Last Updated on August 12, 2022 by Play Guitar Notes
If you are a beginner looking for a reliable set of strings to replace your current dull and lifeless ones, it can seem a little overwhelming at first. There are so many brands on the market, all of which have their own unique aspects and tonal characteristics which you need to take into account.
Today we will take a look at our top 10 sets of nylon strings available on the market across a broad range of products, so no matter what you’re looking for there is sure to be something in this list that fits your style.
|Alice Classical Guitar Strings|
|Savarez Strings 540J|
|Smiger Classical Silver|
|Ernie Ball Earthwood|
|Augustine Black Low Tension|
|Martin Guitar Classical M260|
|D'Addario EJ25B Pro-Arte|
D’Addario Pro-Arte, Normal Tension
One of the reasons why D’addario are such a safe and reliable choice if you don’t have an initial brand in mind is because of their prominence and scale within the string manufacturing space. They have an extremely refined and meticulous QA process, using lasers to measure and calculate the exact diameter and tension level of each string to ensure you have a consistent and stable product.
The pro-arte series are essentially your standard ‘normal’ strings for a classical guitar, with tensions designed for regular tuning with a nice, neutral tonal base that is warm and pleasant. This is one of the most popular string choices for classical guitarists.
Fender 130 Classical Strings
Primarily known as a guitar manufacturer, Fender’s own brand of strings are actually quite well respected. With many people choosing them over the more popular brands.
Available in both a ball end or tie end, and are wound with puresilver adding great projection and life to the tone of your instrument.
These are regular, standard gauge sets that can offer a great alternative choice to something like D’addario or Ernie Ball. Just remember to select ball end or tie end when ordering otherwise you may find the wrong one arriving, which has certainly confused some buyers.
Alice Classical Guitar Strings
One of the lesser known brands, Alice strings are a small company that provides very high quality strings all around the world.
This set has a special ‘anti-rust’ coating applied and Alice claims they ‘last much longer’ – in both a tonal longevity sense, as well as corrosion resistance, increasing resilience to string breaks.
The wound strings are silver-plated copper which provides a nice top end and present tone, as well as a very bright, almost white aesthetic to the strings.
These are also available in two tensions, standard or ‘hard tension’ depending on your preference.
Savarez Strings 540J high tension
Based in France, Savarez has been manufacturing strings since the 1700s. And while never quite achieving the household level of notoriety as other brands, they have nevertheless proven themselves to produce consistent, reliable and high quality products.
This high tension set is designed to be clear and defined, by using a string that requires additional tension in order to be brought up to pitch. It demands you as a player to be a little bit harder in your grip and picking style. But the reward is that chords and lines are going to pop and sing with added clarity.
Smiger Classical Silver Wound Light Rust Prevention
While marketed as an ‘entry level’ classical string set, these strings by Smiger actually sound fantastic. And make a great choice if you need to burn through a few sets for practice or rehearsal.
They have an anti-rust coating on them to improve tonal longevity, and are a light gauge string which is ideal for anyone who has a softer picking hand and needs something that will respond well to a defter touch.
These have the famed ‘smiley face’ tonal balance with pronounced bass and top end, with a less present boxy midrange.
Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk Nylon Ball End Set, Clear and Gold
One of Ernie Ball’s most popular products in their nylon string range. Used by some incredibly notable musicians such as Joe Bonamassa and Slash. These are fairly thick with a high 28, and are finished with an 80/20 bronze wrapping around the nylon core.
They have a bright, present, and percussive sound which makes them ideal for loud and proud, high-energy playing styles. They also have ball ends so can be used on a steel string instrument, or if you snip the ends off they can easily be installed on a traditional classical guitar.
D’Addario EJ27N Studen
While at first glance these may appear as just another ‘standard’ set of nylon strings from D’addario. These are specifically marketed using the verbiage ‘student’, which means they are designed purely with value for money in mind.
They are not trying to sound world class, but they do sound good with solid warmth and projection and a silver-plated copper winding that provides a good balance of tone as well as reasonable tonal longevity.
Ideal for anyone on a budget or needs throwaway packs of strings for practice.
Augustine Black Low Tension
Based in New York, Augustine were the originators of the manufactured nylon string. Ushering a new age for the instrument and allowing musicians to move away from the animal-based product strings.
These are a premium set that are intended for high-level players who demand only the best from the tone of their instrument. They are of a standard tension with a silver winding on the bass strings providing a clear and balanced tone.
They are also a low tension set meaning they will be a little easier to play for those who have a gentler, softer touch.
Martin Guitar Classical M260
Martin are one of the most prestigious acoustic guitar manufacturers around, and as such, they can be trusted to know what needs to go into a good guitar string.
This is one of their flagship products and has been intentionally marketed towards ‘all players’. They offer good value for money with an 80/20 bronze winding over the nylon core which provides a nice feel and a balanced tone that is appropriate for all styles of playing, from folk to flamenco.
They also have ball ends making them quick and easy to install.
D’Addario EJ25B Pro-Arte Black Nylon Composite Flamenco Guitar Strings
There are not many string brands around who create a product aimed at a specific genre. Generally, they try to embrace versatility and provide a balanced sound so anyone can use them.
This product is not one of them, and is unapologetically designed for flamenco players. Boasting all the qualities a player in that style would look for such as a quick, snappy attack and dynamic response that adjusts to the strength of the player.
The composite nylon core material is said to help with tuning stability and intonation which is ideal for anyone using the lively playing style associated with flamenco.
Is a nylon string guitar easier to play?
There are a few things to consider when asking this question. Firstly is that the action (the height of the strings from the fretboard) is a little higher than that of a steel string, this is due to reduced tension in the strings so it needs more room to ‘breathe’.
Also, the string is softer to the touch, making it a little more forgiving on the fingers as it ‘digs in’ less.
Overall it works out about the same level of difficulty as a steel string, sure there’s less tension and it feels softer on the fingers, but you also have higher action which requires more dexterity to fret the notes.
Which string is best for acoustic guitar nylon or steel?
The first thing to establish here is that there are two primary types of acoustic guitar, the classical and the steel string. With classical using nylon strings and steel string using, you guessed it, steel strings.
These are actually not interchangeable as classical guitars have been designed and built with the lower tension nylon strings in mind, oftentimes not even having a truss rod installed in the neck. So they cannot handle the increased tension of steel strings.
So if you have a classical guitar, you must always use nylon strings with it.
Can you use a pick on a nylon string guitar?
At the risk of angering the classical guitar purists, yes you can. It’s your instrument and you can do whatever you want with it.
However there are a few things to consider, generally speaking, nylon strings are designed with fingerpicking in mind. And as a result they can struggle to keep their tuning if you use a guitar pick too roughly with them, also classical guitars often do not have the right finish or a pickguard to contend with pick contact, meaning there’s a risk of scratching up the body of the guitar.
If you really love using a pick, perhaps consider a steel string over a classical guitar.
Why do classical guitars use nylon strings?
They generally have a warmer sound which lends itself well to the styles and genres one would want to use the guitar for, such as classical or flamenco. The sound of a steel string would be too loud and aggressive, fundamentally changing the iconic sounds we know these genres for.
Originally, guitar strings were made from animal gut and silk, but during the second world war when these materials were not readily available new materials were considered, with nylon being the best suited for the job.
Do nylon or steel strings last longer?
From both a durability and tonal point of view steel strings are the winner here. Steel strings
can take double the amount of ‘pull’ before they will snap, meaning they are better suited to withstand the rigors of aggressive playing.
Nylon is not only a softer material, but from a tonal perspective it’s harder to remove the finger oils than that of a steel string meaning the tone will begin to wane faster, resulting in a need to change the strings sooner.
How often should I change my nylon guitar strings?
Provided you are not breaking the strings by playing too hard, in which case you should probably take a look at your technique and playing style to ascertain why you are breaking strings.
You should just change them when you feel the tone has dulled enough. This might be different for everyone, especially if you are just practicing at home and don’t care too much about playing on dull strings.
Changing the strings is a nice opportunity to give the guitar a good clean too, so try to change them at least every 6 months even if you feel you could get away with them for longer.
Can I replace steel strings with nylon?
While we mentioned above that you cannot replace nylon strings on a classical guitar with steel strings as classical guitars are not designed to withstand the additional tension demanded by steel strings. You can actually replace the strings on a steel string guitar with nylon, this is because the guitar is built to withstand far more tension than a nylon string demands, meaning it poses no threat to the guitar.
However, it’s worth noting that the way the strings attached to the bridge of a steel string guitar is different from that of a classical. So you have to make sure you buy nylon strings with the ‘ball-ends’ that you would find on steel strings in order to place them under the bridge pins.
Do nylon strings go out of tune easily?
Because of their softer material and looser tension, nylon strings will go out of a tune a little easier than steel strings.
However, this should not deter you in any way, nylon strings do hold their tuning well and you should have no problem being consistent during a long concert (as has been proven by many a professional classical musician). The difference is not that dramatic.
Why does my guitar have 3 nylon and 3 steel strings?
We have established that nylon is a softer material and generally has less tension. This becomes a problem on the bass side of the guitar as it needs to produce a lower tone, but if you were to simply tune lower the string would be too floppy to be usable.
The solution? add more mass to the string. Increasing the thickness of the strings using winding allows it to retain a good tension while also producing a lower pitch. This is more preferable to simply making a super thick nylon string as the string would be too soft and stretch too much to hold a consistent pitch.
Is it easier to play barre chords on nylon string guitar?
Nylon strings are easier to play barre chords on. This is because the string tension is lower meaning you can fret the notes a little easier despite the higher action. Plus the strings are rounder and softer to the touch, the nature of barre chords means sometimes you have to apply a lot of pressure to get all 6 strings touching the frets, and you might have to twist the finger a little exposing the softer area of your flesh to the string.
This can be quite painful with steel strings as they tend to dig into the flesh a little. Whereas nylon strings will be a little less aggressive on the hand.