What Should I Know About Classical Guitar Strings?

Classical guitars are hollow-bodied, wide-necked acoustic guitars that are used to play classical music, flamenco, Spanish, Mariachi, jazz, and ballads. They can also be used as filler in songs of other genres to add flavor. Madonna’s La Isla Bonita, for example, is a dance song with Spanish guitar throughout.

The majority of classical guitar strings today are nylon, which produces a warm, full, and melodic sound. A silver-plated or bronze wrap surrounds a multi-threaded nylon core in bass strings. Silver strings tarnish easily and should be wiped clean with a cotton cloth after each use. The choice between silver and bronze bass strings is a personal one, with silver producing a brighter tone and bronze producing a warmer timbre.

Clear treble strings, black trebles (sometimes red), and rectified trebles are all options for classical guitar strings. Clear treble strings have a classical sound, whereas black/red trebles have higher overtones and are more distinctive. Rectified trebles are designed to have a consistent diameter throughout the length of the string and are generally considered to sound warmer.

Classical guitar strings are available in a variety of tensions to accommodate various playing styles. Tensions are classified as super light tension (SLT), light tension (LT), medium tension (MT), high tension (HT), and super high tension (SHT) (SHT). The greater the tension, the more force is exerted on the guitar’s neck. In comparison, higher tension strings are louder, fuller sounding, stiffer, and require more finger strength. Experiment with different tensions to find the right one for your playing style.

Catgut (commonly sheep’s intestines) was once used to make classical guitar strings, but today only a few string manufacturers sell catgut strings. Catgut’s pitch does not last long and is prone to breaking. Some retailers will not guarantee catgut strings as a result of these issues.

A hobbyist with a classical guitar may want to play rock-style music and hopes to achieve a rockier sound replacing classical guitar strings with steel-core strings, thus avoiding the cost of purchasing a new guitar. Because the tension exerted nylon strings is not great enough to require one, a classical guitar’s neck does not have a supporting truss rod. Steel-core guitar strings, such as those used on steel-stringed acoustic guitars, should not be used on a classical guitar because the neck will warp or break. Classical tuning keys aren’t designed to handle the extra tension required steel-core strings, so they may be unable to pitch the strings.

Light-tension silk and steel guitar strings can be a good compromise. These are steel core strings with silk fibers wrapped around them and silver-coated copper on top. While they apply more tension to the neck than classical guitar strings, they do so at a much lower level than steel-core strings. However, depending on the instrument, these strings may still cause the neck to bow, and they can cut into nuts and saddles designed to support less abrasive nylon strings over time. Furthermore, the neck of a classical guitar is wider than that of an acoustic guitar, making it less suitable for genres other than those for which it was designed.

From invigorating staccato rhythms in classical pieces to irresistible, romantic riffs that evoke rich, blue Mediterranean seas and passionate love shared between dark-haired lovers, classical guitars produce uncompromising sound. If you haven’t replaced the strings on your classical guitar in a while, it’s time to rekindle your passion for this lovely, traditional instrument. LaBella, Augustine, Aranjuez, Martin, D’Addario, and Hannabach are just a few of the excellent classical guitar string manufacturers.