Putting Nylon Strings on a..

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Putting Nylon Strings on a..

I have been interested in a classical guitar for a long time simply because there are those times when I want a particular sound in an arrangement. Not being in the position to go out and purchase a quality classical guitar, I was curious if anyone has tried putting nylons strings on an accoustic. I have an Ovation Balladeer that appears to enable me to tie the nylon strings onto at the bridge. Pros/Cons?

Also, why do they make the neck width of a classical guitar so bloom'n wide? My hands just arn't that big.

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Nylon vs. Steel

I'm no expert in classical guitars but I believe one difference between steel and classical nylon stringed guitars is that the neck of steel stringed guitar is built with greater tension to resist the pull of the heavy metal strings. I know that way, way back when they had to change guitar construction to accomodate the heavier strings because the necks of classic guitars would simply snap under the pressure. As amplification technology improved, the guage of steel strings strings began to come down as did the resiliance of the guitar neck.

All that being said, I'm sure that modern guitars aren't as variable in their performance with different guages all the way down to nylon. I'm sure you could at least try out the feel of playing classical if you have a spare guitar to play around with.

And I totally agree with you. The neck width of classical guitars was invented to make us small hand guys feel bad. That's why I hold a pick. :)


Joined: 18 Feb 2008
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The bracing on steel string guitars is stronger to deal with the stress of steel strings. Stringing with nylon strings will produce a much reduced volume as there is more mass to vibrate. If you use a high tension set of nylon strings you will get a bigger sound. With the guitar that you described I bet that would make a very interesting sound. The necks on classic guitars are wide to accommodate the chord complexities of classic guitar music. I am sure there is more to this but this is all that I know. P.S. Taylor Guitar makes a much narrower neck on their classics. Later, Ben King

Joined: 14 Oct 2008
Groups: Jersey Jam
Nylon vs. Steel

Yes, I've used nylons on a (cheap) steel-string guitar and found the results disappointing. But that has little to do with the guitar's cost or quality.

Besides the steel-string's heavier bracing (than a classical) resulting in lowered volume:
- If the guitar is set for low action, the nylons won't pull on the neck enough to give proper relief. That leads to buzzing and needs a truss rod adjustment, and maybe a higher saddle.
- Nylons tend to vibrate in a wider arc. That also lead to buzzing and (in my reasoning) is one reason for the classical's wider string spacing.
- The unwound high E & B strings, and maybe others, are probably too thick to slip into the nut-slots of a quality steel-string (cheap guitars' slots are often wider than necessary). You really don't want to widen nut slots for an experiment that might not pan out.

DO consider trying "silk & steel" strings. They look like normal steel w/ ball ends and similar diameters, but the wound ones have a fibrous nylon core, resulting in lower tension. They're intended for older or lightly braced steel-string guitars, and fit without modification. They might work fine. I use them on my '60s Martin D-35 12-sting that sounds just great!

- Ed H.

Joined: 14 Mar 2009
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Narrow neck and classical sound

I've been working on this same issue for many years. It's complicated.

It's not only the difference of X-bracing vs fan bracing, or the higher tension of steel strings. That's what I thought originally, but now I think that the standard Martin-style dreadnought steel-string guitar was actually designed for a different type of sound than the standard Torres-style classical guitar, but it didn't have to be designed that way. I recently heard a hand-made steel string guitar that had the same kind of sound as a classical. It had an unusual V-shaped bracing system. When I first heard it I thought it was a classical guitar. If you were to put nylon strings on that guitar, it would probably sound exactly like a classical. Twenty years ago I built my own homemade x-braced steel-string guitar to try to get that kind of sound, and succeeded by sanding the top down thinner than usual and lightening up the bracing and the bridge. Now that I've realized that classical is the sound I really wanted all along, I've put nylon strings on it, and I'm very pleased with the sound. The neck is 1.65" wide at the nut, a bit tight for nylon strings, with 14 frets to the body plus a cutaway, and an arched fingerboard.

If you put nylon strings on most steel-string dreadnought guitars, the sound you get will be like the sound of one of those "hybrid" or "crossover" narrow-neck nylon-string guitars with an arched fingerboard and 14 frets to the body, which you can find in any guitar store. The most common one is the Ibanez AEG10NE. I put nylon strings on my Seagull M6 and it sounded just like that. It's not a bad sound. It may be exactly what you're looking for. But it's nothing like the sound of a classical guitar, and it's not what I was looking for.

Until recently, the only guitar I ever saw that combined a steel-string neck with a classical soundbox was an old Hondo that a friend has. But then Taylor started making one, and a year or two ago Guild came out with the GAD-4N and GAD-5N, which cost about $1000 each. I've played the 4N, and it's a true classical sound, a beautiful sound, with a very nice action, albeit 12 frets to the body and no cross-arch to the fingerboard. Now there's a Fender that looks very similar to those Guilds, the CDN240SCE, for only $350 but with a Fender logo on the headstock. I assume it sounds like a classical, but I can't be sure because no stores stock it. It's only available online. And I just learned that Alhambra Guitars, the big Spanish luthiery, has started making narrow-necked classical guitars, in the $1000+ range, but I don't think they're available yet, at least in the U.S.

Another option is to buy a classical guitar and trim the neck. Just making a narrower nut for it helps a lot, and is much less work, of course. But you can also cut the neck down in width and thickness and make it feel a lot like a standard steel-string guitar neck. I've done that. 12 frets to the body, and no cross-arch to the fingerboard, but it feels much better than a standard classical neck. The first step is to make the narrower nut, to see how narrow a nut you like. I ended up with 1.75" as my ideal for nylon strings, though I like about 1.65" with steel strings.

P.S. Someone told me that classical necks are wide mainly because Segovia had giant hands, and that Torres actually made guitars with narrower necks.

Joined: 25 Nov 2009
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Nylon on steel stringed guitars.

The problem is not the bridge. It's the nut slots - they are way too narrow and will pinch the strings. If you don't like the results, you may have to replace the nut when going back to steel.

The holes in the bridge on an Ovation may have to be enlarged. This is tricky but doable. I don't recommend it but it doesn't need to be restored later.

Most don't realize that pin bridges were designed to hold gut strings. Tie a bulky knot in the end of the string and it will work as designed. You can also buy ball-end nylon strings.

If you know where to look, it's pretty easy to get a quality nylon stringed guitar for not much money. Certain Chinese guitars are quite good. My favorite line is the Antonio Hermosa line from The Music Link. The ones with solid cedar tops list at $219 and sound surprisingly good. Internet dealers can bundle a gig bag and shipping to the US for that price. Yes, I'm a dealer but your local music stores can get them for you, too. These are surprisingly good. My teachers buy them for students because the sound and quality are there. If you want to test the waters for cheap, this is the ticket. These are designed and supervised by Greg Rich, the same guy responsible for the Recording King line.


Joined: 2 Feb 2010
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nylon strings

I'm no pro, but I find the guitar goes out of tune while playing with nylon strings and you have to stop often to retune the strings. I'm going back to steel strings and will bite the bullet for my fingers, but my ears will thank me!!!!

Joined: 5 Nov 2007
Groups: Jersey Jam
Nylon to Steel?


You're not considering putting steel strings on a guitar designed for nylon, are you? That would be a Very Bad Thing.

If it's a guitar designed for steel and it's just finger comfort you are concerned about, then, first, have the setup of your guitar checked. A properly setup guitar with a low action should not cause much finger discomfort, unless you just never get callouses.
Second, try those Silk&Steel strings that Ed mentioned.


p.s. Alpine, NJ? How's the skiing there? ;-)
Are you going to visit us at the Jersey Jam??

Joined: 22 May 2010
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Classical Guitar

Well, sounds like you guys play mostly steel strings, so, I'll enlighten you. Have you ever tried to play Fur Elise on a steel string? Well, if you have, you would have found out that the neck on a steel string makes it very difficult to not mute at least one of the strings. Classical guitars have wide necks so that you can pluck individual notes, not just strum across all of them. In fact, you really would never strum a classical guitar unless you were playing flamenco, but that's a whole different story.

Joined: 29 Jul 2010
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the Recording King ROS series

the Recording King ROS series of ooo size 12 fret slot head guitars is constructed lightly enough to make the change to HIGH tension nylon strings with only a slight reduction in volume. I have done it.
Some of the previous members have mentiond the nut slots and this is correct. They will have to be filed to the correct width to prevent pinching. Once done, you are committed. Also, a new bridge saddle will have to be formed. the saddle is easy but the nut slots require files of the proper size. these are available from Stew-Mac.
It would be much easier to just get one of the crossover guitars out there...I think the Guild 4 and 5 previously mentiond are the best value.
I have a Martin 000c-16sgtne. If you could find one of these...BUY IT!

Joined: 29 Jul 2010
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I thought I would add another

I thought I would add another 2 cents to this discussion...I use fishing line for strings on my banjo and steel guitar strings grind my fingernails down and make them rough so I use nylon guitar strings. I have a nylon string Martin with a 1 7/8th " wide nut. for me, this is the best neck width to work with. As I said earlier in this thread, the Recording King 000 12 fret series works well with nylon with little or no reduction in volume. I have a Breedlove 12 string which has extra high tension Hannabach nylon strings on it...took 4 sets to do it and it was a little expensive but I use it sparingly and they will last quite a while, as will the neck and action. The volume is slightly lower but it has a Fishman pickup which works fine. As with all my other conversions, I am committed and have filed the nut slots to size.
While I have done a dreadnought size guitar or two, I would not recomend a conversion on and neck less than 1 3/4 nut width due to the extra vibration of the nylon.
As to the bridge, I only raise the saddle or make a new saddle if needed...it's easy and the material is available from Stew-Mac. A steel string guitar set up with a nice low action will probably buzz with nylon. I hate turning the truss rod and have had little success doing it. This is due to the smaller amount of tension on the neck. For small adjustments, I just raise the saddle...works for me.
An old Harmony F hole archtop with a good non truss rod neck was one of my greatest saves. the guitar will probably last another 40 years with the high tension nylon strings. The higher tension Hannabach strings seem to save most if not all of the volume.
I just tie a knot in one end of the string and them slide a bead with a hole in it over the strings...bought at a local bead store my wife shops at.
I guess I have done 40 or 50 conversions on almost every guitar, bouzouki, octave mandolin and banjo over the years...not all successful. but mosly what I have done has saved a guitar that is going thru neck warp or top collapse...and a bunch of new stuff too
I would be happy to help if anyone has a project...or learn something new myself.

Joined: 27 Apr 2012
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need advice on strings

Hi, I was given an old Yamaha FG345 tan label(beautiful condition) for Christmas and am a beginner. They added an electric pickup- the kind that takes a battery. It was stored for many years and the strings were loosed but the truss rod wasn't so the neck was a little bowed. I loosed the truss rod all the way, any more would be off the threads. I think the neck has finished moving into place, I'm not getting any more buzz. The strings on it are coated and probably heavy since the previous owner is a very big man. My fingers don't seem to be getting tougher but I can't practice long with these strings. He suggested that I get light nylon strings to start learning but wonder if I will be able to get enough tension to keep the neck from bowing again. I really like the sound of nylon strings over metal and I am willing to try the knot bead thing you did, I have plenty of beads. I suppose for fun I even have gemstone beads I could use.I haven't looked inside so I'm not sure with the new pickup-will there be room for beads? I have also seen info on silk/metal strings but see complaints that they loose their tune quickly. I am on a budget but bad sound quality will make me loose interest. How about those high tension ball end nylon strings? Any advice would be appreciated. brands/types etc. thanks

Joined: 29 Jul 2010
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the truss rod should be

the truss rod should be tightened to take the bow out of the neck...leaving it loose won't hurt the guitar but won't help either. any truss rod adjustments should be made with some tension on the neck.
M160 Martin ball end nylon strings could be installed and brought up to pitch(if you cannot find ball end strings, just tie a knot in the end of the string and string it through a bead or, better yet, cut the brass ends off of the steel strings and thread the nylon through and tie a couple of knots to keep it from slipping out)...then tighten the truss rod and see if some of the bend(relief) is taken out...you will want to leave a little.
you can then get an idea what the guitar will sound like without comitting yourself and your guitar to the thicker diameter nylon strings.
if the sound is what you want, you will then need to get some files to open up the nut slots. the action will be high until you do. do not cut the slots deeper, just make them wider...small adjustments!!!!

Joined: 29 Jul 2010
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also, you will find that the

also, you will find that the nylon strings will go out of tune a lot for the first couple of weeks( the real truth is that they always need tuning each time you pick up the guitar but it gets a lot better as time goes by)...just put up with it and tune before each use.

Joined: 14 Oct 2008
Groups: Jersey Jam
Jludyx said... "I have also

Jludyx said...
"I have also seen info on silk/metal strings but see complaints that they loose their tune quickly. I am on a budget but bad sound quality will make me loose interest."

Just my 2 cents but: Any tone (I think that was intended?) lost to silk & steel strings pales in comparison to the tone lost by trying to drive a steel-string guitar with nylon. There's just too little nylon mass to get a well-braced top moving correctly.

As to tuning stability: Wooden instruments need to be tuned EACH time they're played regardless of string type, if only because of changes in temperature or humidity. The trick w/ any NEW string is to tune it, then stretch it (pull it up by hand) and re-tune. Repeat 4 or 5 times until it won't stretch further, at least not too quickly.

Hope this helps! - Ed

Joined: 5 Nov 2010
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stretching new strings

String manufacturers say to NOT stretch the strings after installation. It causes metal fatigue. When you over-stretch them, sections of the string narrow in gauge. Just tune them up to pitch and then LET THEM JUST SIT, the longer the better. Like overnight. That allows the molecules to align and get used to tension.

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