Times when strings for classical guitar were made from the gut are a distant past. These days, classical strings are made from industrial materials, which in practice means much more choices. More choices also mean more confusion for beginners. Therefore, this article will explain to you the most important things about strings and their characteristics.
You will get the most important facts about materials, gauges, tension and all other things that can play a critical role in your playing and guitar tone. Of course, we have also picked some of the best classical guitar strings you can find on the market.
As we already mentioned, there are several types of classical strings and one of the main classification criterion is the material choice. While original classical guitars had strings that were made from animal intestines, things are different these days. Thanks to modern technologies, such things are not used anymore. It’s all about human-made materials and there are three main types of them when it comes to classical guitars. Those would be genuine clear nylon, fluorocarbon and titanium nylon. Instead of bothering you with methods of getting those materials, we will rather focus on differences in terms of sound characteristics.
This is by far the common type on the market. After all, classical guitar strings are colloquially known as nylon strings. The catch with them is in a well-balanced tone and decent durability. Of course, bass strings have winding, either 20/80 bronze or silver. In both cases, the tone is rich and warm. Also, these strings are superior in terms of vibrato characteristics. On the other side, a big drawback is a volume, as clear nylon strings are notably quieter compared to fluorocarbon and titanium nylon.
As the name says, this material features carbon and fluorine, though musicians like to simply call them carbon fiber strings. Anyway, these ones are completely opposite to nylon strings in terms of sound characteristics. They sound very bright and extremely articulated. On the other side, they have much less sustain compared to nylon strings. In practice, this means that fluorocarbon strings are better for faster pieces, while nylon strings are a perfect choice for those who prefer slower, more emotional playing. Also, fluorocarbon strings often have tunning issues.
These strings are usually made from titanium-nylon polymer, though some manufacturers use different formulas as well. In any case, all of them have similar sound characteristics. They are very bright but don’t have such accentuated mid-range tones. In some strange way, the sound resembles steel strings, though in a small portion. Such strings sound great in a combination with darker tonewood. Also, the strings are pretty durable.
With steel strings, tension is related to gauges. In this case, things are a little bit different. Classical guitar strings usually come in same or similar gauges, depending on the manufacturer. In most cases, we are talking about .028-.043/.044 gauges, though strings generally vary in a little bit wider range.
In any case, tension plays a very important role in so many ways, including tone characteristics, volume, playability etc. We usually divide strings into three main groups – low, medium and high tension.
The main thing about low tension strings is playability. Logically, they are softer than high-tension strings, which is beneficial for fingers, but that softness also affects the tone. Naturally, these strings make less noise, less sustain and less attack.
High tension strings may be harder, but they are far superior in terms of sound characteristics. They are louder and also have more sustain and much better attack. As you may presume, medium tension strings stand somewhere in the middle.
Another thing you should consider when choosing classical guitar strings is the tonewood. Different types of wood are used for tops of classical guitars. Some of the most common are cedar, spruce, maple, and mahogany. Depending on the wood, guitars sound brighter or darker and a general rule is not to use bright-sounding strings with bright wood. A perfect example of bright wood is cedar. On the other side, spruce and mahogany sound much darker, so you should combine them with brighter strings.
Having Problems With Restringing? Try Ball-End Strings
Compared to western or electric guitars, classical guitar strings don’t feature those balls at the end. You need to tie them, which can be pretty frustrating sometimes, especially for beginners. Fortunately, today’s market is full of convenient design solutions, so even ball-end nylon strings
can be found. This is perfect for beginners, but keep in mind that companies usually don’t offer hi-end quality products with ball-end design.
Best Classic Guitar strings
D'Addario EJ27N Student Nylon
Compared to western or electric guitar strings, the price of classical guitar strings goes in a much wider range. Professional products are usually pretty expensive, so you would probably want something that features decent quality and pretty affordable price. If that’s the case, these are the perfect ones for you. As the name says, these are strings for beginners, but the overall quality will satisfy experienced players as well. These are typical nylon strings, with silver-plated bass strings. Such common combination makes them perfect for a wide range of guitars, both cheap and those more expensive. The tone is warm, while the sustain is decent.
Savarez 500AR High Tension
Savarez is one of the biggest names in the business and this is one of the company’s most popular products. These are high tension strings, made of fluorocarbon, which makes them perfect for those who seek for clarity. Bass strings are also characterized by a fast response, so players with fast fingers will love them without any doubt. Of course, medium and low tension versions of these strings are available as well, but this is the real deal. The price is a little bit higher but you get amazing value in return.
La Bella 820 Elite Red Nylon
Although originally designed for flamenco guitars, these strings are used by many classical players as well. The reason is simple. The super-bright tone with impressive attack can brighten up any guitar. Also, durability is at a pretty high level. Another reason to try these ones is the
price, which is very affordable, given the overall quality.
If you have high standards, this set may be the solution for all your problems. As we are talking about fluorocarbon strings, the brightness and attack are impressive. Also, higher registers are characterized by superior sustain. Silver-plated copper wound bass strings are providing a very nice feel and a very good attack. On the other side, you may have slight detuning problems, but
that’s the price you have to pay for such impressive sound quality. The price may seem high to some, but these are strings for professionals.
D'Addario EJ45TT ProArte Nylon DynaCore
These strings come in medium, high and extra hard tension. In all cases, you can count on amazing quality. In this case, we are talking about titanium nylon strings, which are characterized by lots of brightness. On the other side, bass strings feature a typical silverplated wound. Besides great feel, these strings are also quite durable and tone won’t become dull for a long time. They are more expensive compared to average D’addario strings, but also notably
Augustine Classic Red
Although a relatively young company, Augustine is probably the most important manufacturer in the history of classical guitar strings. The very first nylon strings came out from this company
in 1948. Before that, all classical guitar strings were made from animal intestines and silk. These days, the company offers a variety of strings and these medium tension strings are among the most popular products. A real professional product that delivers plenty of value for the price.
Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk 20/80 Bronze
Ernie Ball is one of the leading companies when it comes to electric and western guitar strings. On the other side, products for classical guitar aren’t that popular. Still, this set of strings is a perfect choice for beginners. With the ball-end design, you definitely won’t have any restringing troubles. Also, the strings sound very bright. Higher ones are made from genuine nylon, while bass strings feature 80/20 bronze winding, which delivers even brighter tone and more attack compared to silver plated strings. All in all, the tone is very clear and the strings feature impressive attack. Also, the strings are very durable, while the price is relatively affordable.
Hannabach 815 LT
This is the most popular product of the renowned string maker, which seems like a perfect choice for those who don’t want to sacrifice tone for playability. Despite being low-tension strings, they offer a premium quality tone, with plenty of dynamics and decent volume and sustain. When it comes to materials, these are typical nylon strings. Of course, bass strings are silver plated. The price is pretty high, but we are talking about a high-end product.
Martin M260 80/20 Bronze Ball
For those who are seeking for convenience at a very affordable price, this is the right set. Martin M260 are ball-end strings, perfect for beginners and others who don’t want to have any troubles while restringing. The price is very affordable, tone characteristics are pretty decent, while durability is also good. A combination of nylon and 80/20 bronze bass strings ensures great
tone balance, no matter the tonewood.