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I bought my first decent classical guitar a few years ago. I particularly like the power, depth and brightness it has, over most of the range. However, on the notes above fret 12 it has really poor sustain, compared to my cheaper guitars. Some of these (e.g. Bb on string 1) have no real sustain at all.

I have been using Savarez Alliance High-Tension strings for years, again because I like their power, depth and brightness. But I wonder if these high-tension strings might be contributing to the lack of sustain on high notes.

The action is reasonably high, even for a classical, and I don't play the highest notes that often. Maybe these are also factors...

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First, let's establish some causes of premature string decay:

  1. Picking hand: If you are playing with your fingers, the finger plucking the fast-decaying note might not have as much strength as your other fingers.
  2. Fretting hand: The finger on your fretting hand might not be strong enough to hold the fret down for the desired time with a consistent force, causing the note to either decay quickly or accidentally choke.
  3. Gunk and dust: Gunk and dust on unclean fretboard/frets/strings/nut/bridge/whatever
  4. Tighter strings: Tighter strings decay more quickly than looser strings. If you tune down your high E string by a tone or two, you might notice that it will ring out for longer than if you tuned up. This is due to the combination of plucking the string with the same velocity and the looser tension of the string allowing it to vibrate more widely and decay slower, and having lower-tension strings will have the same effect.
  5. High action: With a higher action, you might be struggling more to fret the higher notes so they may be decaying faster due to that (same result as point 2).

As a primarily-electric player, I have noticed over the years that I need to put much less force into playing a higher note with .9 strings in order to make the note ring out for a long time than if I were to play with .10 or .11 strings. The strings are easier to fret and due to the strings being lighter they vibrate more widely when I pick/strum them - so they seem to ring out for longer (even without an amplifier adding compression and other electric guitar magicky stuff).

So to answer your question - yes, having lower-tension strings will probably have a positive effect on your sustain, assuming you are doing everything else correctly.


EDIT

Also, obviously string quality has an effect on sustain. I forgot to mention that in my original answer!

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    In addition, there is a larger change in mechanical impedance between a lower tension string and the bridge, so less energy is transferred to the bridge and more is kept in the string. So the volume goes down and the sustain goes up when you use lighter strings and/or lower tensions. – Todd Wilcox May 8 '18 at 16:55
  • Thanks both for the answer and the comment. I’ve been playing for years so the finger strength isn’t a problem. And I keep this guitar clean, wiping it down after practice. So it sounds like I need to try lower tension strings. Can’t believe I’ve been playing for so long and didn’t realise the higher tension strings have less sustain. – Bob Broadley May 8 '18 at 17:08
  • @BobBroadley There are some downsides to lower tension, including lower volume (as I've mentioned), thinner tone, and usually less even intonation, which is why not everyone plays the lightest possible strings. – Todd Wilcox May 8 '18 at 17:41
  • Yes, I found very early on in my playing that I liked high-tension strings for precisely those reasons, but my sub-one-second high Fs and Bbs are getting me down, so I think I need to experiment! – Bob Broadley May 8 '18 at 17:53
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Congrats on your new classical guitar !!! It really makes a huge difference. Which one did you get?

I have had three concert level guitars Ignacio Rosas, Sanzano, and Ruck. I still have two of them. I also have had a few other decent practice grade ones.

In my experience, the finding the right match is more important. Every guitar has different characteristics and so does string, not to mention the player also. You will find these characteristics becoming more visible on better guitars. So I would say try to find the right match between the guitar, strings and you.

Changing the tension usually result changing in the timber of the sound in classical guitar. Yes, it will change the stress on hands , but I found more on tonal color.

My favorite one was Hanabach Blue in the beginning, but it gave me a huge disappointment with the next guitar. I thought I received a badly built guitar for the huge amount of money I spent. I spoke to the luthier about it and he recommend to moving to a different set of string. I moved to Savarez and it made my guitar a completely different one. I was using Daddairo ProArte at some point. I also liked Hanabach Purple on one of my guitars. So, after these experience first thing I do is experimenting different string options when I get my new guitar. I ask for a recommendations to the luthier, also.

There are other variables that affects, but these are my experiences with strings.

  • Thanks. I’ve used Daddarios a bit. I’ll check out the other brands. – Bob Broadley May 8 '18 at 17:54
  • Have you tried Hannabach? I recommend purple. Which guitar did you get? – Kay May 8 '18 at 17:56
  • I haven't used Hannabach's; I'll try some. I've been religiously using Savarez Alliance for about 20 years! I use Daddario's on my cheaper guitars. My guitar is a Juan Hernandez. – Bob Broadley May 8 '18 at 20:02
  • It is a nice guitar! Daddario ProArte was good also. I am not a big fan of it, but on some guitars it works really good, but be careful only Pro Arte. Congrats on your Hernadez!! – Kay May 8 '18 at 20:06

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