Eventually, every guitarist needs to buy new classical guitar strings. As strings get old, you need to take off the old strings and put on new ones.
But what are the best classical guitar strings to buy? What should the string tension be? What about the string material?
This page will teach you everything you need to know to choose good classical guitar strings for your instrument.
These are the most common classical guitar strings. Probably about 50% of all classical guitarists play with these:
D'Addario, Pro-Arté, Extra Hard Tension Strings
They are a reliable, typical-sounding set of strings. They stay in tune, keep their sound for a long time, and don't break very easily. Also, they are very cheap - the least expensive of all the strings.
So if you can't decide which strings to buy, or you are happy with a typical-sounding string, buy D'Addario Pro-Arté.
Choose a string brand based on quality, and string specialization.
Bigger Brand Usually Means Better Quality
The two largest classical guitar string makers are D'Addario and Savarez. The largest companies are usually the most reliable in terms of string production - so they consistently have good intonation, and good durability.
There are also many smaller string companies, like Hannabach, La Bella and Aquila, that make very good strings, but are not quite as reliable in terms of quality
Each Brand Specializes in a Specific Type of String
D'Addario specializes in their Pro-Arté nylon strings (mentioned above), which are designed to a typical, clean-sounding nylon string.
Savarez specializes in rectified nylon strings, which have a warm, full sound, but can sound slightly scratchy. Recently, they also started specializing in carbon strings, which are very durable and bright-sounding.
Aquila specializes in a new type of string called "nylgut" - a nylon string designed to sound like a gut string (very warm and mellow tone).
Hannabach specializes in their "golden" strings - a secret formula with a bright sound and good projection.
The string tension is the amount of tension pulling on each string when in tune. String tension ranges from low to extra high.
Every guitar reacts differently to each string tension, so experiment until you find one that sounds best on your guitar.
String tension affects the volume, technique, note attack, and note body when you play. Here are some general guidelines:
Higher Tension = More Volume
In general, the higher the string tension, the louder your can play without getting a buzzing sound. However, you must use more effort to play a high tension string loudly.
Lower Tension = Easier to Press Strings
Since low tension strings have less pressure, you can easily push them down against the fretboard with the left hand fingers. As a result, all classical guitar techniques are much easier to play on low tension strings. Moreover, this helps you to conserve energy for longer practice sessions, and prevent bad habits, like squeezing with the left hand.
Higher Tension = More Note Attack
The "attack" is the strong sound that you hear instantly after you pluck a string. High tension strings have a strong attack, making them sound more accented. This is very good for rhythmic playing, but bad for smooth legato playing.
Lower Tension = More Note Body
The "body" is all of the sound in the middle of the note, after the initial attack. Lower tension strings tend to have less attack, but more body. This is good for smooth, legato playing, but bad for rhythmic playing.
Each string material produces a different tone when you play. Some materials are mellow while some are bright. Some are clear while some are dull.
For the most part, you only need to worry about string material for the top 3 strings. Also, don't be afraid to combine different string materials. For instance, many people use nylon on the 1st and 2nd string, and carbon on the 3rd string.
Read about each string material below:
Nylon strings are the most common type of string material. Nylon strings generally sound very clean, warm and mellow, but can be very dull and lifeless when playing on the third string, or in higher positions.
Carbon strings are a very recent development in the classical guitar world. They are very bright and clear, and good and projecting across a room. Carbon strings sound very good when played in the middle registers, but are sometimes weak in the high registers.
Gut strings are the oldest type of guitar string. They have a very rich mellow sound, but are also very quiet. Do not use gut strings if you play with fingernails - your nails will tear the strings apart.
Nylgut strings are another new development in the classical guitar world. Nylgut strings are made of nylon, but are designed to sound like gut strings. They have the warm rich sound of gut strings, and your nails will not tear them apart (like normal gut strings).
There is no such thing as a "best" classical guitar string. Each string brand has its own unique personality, and every guitar reacts differently to different strings. So experiment with different string types and find the one that you think sounds best on your guitar.
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