Can you Swap Nylon Strings & Metal Strings?
Author: Lachlan Bush
Date Posted:30 December 2020
Why you shouldn't change the strings on your classical guitar from nylon to steel.
A lot of people think that you can change the strings on your classical guitar from nylon to steel, and on your steel string guitar, from steel to nylon, but today we're going to explain to you the four reasons why you shouldn't do this:
- Too much string tension
- No truss rod can break the neck
- String action will be too high
- Strings won't fit in the nut
1. String Tension
On your typical nylon string guitar, you have a string tension of about 80 pounds. Whereas on a steel string guitar, you have string tension of about 160 pounds. What this means is that if you were to put steel string guitars on a classical guitar, it's a lot of increased string tension, and that will cause the guitar to bend more than it should, and will cause you problems with the guitar, and make it very uncomfortable to play.
2. The Truss Rod
On a steel string guitar ... most steel string guitars have a truss rod, which runs down the centre of the neck. What the truss rod's main job, is to counterbalance that tension of the strings, and, in doing so, it helps to keep your neck straight. But most nylon string guitars don't have a truss rod. Now, a lot of our guitars do have a truss rod in them, but a truss rod on its own is not enough to counterbalance the extra pressure of the strings.
3. Action Height
The action height is the difference between the top of the fret and the bottom of the string. On the typical nylon string guitar, that action height is around about 3 to 4 millimetres. Whereas on a steel string guitar, a good action is around about 2 1/2 millimetres. If this guitar were to have steel strings on it, but a 3 or 3 1/2 millimetre action, the action would be too high, make it uncomfortable to play.
4. The Nut
The nut is the part here at the end of the fingerboard where the strings run over. On a nylon string guitar, that nut is a little bit higher, and the slots are wider because nylon strings are actually wider than steel strings. So if you were to put steel strings on this guitar, you'll have problems with them not playing in tune, and the strings will be higher than they should be. And if you try and put these nylon strings into a steel string nut, because that nut has much thinner slots, the strings won't sit in properly, and you'll also have problems on that guitar.
So that's the four reasons why you shouldn't change your strings from nylon to steel.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.
Watch below, a video from our founder, Ian Bush, Diving into this topic.
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