If you’ve spent most of your time playing steel string acoustics, or you’re a beginner starting with a nylon string guitar, choosing the right string can be a bit overwhelming. There’s just so many options to choose from, all of which have a drastic effect on both your tone and the feel of your instrument.
Thankfully, if you’ve struggled with figuring out how to choose the best classical guitar strings for your needs you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you all the information that you need in order to make an informed decision, as well as give you five great recommendations to help aid you in your search.
- What Are Classical Guitar Strings?
- What Are The Different Types of Classical Guitar Strings?
- Ball End vs. Tied Classical Guitar Strings
- Top 5 Classical Guitar Strings
What Are Classical Guitar Strings?
Up until WWII, classical guitar strings (some people say nylon strings, and some people say classical guitar strings. They both refer to the same thing) were made out of intestine and silk. The process used then is actually similar to how nylon guitar strings are made today. The three thinnest strings were plain, while the three thickest strings were wrapped in silk.
Today guitar strings are made from nylon as opposed to gut and silk for a variety of reasons, though cost is definitely the chief among them. This type of string is traditionally used on a classical guitar for two main reasons. The first is purely tradition. Gut was all that was available up until recently, so the majority of classical guitar works have been composed or arranged with gut (and now nylon, which does a good job of approximating the tone of gut) so in order to get what’s generally thought of as the “classical guitar sound” you need to use a traditional string. The second is that nylon strings are physically easier to play because they’re under less tension than steel strings, which makes complicated fingering or fast passages easier for the musicians playing them.
What Are The Different Types of Classical Guitar Strings?
While nylon strings do come in different gauges, the most important factor is tension. Nylon strings come in low, normal, and high tension varieties. Low tension strings are easier to fret, have a bit less volume, and are generally considered to be a tad more “complex” sounding. High tension strings are the opposite of low tension strings, and normal tension strings strike a happy balance between the two extremes.
When considering what type of string you should get, first you need to really be aware of the current sound of your guitar. Some guitars emphasize treble frequencies, so a high tensions set of strings that has some dampening effect might do a good job of taming high end frequencies that are a tad too piercing. The inverse is also true for low tension strings.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a clear cut answer here. In order to find the best match for your guitar you’re going to have to experiment. Thankfully, strings really are pretty cheap all things considered. And it’s worth the extra investment and effort to ensure that you get a set of strings that make your guitar sound as good as it possibly can.
Ball End vs. Tied Classical Guitar Strings
While the majority of nylon strings generally come unadorned, some do come with a ball end similar to what you’d find with a regular steel string guitar. Structurally, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s not going to destroy your guitar, and you’re probably not going to notice a difference between a ball end string and a plain end string provided they come from the same manufacturer.
Unfortunately, some ball end strings aren’t made to same level of quality that you’d find with high quality nylon guitar strings. The reason is that the companies who make ball end nylon guitar strings are trying to capitalize on beginner’s not knowing how to properly tie a nylon string, so they cut corners because they can get away with it. Ball end strings have the capability to sound just as good as a plain end string, just make sure you go with reputable manufacturers like the ones mentioned below to make sure they are not trying to take any shortcuts.
Top Five Classical Guitar Strings
Because guitar strings are relatively cheap, we selected the highest quality products we could find. All of our selections are based on feedback from both the general public, our readers, and the Equipboard staff. As always, feel free to let us know in the comments section below if you feel anything else should be included. The five recommendations below are all a great place to start your search!
D'Addario EJ45 Pro-Arte Nylon Classical Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk Nylon Guitar Strings
Savarez 500CJ Corum Cristal Classical Guitar Strings
Martin M160 Silverplated Ball End Classical Guitar Strings
Albert Augustine 525A Gut Classical Guitar Strings