Whenever I try to adapt music for classical guitar I actively try to avoid transposing any note to the first string (High E) because it sounds so much more twangy than the other five. I understand that by nature it can never sound as rich as the metal-coiled strings but even the other two nylon strings do not sound this bad.

From what I have heard, others have had luck replacing theirs with an extra-low-tension second string but I imagine they wear out pretty fast.

Is there any class of strings available that I can replace my first string that produce a softer tone?

  • I guess I should clarify that I'm not asking for a specific product recommendation, I was just wondering what things you can look for when buying. Feb 15, 2012 at 0:20

3 Answers 3


That problem highly dependent on your playing style (normally, the position and angle of incidence of the plucking fingers is different on each string, which may be actively used to compensate the different sound) and the guitar's characteristics.

Anyway, in my experience carbon strings generally have a more "even" sound than nylon strings, so I'd suggest you try some of those. However, that means that the sound of the b and g string will also change substantially; to me this is a positive effect (I tend to be more dissatisfied with too mellow-sounding g-strings than with too twangy e) but I can't assure you will like it too.


If you are using nylon strings you should be able to play such that the tone is pretty consistent across the top three strings - of course this is trickier if you are playing using your fingernails, but very straighforwards if you use your fingertips.

  • Yes, a little bit of flesh in front of the nail softens the attack. And striking a little further from the bridge softens the tone overall. Mar 16, 2012 at 18:49

As others have said, the tone of the first string is very heavily influenced by your technique. Having said that, one of the biggest challenges when arranging a piece for classical guitar is determining which position to play a given passage.

The open first string will always sound more twangy than the same note on the second or third string. The trick is to make sure the tone of an individual note is consistent in its context. For example, some people like to use open strings as an aid in changing left hand positions more smoothly, such as using the open E when playing a scale in the 7th position, rather than the E on the third string - and using this break to move the left hand to 12th position. Although this can eliminate the slight break during the shift, the timbre difference of the open string can a shock to your ears and make the entire line sound less consistent.

Contextual consistency is everything.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.