All about classical guitar strings
Your classical guitar has a wide neck and a hollow-bodied construction that enhances its acoustics. It is a special breed of instrument, definitive and timeless, on which you may play many variants of classical music, Spanish, flamenco, jazz, and other unplugged genres. Because your classical guitar is precisely crafted for acoustical playing, it requires special care when choosing its strings.
The difference between classical and steel guitar strings
Unlike modern steel-string acoustic guitars, a classical guitar does not have a supporting truss rod in the neck. This is because traditional strings do not require the tension of steel strings. You should never try steel strings on your classical guitar because you will warp or even break the neck. The tuning keys on your classical guitar are not designed for the tension required of steel strings, either – so you would not even be able to tune them, anyway.
Classical strings come in several varieties, and each offers a unique sound. For instance, the high-density, mono-filament Clear Treble strings offer that rich sound that is typical of a classical guitar, while Rectified Trebles are ground to a uniform diameter and offer an even more mellow sound. Black Trebles, which are actually black (and sometimes red) in color, offer the highest overtones and a purer, richer treble sound.
The first classical guitar strings were made out of catgut, which was actually crafted from sheep or cow intestines. Because catgut is so fragile and difficult to keep in tune, few string makers bother with it anymore. In fact, those that do continue to make catgut strings typically will not guarantee them against breakage or longevity.
Today, most classical guitar strings are made out of nylon. This material offers the same full and warm sound as catgut, without all the tuning and breakage issues. Nylon strings are very easy to find and come in a variety of styles.
If you absolutely must have steel-core strings, an alternative might be high-tension silk and steel guitar strings. These strings have a steel core wrapped with silk fibers and then are coated with silver and then again with copper. These strings still require more tension on the neck of your classical guitar, however, so you may find that the neck still bows and eventually the strings will cut into the nuts and saddles, as they are more abrasive than nylon or catgut strings.
Classical guitar strings are sold in different tensions, and each suits a different playing style. As discussed above, the greater the tension, the more force is applied on the neck of your guitar. You will choose the tension of your strings based on your playing style and the sound you are going for. For instance, high tensions strings offer louder, fuller sounds but are stiffer and require more finger strength than medium or low tension strings.
The classical guitar offers a sound that no other instrument can touch, and for this reason it has stood the test of time. Take good care of your beautiful instrument, and it will offer you years of enjoyment. When you are ready to treat your guitar to a new set of strings, consider the following manufacturers of excellent classical guitar strings:
- Ernie Ball
This is not a comprehensive list.
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