Choosing the Right Strings

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
pav1
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Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:33 pm

Choosing the Right Strings

Post by pav1 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:52 pm

Hello friends at Classical Guitar,

I recently bought my first classical guitar and I'm confused about the strings. I don't understand why usually the first 3 strings are nylon and the remaining 3 are metallic wound. I don't understand why the string material isn't consistent in order to get the same tone, sustain, etc. I was also thinking about a slightly more flamenco tone as opposed to classical. If anyone can shed some light on this, I'd appreciated it.

Thank you,
Craig
Last edited by pav1 on Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Contreras
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Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by Contreras » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:22 am

pav1 wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:52 pm
Hello friends at Classical Guitar,

I recently bought my first classical guitar and I'm confused about the strings. I don't understand why usually the first 3 strings are nylon and the remaining 3 are metallic wound. I don't understand why the string material isn't consistent in order to get the same tone, sustain, etc. I was also thinking about a slightly more flamenco tone as opposed to classical. If anyone can shed some light on this, I'd appreciated it.

Thank you,
Craig
To quote the 'late' lamented Polifemo de Oro :

The Doctor will be with you shortly. :mrgreen:
Put down the bagpipes ...
... and no one gets hurt.

JohnH
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Location: Irving, Texas,USA

Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by JohnH » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:27 am

The 3 lowest pitched strings would be too thick if the whole set was monofilament nylon. If all of the strings were metal wound fine nylon the 3 highest pitched would tend to break. The highest pitched string would most likely break before being tuned to pitch.

pav1
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Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:33 pm

Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by pav1 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:24 pm

Thank you for the response. So there's no happy medium as far as string gauge using the same material? I believe the strings on the guitar now are .028, .032, .040, .029, .035, .043 They are all easy to bend except for the 4th string, is this normal?

Laudiesdad69
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Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:07 am

What brand/tension of strings are you using on your classical. And by using the word "bend" do you mean you try to bend them like on an electric guitar, or steel string acoustic?

pav1
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Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by pav1 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:34 pm

They are D'addario EJ45 normal tension. They bend almost as easily as an electric guitar, except for the 4th string, I'm thinking that it just wasn't wound properly, the string is hitting the center of the headstock.

Laudiesdad69
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Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:35 pm

Classical strings aren't meant to be bent like bending up two semitones like on an electric guitar. They usually go flat after tying to bend them like that. The d string will probably have the most problem with bending. The diameter is thin and so are the windings on that string.

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bacsidoan
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Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by bacsidoan » Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:21 pm

pav1 wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:52 pm
Hello friends at Classical Guitar,

I recently bought my first classical guitar and I'm confused about the strings. I don't understand why usually the first 3 strings are nylon and the remaining 3 are metallic wound. I don't understand why the string material isn't consistent in order to get the same tone, sustain, etc. I was also thinking about a slightly more flamenco tone as opposed to classical. If anyone can shed some light on this, I'd appreciated it.

Thank you,
Craig
Without going into too much detail, let me just say that the string companies are just following the laws of physics. The main frequency of a vibrating string is proportional to the square root of its tension and inversely proportional to the square root of its density (weight per unit length). Since the optimal string tension range is pretty much predetermined by the instrument (for the playability and the tonal quality) the manufacturers have to change the density of the strings to achieve the desired pitch. Without the winding filaments, the solid bass strings would be bulky and extremely stiff. In addition they would behave more like a tube than a string which would lead to undesirable severe inharmonicity. Just examine the G-string and you'll know what I mean. That particular string is notorious for "tubbiness" and intonation problem. As for the treble strings, their diameters are smaller, making it impossible to fabricate durable wound strings. There are a few wound G-strings for the CG on the market but they wear out pretty quickly and the tone is not desirable to some players. At the end of the day, everything about the guitar is a compromise, and it is actually amazing that the instrument sounds as good as it does, a testament to hundreds years of trials and tribulations by the the guitar builders who are, IMHO, pretty smart people.

pav1
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Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:33 pm

Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by pav1 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:10 pm

Thank you Laudiesdad69 and bacsidoan for the info. So ideally I would want to use high tension strings on my 650mm guitar, but normal or medium tension will work also?

Laudiesdad69
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Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:56 pm

You may find that the medium tension strings have more sustain than the same strings in a higher tension. You will just have to try them. Also, there is a big difference in the actual lbs of tension between what different makers call HT or MT. Strings by mail has this information about many sets of strings they sell, but some manufacturers don't provide that info. I tried some LaBella HT flamenco strings in HT, but there was actually less total tension than a set of MT strings in another brand, so it can get confusing.

Flapjack
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Location: Virginia, U.S.A.

Re: Choosing the Right Strings

Post by Flapjack » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:01 am

Laudiesdad69 wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:56 pm
You may find that the medium tension strings have more sustain than the same strings in a higher tension. You will just have to try them. Also, there is a big difference in the actual lbs of tension between what different makers call HT or MT. Strings by mail has this information about many sets of strings they sell, but some manufacturers don't provide that info. I tried some LaBella HT flamenco strings in HT, but there was actually less total tension than a set of MT strings in another brand, so it can get confusing.
And different string manufacturers use different scale lengths when measuring tensions. La Bella, for example, claims 655mm, while D'Addario claims 648mm.

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