Re: nylon strings on a steel string instrument
- From: Mike Brown <rockon02@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 06 Oct 2007 11:34:10 +0930
"Would the bracing in a steel string be so much more sturdy that
strings wouldn't produce much sound? "
Yup. I did a comparison test a while ago between a classical guitar
that I made and a Dread that one of my students made from a kit before
he started working with me. Both guitars are decent examples of their
type for sound; far from the greatest, but far from the worst either.
with the same force applied at the bridge you get about 1/3 the
amplitude of vibration from the steel string as from the nylon. So
there's one strike against you.
Nylon strings carry less tension than steel. One way to make up for
that is to set the action up a bit higher. The energy in a vibrating
string is proportional to the tension and the square of the amplitude,
so setting the action up 40% higher (which is about where most
classicals are) makes up for cutting the tension in half. One by-
product of this is that you need a little more room in between the
strings for your fingers.
Add to that the fact that the lower tension, and greater
'stretchiness' of nylon strings mean you are more likely to push them
aside than steel. The pitch doesn't bend as much, so it's not a
problem that way, but you are more likely to run into the next string
All of this helps account for the wider neck of classicals. I've made
a few nylon string guitars for people who wanted narrow necks, and
seen some others. Once you get narrower than 1-3/4" at the nut it's
almost inevitable that they want the neck widened somehow. That's hard
to do. On the other hand, it's pretty easy to carve a wide neck down.
Classical players do not normally use thumb over technique. Some of us
can on a 2" nut, but it's frowned on be the 'serious' players.
One way to check out the use of a narrow neck with nylon strings is to
get a cheap classical and cut a nut with the string notches shifted
over toward the treble side. Again, this preclude thimb over
technique, but at least you can see how the other aspects of neck
width will work out for you.
Most poeple I know find that once they get used to a wider neck, they
don't want to go back. It doesn't really slow you down, and it's
actually easier to play cleanly when there's a little more real estate
Alan Carruth / Luthier
Another one for the file.
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