’re going to have a negative impact on your strings. When they lean back, they put a lot of stretching pressure on the strings. This means you’ll have to loosen them, straighten them, and tighten them with a screwdriver.
- The strings are tuned too tightly. It could be tempting to continuously tighten the strings. Another common issue is not putting enough extra string through the tuning peg, as mentioned before. Either way, turning the tuning pegs until the strings are too tight will make them stretch until they break.
- The strings are tuned to a higher key. If you use a digital recorder, it’ll tell you when the E string is an E, when the D string is a D, and so on. However, if you get to a higher key, some tuners will register a high E and a low E as the same thing. You could end up tuning the nylon strings one octave higher, stretching them too much.
On the bright side, you can almost always fix overstretched nylon guitar strings if it’s not too late. Just because they’re stretched a bit too far doesn’t mean you can’t fix the issue. In the next section, we’ll break down a step-by-step process to help you fix your nylon strings and prevent them from stretching anymore.
How to Fix Overstretched Nylon Strings?
To fix overstretched nylon strings, follow these instructions:
- Tune the strings, bend them, and tune them again. Tuning the strings will help them reach their stretching limit, especially if you repeat the process several times per day. You don’t have to make massive adjustments to stretch the strings. Some guitarists tune their strings one key higher, then reduce the strings to the designed key.
- Remove the strings from the guitar and let them sit for a few hours. Removing the strings will let them compress. Nylon’s flexibility lets them expand and contract quite a bit. If you set them aside for a short period of time, you’ll be surprised by how much elasticity returns to the strings.
- Put the nylon strings back on the guitar. Don’t leave them off the instrument for too long. Once they lose their flexibility, there’s no getting it back. Start by sliding the ball end of the string under the bridge pin, then push the pin while stretching each string toward the tuning pegs.
- Leave an inch and a half of extra string to wrap around each tuning peg. If you turn the tuning peg while there’s barely any nylon coming through the other side, it’ll pull the string out of the bridge pin. It could also stretch the nylon too much, causing weak spots and potential breakages down the road.
- Make sure the strings are inside the tuning pegs on the headstock. The string should never be wrapped around the outside of the tuning peg. For instance, the three highest strings should be wrapped counterclockwise, and the three lowest strings should be wrapped clockwise around the tuning peg.
Overstretched nylon strings are quite rare. It takes a while for the strings to reach their maximum length and flexibility. They’re unlikely to stretch too far without direct, intentional input. If you’re thinking about stretching your nylon guitar strings to prevent them from stretching while you’re playing the instrument, read on.
Do You Have to Stretch New Nylon Guitar Strings?
You have to stretch new nylon strings because the material is naturally flexible. If you don’t stretch the strings, they’ll randomly stretch throughout your practice sessions. It’s best to stretch them as soon as possible to prevent unwanted intonation problems, overstretched strings, excessive retuning, and so on.
Here’s a quick way to stretch your nylon strings, so they don’t stretch while you’re strumming:
- Place your left hand over the strings on the fourth fret. You can start with any fret near the top of the neck, but the fourth fret is typically a perfect starting position. It lets you maintain firm pressure on the strings while stretching the portion between the frets and the bridge (or whichever stopping point you choose).
- Put your right hand on one string on the 12th fret. Reverb recommends stretching the strings from multiple positions, including the 7th and 12th frets. Keep in mind that you can stretch the strings from only any position. The main thing to keep in mind is that there should be a few frets between your left and right hands.
- Bend the string up, hold it, then bend it down and hold it. This technique works very similar to bending the strings while picking. It changes the pitch, but it also stretches the strings. Nylon bends quite easily, so make sure you take this process slowly to prevent overstretching the strings or causing weak spots.
- Firmly but gently push down on each of the strings behind the nut. People often forget this portion of the strings. However, they directly impact how much stretching occurs between the nut and the tuning pegs. If you don’t stretch this portion of the strings, they’ll keep stretching for several days or weeks.
- Tune the guitar after stretching the strings. Always tune your instrument after stretching the strings because the process changes the intonation. If you stretch the strings and don’t tune the guitar, everything will sound out of pitch. You’ll have to tune your guitar several times during the first few days after adding new nylon strings.
Stretching your guitar strings is a regular part of the maintenance process. Many people skip this step because they want to jump right into strumming and fingerpicking. However, stretching your nylon strings with the aforementioned method is a surefire way to prevent them from losing their intonation or becoming harder to vibrate.
Do You Have to Replace Stretched Strings?
You have to replace stretched strings if you’ve had them for longer than a few months. All guitar strings stretch, but when they get too stretched, they’ll ruin the tone. Furthermore, there’s a high chance that an overstretched string will eventually break. You should be able to bend and hammer on the string without any issues.
So, how do you know if you need to replace your stretched nylon strings? Keep an eye out for these signs:
- The strings creak every time you pick or strum. Nylon and steel strings creak when they’re old because they can develop rust, corrosion, and buildup. You can clean the strings with a microfiber cloth, but the creaking won’t go away.
- Your nylon strings buzz on the higher frets. Buzzing is a classic sign that it’s time to change the action or get new strings. If you’ve had your strings for a couple of months and they keep buzzing after changing the action, it might be time to get a new set.
- They won’t bend without popping the bridge pins out of place. This issue occurs when the nylon strings stiffen. Every time you bend or hammer the strings, they put too much pressure on the pins.
- The strings sag and make contact with the fretboard when you’re not strumming or picking. Nylon strings lose their flexibility when they’re worn out. If the strings hang lower in the middle, it means it’s time to replace them with a new set.
- They never stay tuned. This happens because stretching the strings changes the key. If they keep stretching or they lack intonation, it could be a sign of permanent damage. Note that no guitar strings last forever, so this problem isn’t exclusive to nylon strings.
Overstretched nylon strings are a burden. If you think your strings are stretched too far, consider the previous method to repair them. If that method doesn’t work, it’s time to get new nylon strings. Fortunately, Guitars on Main explains that most guitar strings last up to three months or so before they need to be replaced. Keep an eye out for corrosion and rust, too.
Just because they stretch more than other strings doesn’t mean you have to dump your favorite nylon set. Nylon strings can be the best string set for your preferred picking method. As long as you manually stretch the strings and give them a few practice sessions to warm up, you’ll be good to go.