A Beginner's Guide to Yoyo

I wanted to put together a little guide that pulls together all the different information into a single location for new players to hopefully find useful. I remember when I started I had to kind of piece these things together as I went. So, here it is…

A Beginner’s Guide to Yoyos

Table of Contents
I - Kinds of Yoyos
II - Styles of Yoyoing
III - String Materials
IV - Yoyo Materials
V - Yoyo Shapes
VI - Kinds of Bearings
VII - Most Commonly Recommended Starter Yoyos
VIII - Best Tutorials to Get You Started
IX - Competing at Contests
X - Troubleshooting / Maintenance / FAQs

I - Kinds of Yoyos
The three most common yoyos you will find are fixed axle, responsive, and unresponsive.

  1. Fixed Axle - does not use a bearing. Yoyos typically made of wood, though it is not limited to this material. Yoyo will sleep for a short amount of time (approx. 10 seconds), and will return to the hand when tugged. The friction from the axle is enough to trigger the response on wooden fixed axle yoyos. On plastc yoyos with a fixed metal axle, there may be a starburst response system incorporated.

  2. Responsive - responsive yoyos use a smaller bearing and various different kinds of response systems to allow the yoyo to sleep (approx 30 seconds), but still return to the hand when you tug on the string. There are a couple of different kinds of response systems for responsive yoyos.

  • Brain - uses a clutch mechanism to automatically return the yoyo when the spin slows down to a certain RPM
  • Starburst/Reverse Starburst - uses a raised, star or asterisk shape around the axle that slightly protrudes from the inner wall of the string gap. It is meant to provide a good grip once the string touches it. The reverse starburst is recessed instead of protruding.
  • Friction Stickers/Response Pads - usually small rings made of rubber with an adhesive on one side. These are mounted on the inner wall of the yoyo around the axle and bearing. The string rubs on these triggering the response. On responsive yoyos, these may protrude some from the inner wall. These do wear out over time and may need to be replaced if your yoyo stops playing responsive
  • Transaxle - this could probably be considered it’s own type as it does not use a bearing, but as you do not see these as much now, I’ve just included it here under responsive. This uses a plastic sleeve that spins freely over an axle, acting similarly to a ball bearing yoyo, but without the spin capability of a ball bearing yoyo.
  1. Unresponsive - uses a wider bearing and response pads that sit flush with the yoyo so that the yoyo does NOT return to the hand when you tug the string. Unresponsive yoyos can sleep for a very long time, and will not return to the hand unless you perform a bind (tutorials for this can be found below in part VIII). If you suspect your yoyo didn’t bind cleanly, throw a softer “safety throw” to ensure your string is not snagged; if the string is snagged and you throw a hard breakaway, the yoyo could swing around and hit you in the face.

II - Styles of Yoyoing
The most commonly played styles are 0A through 5A.

  • 0A - single fixed axle/modern responsive yoyo play, this style has really increased in popularity over the past few years

  • 1A - single yoyo attached to both your hand and the yoyo. Typically unresponsive yoyos are used in modern play. This is the most “standard” playstyle.

  • 2A - two handed yoyoing using responsive, looping yoyos attached to each hand.

  • 3A - two handed yoyoing using unresponsive yoyos attached to each hand.

  • 4A - offstring yoyoing where the string is attached to your hand, but not to the yoyo.

  • 5A - freehand yoyoing where the string is attached to the yoyo and a counterweight on the other end instead of your hand.

III - String Materials
There are a few different materials that string can be made from, below are the most commonly found kinds.

  1. Cotton - this is the classic string material, and is typically only used for wooden yoyos as it does not melt like polyester from the friction. Cotton string is not recommended for modern aluminum yoyos.

  2. Polyester - probably the most common material used for modern yoyo string. Bulk string is inexpensive string packs, usually of 100, that are typically made from 100% polyester.

  3. Nylon - a newer synthetic material being used, lends itself to whip and slack tricks, and is known for lasting longer than polyester.

  4. Blends - it is common to blend different materials such as cotton/poly or poly/nylon to get the best of both worlds. It is common to find longer lasting blended strings from smaller boutique string shops.

  5. Others - I’ve heard of other synthetic materials being used for yoyo string, but the above are definitely the most common.

IV - Yoyo Materials

  1. Wood - the OG material. Typically used for fixed axle yoyos, but is not limited to it.

  2. Plastic - often inexpensive and capable of taking a beating, plastic is a commonly used yoyo material. Great for throwers of all skill levels.

  3. Monometal - monometal yoyos are machine lathed from a single kind of metal, usually aluminum, though other metals have been used. Monometals vary greatly in price depending on things like the manufacturer, retailer or even the anodization. I wouldn’t recommend a metal yoyo until you have the basics down.

  4. Bimetal - as the name implies, these feature the use of two different kinds of metal. Typically the yoyo body is made using aluminum, and then stainless steel weight rings are added to the rims. Since stainless steel is so much more dense than aluminum, this allows for very extreme weight distribution. You may find bimetals with different metals than aluminum and stainless steel, but this is the most used combination. These yoyos are typically on the more expensive end of the spectrum, and tend to be geared towards competition. Same as with monometals, I would not recommend getting one until you at least have some basics down.

  5. Hybrids - there are also hybrid yoyos out there that combine the different materials, such as wood/metal, plastic/metal, or plastic/wood.

V - Yoyo Shapes
Yoyos come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, however, they mostly derive from these 4 common shapes: W, H, V, and O.

  1. V Shapes - have larger catch zones typically making them better for faster tricks, but they may not have as powerful of spins as other shapes.

  2. H Shapes - have extreme rim weight, so they usually have the most powerful spin, meaning typically the longest spin times. However, because of a lack of center weight, they can be less maneuverable than W or V shapes.

  3. W Shapes - hybrid of the H and the V shape. W shapes have a lot of rim weight, but still maintain a decent amount of center weight. This makes them have strong spins, but still capable of a decent amount of maneuverability. W shapes tend to have large catch zones, and normally feel larger in the hand than H or V shapes.

  4. O Shapes - also known as “organics,” these are the enigmas of the group. This is because they vary so much from yoyo to yoyo, even though the shape is generally looks like it’s the same. Because the weight is usually more evenly distributed, they have greater potential to have a unique feel. Normally O shapes are harder to catch on the string but could be fast or slow, rim weighted or center weighted, and light or heavy; it all depends on the design.
    (Source: @Blieske)

Below are a couple of photos to show the typical profile of these different shapes:

(Source: @codinghorror)

VI - Kinds of Bearings
Responsive bearings are typically a narrower size C bearing. The below images cover the most commonly used unresponsive bearings.

(Source: Rewind)

VII - Most Commonly Recommended Starter Yoyos
These are the yoyos I see most often recommended to new players looking for suggestions.

  1. Recess - First Base: plastic, comes with both a responsive and unresponsive bearing, ~$20.

  2. YoyoFactory - Replay Pro: plastic, unresponsive, ~$16.

  3. YoTricks - Sage: plastic, responsive, ~$13.

VIII - Best Tutorials to get you Started
The amount of resources available to help you learn now vs. 20 years ago is staggering. With things like YouTube in existence, learning yoyo has never been easier - especially if you don’t have any friends that also yoyo. Below were and still are two of my favorite resources when I was just starting.



There are tons of other yoyoers who put out great tutorials, especially for more advanced and original tricks, but those two are great places to get yourself started.

IX - Competing at Contests
There are often a few different ways to compete at contests, depending on the size of the contest you’re at.

  1. Trick ladder - you perform a series of tricks that progressively increase in difficulty as defined by this list. This is typically geared towards newer players that aren’t comfortable doing a full freestyle routine yet.

    (Source: Yoyo Wiki)

  2. Freestyle Routine - you perform a freestyle routine set to music in various different styles of yoyoing (1A, 2A, etc). At smaller contests you may just have 1A and an open (X) division for everyone else that is not doing 1A.

  3. Arts and Performance - at larger contests there may be an AP division. This is often done by groups of people who choreograph intricate performances.

X - Troubleshooting / Maintenance / FAQs

How often should I change my string?

  • this can depend on a few different factors such as: amount of use, material of string, climate you are in. A good rule to go by is if the string starts to fray or get dirty and gunky, go ahead and change it. Bulk polyester string is cheap and doesn’t last very long. Nylon will last longer, and some people will even wash it by putting it in their pants pocket and running the pants through the washing machine.

How often should I change response pads?

  • again this can depend on a few different factors. If you have a few different yoyos you play in a rotation, your pads are going to last much longer. If you start to notice it getting harder and harder to bind, it may be that your pads need to be changed.

My responsive yoyo won’t return to my hand, what’s wrong with it?

  • most likely you need to add some thick lube to the bearing. This can be purchased from basically any yoyo retailer.

My unresponsive yoyo keeps returning to my hand without binding, what’s wrong with it?

  • this could be a couple different things. Your string could be knotted around the axle. You may have put too much thin lube in the bearing. If it is really loud when you throw it, it could be that the bearing seized up, and needs to be cleaned or replaced.

How do I remove/replace the bearing in my yoyo?

  • I find the easiest way to remove a bearing without destroying it is using the YYF multi tool. It has a string cutter, hex key for axles, and a metal rod meant to fit in the inner circle of a bearing. Just rock the tool back and forth to work the bearing out. You can also use pliers, but I would recommend putting some kind of material over the plier jaws as you can scratch your ano. Also, be careful with pliers as you can damage the bearing or bearing seat as well by squeezing too hard. To put in a new bearing, just push it into the bearing seat. With many yoyos, it will kind of “click” into place, but that isn’t always the case as some bearing seats are tighter/looser than others.

My string keeps getting all tangled up after I throw for a while, how do I fix this?

  • as you throw, your string will gradually get tighter and tighter (or looser if you’re left handed). There are some great tutorials for correcting string tension quickly, so you don’t have to keep taking the yoyo off your finger to let it untwist.

Should I buy yoyos on Amazon or other big online retailers?

  • Short answer: not if you can help it. Retailers like YYE put money back into the yoyo community by doing things like sponsoring contests or running these forums. You won’t see an Amazon logo on a banner at a contest. Support your community, so they can support you!

Okay, that’s about all I have for now. If I missed anything let me know so I can add it. Let’s make this as comprehensive as we can!


don’t forget competition, trick ladders, and choreographing yoyo tricks to music


This is a ‘beginner’s’ guide. I don’t think those 3 things are of much concern to someone just starting out.

haha I think you’re just being sarcastic and having a little fun. But I’m super exhausted and grumpy! Sorry!!


Added some basic info regarding competing, but since this is a beginner’s guide I won’t go into as much detail about it.


ok, sorry, just trying to make sure you cover all the bases here.


No need to be sorry - it should definitely at least be mentioned, especially the trick ladder. I appreciate the suggestion!
I’ve also never personally competed so my personal knowledge on it is fairly limited as well.


ok, i have one last suggestion. the most common thing i hear when lending my yoyo to beginners, or anyone who wants to try is “this yoyo is broken, it won’t come up.” i see that you added in yotricks tutorials, but, maybe you should explain how to bind, or at least how binding works


I did go over the different kinds of yoyos and mention needing to bind an unresponsive yoyo, though I’m not sure how to describe in words how to do tricks - that’s why I just put the tutorials at the bottom
Added a note where I mention the bind to go to the tutorials at the bottom to learn it

1 Like

I’ve mentioned this in a thread earlier last week, but I think it might be worth mentioning how much more fragile metal Yoyos are vs plastic. The starter Yoyos you mentioned are great! I didn’t know how quickly a metal yoyo got ruined by hitting the ground. Obviously you should avoid this, but a starter plastic yoyo is a lot more forgiving in that regard. Also maybe worth mentioning good starter metal Yoyos with longer axles and are probably less likely to get ruined by hitting the ground a time or 2


Good thinking! I’ll add in a section about the different materials and the pros and cons of each.
Edit: was really busy yesterday, but got a section added briefly describing the different yoyo materials


Nicely done.
I think its good putting in competition section.
Its also nice giving YoTricks a mention, they also do some very nice tutorials.

Its proberbly already been done somewhere but it would be nice if your your thread could be a permanent fixture. Perhaps attached as a flyer to YYEs trick list.
Its deffinitely more than a beginners guide , i can see myself using it as a reference point from time to time.

Once again job well done. :+1::+1::+1:

1 Like

That would be cool - maybe we can ask @AndreBoulay or @YoYoExpertGarrett about making it a pinned post?

Would proberbly need some sort of editing but what about sending it out with every yoyo starter pack as a flyer ?


Probably don’t need to go quite that far with it lol. But I appreciate that you like it so much you think that would be good idea!


its really well put together.

1 Like

I would recommend telling people not to put cotton strings on their unresponsive yo-yo.

1 Like

No explanation on “Brain” type or plastic sleeve type yoyos? Some beginners that ask stuff on r/throwers still encounter this type of yoyos and ask about them.


Guys it’s a guide not a book, calm down


I dig it.
Suggestion: include a section on bearing/axle tools (perhaps a comparison to pliers).

Maybe a blurb on how to put a yoyo on a string…

1 Like

Keep in mind that the way the forum software works is when you read it it becomes unpinned for you, so you have to scroll to the bottom and re-pin it for your viewing.