One of the most frequented questions on the internet by guitarists is whether or not steel string guitars can be replaced by nylon string guitars. The bigger question, however, is whether the two strings can be used interchangeably for guitars that are designed exclusively for either type of string.
So, can you put nylon strings on a steel string guitar and vice versa? Well, it’s time we clear things out. To hit the nail on the head, you can use nylon on a guitar that is designed for steel strings.
On the contrary, however, you cannot be able to use steel strings on a guitar designed exclusively for the nylon strings. The reason for this is that the steel strings may completely snap the neck of the nylon string guitars since the tension will be greater than the guitar can withstand.
Difference between nylon strings and steel strings
Choosing between the two can be the hardest thing for any beginner, right? Well, as it turns out, there is no single string that I’d recommend you start with. What I’d advise you to do is pick a string depending on the music genre you are interested in first.
Nylon strings present on the classical guitars are suited for folk, classical and flamenco music. The reason for this is because they get you a mellower and warmer sound. On the contrary, steel strings are ideal for playing rock, country, bluegrass, and other musical genres.
You also need to consider whether you’ll use a pick or not. If you will use one, it’s best to go for steel strings and alternatively use your fingers if you’ll be using the nylon string guitars.
Can you put nylon strings on a steel string guitar? Ans !!
Before we get started, I would like to point out that going this can be a rather cumbersome process depending on the guitar you have. Additionally, the design of the nylon strings does matter too.
With that being said, here are some important things you need to know:
Tying the nylon strings
First, one thing you need to know is that the nylon strings are not mounted similar to the steel strings. For the latter, they have ball ends that are pulled up against the bridge by the string tension.
In most cases, steel acoustic strings are held by tapered friction pins. These function to push the ball end below the soundboard and as such secure the string in place.
Because of the way a steel string guitar is, putting a nylon string on it can be a little tricky. Nylon strings are tied around the bridge and trying to mount them like steel strings won’t work. The reason for this is that friction would not hold the pins.
To secure the strings, you could utilize the headstock end of the steel string guitar. Secure the nylon string onto the tuning peg though you could have some problems due to slippage.
Something to be keen on:
When it comes to tying around the post, a little bit more attention is needed as compared to steel strings. You just need to hold the tension on the string on the post long enough till you have enough wraps to provide enough tension to hold it in place.
The nut grooves
This is normally at the end of the neck. On a steel string guitar, the nut normally has narrow groves. Naturally, steel strings are narrower than nylon strings. Because of this, it could be a little difficult to fit the nylon strings in the steel string nuts.
Because of this, you might either have to get another nut or be keen on the nylon strings you buy. To make things easy for you, I’d recommend that you settle with the classic ball-end strings, these allow you to secure the strings with the pins and will also settle in the nut grooves of most guitars.
Tuning: can be a little difficult
When it comes to string replacement, tuning is always a challenge even for steel strings. You’ll want to bring the strings up to the required pitch slowly. As it turns out, this can be a little difficult considering nylon stretches almost infinitely, well, you don’t want to try this out and break them, do you?
This can take a little bit more of time over several days of you using the guitar. Eventually, you’ll get things right after which you can do a little bit of fine-tuning before playing it.
The neck sizes
As already mentioned, nylon strings are wider as compared to steel strings. It, therefore, won’t come as a surprise for the neck to feel a little narrow on your hand. Though the difference is small, it will be noticeable once you start playing.
Because of this, I’d recommend you go for the narrowest nylon strings you can find. Either way, at the end of the day, it will take some time before you get used to using nylon strings on your steel string guitar. With such a string, it can work well even on a guitar with a neck width of 1 7/8”.
Also, there’ll be no to little truss rod adjustments needed since the action is good.]
So, why go for nylon replacement?
From my personal experience, nylon offers a greater variety of sound as compared to steel. This way, the sound is more appealing to the ear.
Additionally, when it comes to acoustic performance, nylon string gives better detail and a unique musical tone that cannot be achieved by the steel string guitars.
So, can you put nylon strings on a steel string guitar? Well, yes you can from the above guide but there’s plenty of work to be done. At the end of the day, it will be worth the hassle. You must pay attention to every step and precaution above to get a good enough music quality like you deserve.