Today I’ll have some fun comparing modern composite monofilament strings, often referred to as carbon strings, to nylon strings.

The first thing to notice when comparing carbon to nylon strings is the perceived loudness. I still remember very well the first time I played carbon strings on my classical guitar when I was 18 years old. I was so blown away by the sound of carbon strings and I’ve been using them ever since on live concerts. The gap of loudness between the bass strings and the trebles was suddenly gone!

Still, every time I’m switching back to nylon it feels like something is missing, almost as if some of the life was taken away. That being said, it is the sound of nylon strings what many people love and are used to when listening to classical guitar. More over, in the studio it’s much easier to record nylon strung guitars as they typically don’t sound harsh in the upper register and they tend to have fewer strange sound artefacts as well. Carbon strings often have certain frequencies sticking out, so EQing is often necessary.

What is really important when playing on carbon strings is to really work them. Vibrato is much harder to make, you need to dig deeper into the strings but on the other hand be careful not to press too hard. Once you start distorting the sound of carbon strings, they always sound bad unlike nylon strings, where the distorted sound is more percussive and adds character to the sound.

To recap, here’s my take on the pros and cons of each type of strings:

Carbon:
PROS
– loud
– great tone projection
– long sustain
CONS
– thin and metallic sounding 1st string
– sometimes too bright
– can be harder to play

Nylon:
PROS
– easy to play
– beautiful vibrato
– colours are more pronounced
CONS
– tend to sound more plasticky
– more loudness difference between wound basses and trebles

Please, grab a coffee and listen to the samples, and don’t hesitate to write me a comment of what you think.

5 Comments

  • Thanks for this video. A friend of mine gave me a classical Yamaha guitar as a gift. I play mainly the piano and electric bass, but I am falling in love with the classical guitar. Today I bought some Daddario Carbon strings, I had heard they were good, but I was a bit afraid that they would be too bright. I listened to your video and I preferred the sound of the carbons, they did not seem metallic to me at all, and better yet, they did not sound like plastic, which can happen with nylons. Thanks for trying out the strings in so many different styles.

  • Thanks for this Uros. My 82 year old ears couldn’t hear much difference. But I lean toward nylon. Easier to play? I need all the help I can get.

    Your playing is beautiful!

    Tom

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