An acoustic guitar brings you a vast range of music in terms of sound, style, and versatility. Both nylon and steel strings have their own benefits, but acoustic guitars mainly have steel strings. But can acoustic guitar use nylon strings?
Yes, you can use nylon strings on acoustic guitar. However, the combination isn’t common. In reality, adding nylon strings to the steel-string acoustic guitar is an experimental process where you can find new and different guitar tones. That’s why before trying this process, prepare yourself for the odds that come with it.
How to add nylon strings to the steel-string acoustic guitar?
Strings of classical guitars are usually made up of nylon, but acoustic guitars commonly have steel strings. To add nylon strings to the acoustic guitar, you’ll need ball-end strings. Here is how you can do it:
- Most commonly, classical guitars come with the bridge, which requires tie-end strings, not ball-end strings. But fortunately, some manufacturers started manufacturing nylon strings with ball ends for people who want to add nylon strings to acoustic guitars. So the first thing is to buy these strings.
- Moving forward, once you add the nylon strings to the acoustic guitar, make sure that the guitar is properly adjusted to support these strings. The tension of Nylon strings and steel strings differ from each other. That’s why you need to adjust your truss rod.
- Lastly, you have to buy a tuner. If you are fond of guitars, then you should probably know that nylon strings love to go out of tune, especially at the start of their lifespan. Plus, now you are adding nylon strings to a different type of bridge and neck, so they will most likely go out of tune. That’s why you should have a tuner with you.
Downsides of using the nylon strings on acoustic guitar
Several artists in music history used this unique combination and created beautiful masterpieces. But before you try this combination, I would like to tell you some issues you might face. You should take care of your guitar to avoid damage to your acoustic guitar.
1. Tuning inconsistencies
As I have told you, nylon strings go out of tune quickly. Plus, steel strings and nylon strings require a different amount of tension to be in tune. You have to tighten the steel strings in order to have good intonation.
The main issue with nylon strings is that they are naturally less stable. This natural problem is fixed with constant tuning checks on classical guitar. That’s why on acoustic guitar, nylon strings are much more problematic.
Acoustic guitars are designed to give proper tension, and with nylon strings, they can get a bit wacky. When you use nylon strings on acoustic guitar, keeping the guitar in tune becomes a hassle. This downside of Nylon strings can create block roads.
2. Neck tension and adjustments
Neck tension is the main issue with every type of guitar, either classic or acoustic. The acoustic guitar has a truss rod to help the guitar’s neck to support the pull from string tension. This truss rod will stabilize the neck’s curvature once the strings are at the proper tension.
Thanks to stabilizing properties of the truss rod, your guitar’s neck can maintain proper curvature and keep other issues like string action, intonation, and neck damage in check. Since you don’t need much tension for nylon strings, the truss rod of acoustic guitars may not be well suited for this endeavor.
Lack of proper setup for nylon strings on acoustic guitar can worsen the tuning inconsistencies. That’s why I recommend contacting a professional guitar tech to set up your acoustic guitar with nylon strings.
3. Restringing issues
Restringing issue is the easiest to manage out of all other problems that may happen to acoustic guitars with nylon strings. As I previously told you, most nylon strings come with open ends, which you must tie around the bridge. It’s a bit of a hassle in the beginning. You may have to tie strings repeatedly, but you will get better with practice and time.
Nylon strings or steel strings? Which is better?
Which type of string is superior depends on a couple of factors.
- There are many genres of music. Each genre requires a different tone, articulation, and overall sound. Both nylon and steel strings have a different flavors. So which one is better depends on the genre of music you are going to play.
- Steel strings are made up of alloys of bronze, phosphor, and aluminum. These materials make the strings brighter, airier, and crisper than nylon strings. That’s why steel strings are best suited for genres such as Country, Pop, Singer-songwriter, and some Folk music.
- Nylon strings are naturally softer, warmer, and have less clarity than steel strings. These properties of Nylon are because of its composition. Nylon strings are best suited for softer, warmer, and darker music. Jazz, Bossa Nova, Folk, and Classical music are best played on nylon strings.
So before adding nylon strings to your acoustic guitar, remember that both strings work for different genres. So we can’t decide which one is better. Both have their own merits. Before adding nylon strings to acoustic guitar, you should finalize the genre you want to play.
Is it easier to play nylon strings?
If we solely talk about the ease of playing, neglecting other factors, then yes. In my opinion, nylon strings are much easier to play. Following are two major reasons why I think this:
- Nylon strings require much less power and tension to be in tune. They are much softer. And for beginners, playing nylon strings is easy. On the other hand, steel strings are much tougher to fret and require more tension to be in tune. That’s why beginners may find it hard to play steel strings.
- The second reason why I think that nylon strings are easy to play is because of the material they are made of. Nylon strings are made up of Nylon which feels soft against fingertips resulting in fewer calluses and cuts. On the other hand, steel strings are made of metal alloys, making them harder and sharper. These strings will be rougher against the fingertips of beginners.
I favor nylon strings on acoustic guitar because the body of the classical guitar is bigger and thicker than an acoustic guitar. That’s why playing classical guitar for nylon strings is a bit difficult. But you can play guitar comfortably with nylon strings on acoustic guitar.
Changing steel strings of acoustic guitar with nylon strings isn’t something common. But it’s not impossible either. The process is a little complicated, so you should hire a guitar tech to avoid any damage to your guitar.