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I was checking out some classical guitars at a store today and was surprised to find out that only the treble strings are plain nylon, while the bass strings are nylon wound with bronze or silver.

Are there any plain (non-wound) nylon string sets for all 6 strings?

  • I wondered about this for a while. Harp strings go to a far thicker gauge, could they not be used? You might have to modify your guitar a little. if anyone works out which harp strings are best for which guitar string let us know! – rod Jul 22 '17 at 23:13
  • Concert harp strings go to a far thicker gauge than guitar strings before they cross over to wound, but they are also a lot longer than guitar strings at the crossover. If you want good sounding bass strings that are relatively short for their pitch, you have to make them heavier and/or more flexible. That's why we have wound strings. – Scott Wallace Jul 23 '17 at 10:36
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No.

It's not practical to manufacture plain nylon strings that are so thick that they could be tuned to the pitches of the three lower strings. Such strings would have to be so thick that they couldn't fit through the bridge holes, would not sit properly over the saddle, couldn't fit over the nut, and couldn't fit into the posts of the tuners. Furthermore pure nylon strings that thick would not hold a pitch properly; they couldn't be made to stay in tune.

This is the very reason that wound strings had to be invented -- to provide low pitches on a short-scale instrument. Wound strings were invented around the year 1660, so they've been around for about three hundred and fifty years. Up until around 1950, these strings were made of sheep gut, not nylon. But the principle is the same.

Before 1660, before they invented wound strings, if you wanted low bass strings, you had to have an instrument of much longer scale length.

Renaissance theorbo

Renaissance theorbo, with unwound bass strings of sheep gut. This is a real musical instrument and some people still play them today.

  • Awesome answer, thank you! As a side question, does anyone make flat-wound classical guitar strings? I understand those have a smoother finish which is what I am after. – Blahman Apr 24 '15 at 2:59
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    Flat-wound? No. But I like the D'Addario EXP round-wound coated strings, which are designed to last longer because the polymer coating keeps the dirt and oils from the fingers from getting to the metal windings. As a side-benefit, they are less "squeaky". goo.gl/jFrboM – user1044 Apr 24 '15 at 3:02
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    You can get "polished" classical guitar strings - I think D'Addario do them. I haven't tried them, but apparently the windings are flattened a bit to reduce the "squeak" of running fingers up the strings. They cost quite a lot more though. – Andy Apr 24 '15 at 9:25
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    @Blahman: the Thomastik Classic S have sort-of flatwound bass strings. (Mind, these aren't really nylon strings – they have a very thin stranded steel core, which helps to counter the dullness associated with flatwound.) – leftaroundabout Apr 24 '15 at 20:08
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    BTW, solid-polymer strings can actually be used for bass, even below the guitar range and without excessive scale: bass ukulele is normally strung with thick rubber strings! Of course, these give a pretty weird sound, but you can play music with them... – leftaroundabout Apr 24 '15 at 20:12
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Answer above that all nylon strings would mean they would get too fat and have to be too long for the guitar is ridiculous! I bought a folk guitar in the sixties that had all nylon strings. What happened to them? Paul McCartney plays a BASS guitar with only nylon strings made by Rotosound. On a classical guitar with all nylon strings the low e string is just double the thickness of the g string. Who decided to make only metal covered nylon strings for the lower 3 strings available?

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    This seems like more of a comment than an answer to the OP question. In any case, metal windings add mass to the strings. Achieving the correct pitch requires balancing string density, scale length, and tension; all of these affect playability. For strings of the same length and at the same tension, metal windings allow thinner strings. Note also that a bass guitar has a much longer scale length than a classical guitar. – David Bowling Jan 16 '18 at 10:00

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