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I first picked up a guitar when I was about 7. Ever since I've been playing it, and I even performed a solo at a concert (Little Rover, by the stupendium!) I have 3 guitars, all acoustic. One hasn't been used in about a year and I'm thinking of selling it (any takers?) another is currently sidelined because of a broken string (not from my earlier question, that one has already been fixed) so I only have one that is in good enough shape to be played. The actual question here is for my guitar, it is currently strung with the top 3 strings brass and lower 3 nylon. I don't play professionally (yet) but I'm preparing a music festival in my town, and I want to know the advantages of both. Which one would produce a louder sound?

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  • What make and model is the guitar in question? Dec 6, 2022 at 23:35
  • Welcome! So it seems the answer to "can I change the strings on this guitar" is a simple "no." But if you want to ask "what are the pros/cons of nylon vs steel," then you're asking about two kinds of guitars. You could open a new question asking that. (You could also edit this question and have it re-opened, but in this case, when there's already answers and stuff, it's probably better to open a new one.) ... Dec 7, 2022 at 16:27
  • ... Before doing so, please take a second to read about the topics covered here and how to avoid subjective answers. For instance, "which is better, classical or steel-string" wouldn't be a good question, but "what makes a classical guitar better suited to classical/folk/flamenco music" might be. Dec 7, 2022 at 16:29
  • Good revision. Very clear now why the other linked posts didn't provide the answer.
    – Aaron
    Dec 7, 2022 at 20:38
  • @Aaron Huh. I still don’t get it. Still seems like a question about whether to put steel strings on a classical guitar or not. And we still don’t have the make and model of the guitar in question. I myself can’t see why this was reopened. It seems hardly different at all. Dec 8, 2022 at 13:57

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Neither steel nor nylon strings on their own produce very much sound at all, even when stretched and plucked. A vibrating string of any material just doesn't couple with enough air for the sound of it to be clearly audible.

That is why guitars have large, hollow, wooden bodies. The body of a guitar couples the energy of the vibrating string to a larger amount of air, acting as an amplifier for the string. The things that make a guitar sound louder or quieter are the construction of the bridge, top, back, and sides. There are also resonator guitars that have special designs intended to get more volume out of a guitar without making it much larger.

So the answer to which string is louder is neither. They are both extremely quiet on their own.

If you are curious about which kind of guitar is louder, then guitars that can be strung with steel strings are capable of more volume than guitars that must be strung with nylon strings.

In terms of "advantages" and "disadvantages" of nylon versus steel strings, it doesn't really work like that. You (almost) never have a choice between whether to put nylon or steel strings on the same guitar. Nylon string guitars must use nylon strings; steel string guitars must use steel strings.

On a nylon string guitar:

  • The advantage of nylon strings is you can put them on the guitar and the guitar will sound and play correctly.
  • The disadvantage of steel strings is if you try to put them on, it will be difficult and you run the risk of damaging the guitar.

On a steel string guitar:

  • The advantage of steel strings is they will fit and work as intended and the guitar will sound and play correctly.
  • The disadvantage of nylon strings is they will be very hard to put on and the guitar won't sound or play correctly at all. At least in this case there is no chance of damage to the guitar.
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  • I've been keeping quiet about it since I don't know, but is the tension of the two very different? I imagine that plays a role in volume? Dec 8, 2022 at 16:09
  • @AndyBonner yes, typically nylon strings have half the tension of steel strings Dec 8, 2022 at 16:09
  • @ToddWilcox in my entire life I've only seen one guitar where it was interchangeable. Dec 8, 2022 at 16:16
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    @AndyBonner I don’t think tension and volume are strongly correlated. I think there is a link but it’s not linear. I’d look at mass per unit length as more connected with possible volume. At the same frequency and maximum displacement, a more massive (denser) string will have more momentum, which correlates with more energy transfer to the top. Dec 8, 2022 at 16:24
  • I guess, for a given pitch, if you increase the tension and keep the vibrating length the same, you can decrease the mass... which... makes it softer? Changes the timbre, ie overtone blend, anyway; big fat ropy gut bass strings have that "muddy" sound... Dec 8, 2022 at 16:30
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The answer to your question is Yes, you should keep it like that else you risk damaging your guitar. As others stated, the three brass strings are nylon cores wound in brass (or other metal). If you buy a pack of "nylon" strings you will likely find the same configuration. It is standard.

On the off chance that someone put nylon on an acoustic guitar, then you would be fine to try out metal acoustic guitar strings. I HIGHLY doubt that this is the case, it sounds like your guitar is a "classical" guitar.

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  • This doesn’t address the question of advantages one way or the other.
    – Aaron
    Dec 6, 2022 at 22:00
  • @Awalrod Just inspected the guitar thoroughly, it's a yamaha, and it says "classical" on the soundbox label. Dec 6, 2022 at 22:41
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    @TheWantedOne You said the linked answers do not answer your question but they do. The first answer in the first link says this: “You should only use nylon strings on this guitar.” That’s your answer. You don’t have an option to put steel strings on it. Nylon only. Dec 6, 2022 at 23:38
  • @ToddWilcox if you read the entire question (I know, doing so instead of going for knee jerk reaction might get you downvoted) it's really about whether the OP should replace the strings on classical guitar with new nylon strings.
    – ojs
    Dec 7, 2022 at 9:38
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    @TheWantedOne Maybe we’re confused by your question. You can’t choose between nylon or steel strings to put on a guitar. You must put nylon strings on guitars made for nylon strings and steel strings on guitars made for steel strings. The advantage of nylon strings is they are the only strings you can use for a nylon string guitar. The advantage of steel strings is they are the only strings you can use for a steel string guitar. You wrote in your question, "should I keep it like this?" And the answer to that is yes, you must keep it like that. That is exactly what you asked. Dec 7, 2022 at 17:31
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There is a huge difference in Young's modulus between nylon and steel, see: What is "Young's modulus", and how does it relate to guitar?

Nylon strings change pitch less than steel when bent, either voluntarily or involuntarily, so they provide more stable intonation.

Nylon strings sound inherently more mellow, as they produce less high harmonics.

That being said, it's not really a choice whether to put steel or nylon strings on a guitar. As the others said, you need an appropriately made instrument to benefit from the string qualities. Moreover, putting steel strings on a classical guitar may damage the instrument due to increased tension.

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  • "Nylon strings change pitch less than steel when bent, either voluntarily or involuntarily, so they provide more stable intonation." —but, in my experience, they stretch more during the "break-in" period, right? Dec 8, 2022 at 16:11
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    @AndyBonner true, in general they may not hold tuning as well as steel strings over longer periods. Dec 8, 2022 at 18:03
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    @ToddWilcox The science of string instruments T.Rossing, chapter 8.2.2, attributes it to softness of the material and internal absorption of high frequencies, in nylon and gut strings, as opposed to metal strings. Dec 8, 2022 at 18:42

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