Guitars

6 Best Beginner Nylon Guitar Strings

Working with Guitar Strings

Every good guitar player knows that even the most expensive high-end guitar and the best playing technique will result in dull, out of tune and twangy-sounding music without quality strings.

The strings you choose for your guitar will have a major influence on its sound and playability. So how do you choose the right set of strings?

There are a number of different factors that affect guitar string tone and playability, include the instrument type, string gauge, the materials, the tension, and the winding method.

There are hundreds of different guitar string options and it can be an enormous task to sort through them all to find the best fit for you.

Luckily, I have done a lot of the research for you. My team and I spent several hours searching out the best string brands and weighing the many factors that go into guitar string selection. We also talked with guitar specialists from top music stores including Musician’s Friend, Sweetwater Music, Sam Ash, Chicago Music Exchange, American Musical Supply, The Guitar Center, and Dave’s Guitar Shop to get their opinions. And finally we asked several players for their favorite string choices, we have narrowed down our choice of the best nylon strings to the D’Addario Pro Arte Normal Tension classical guitar strings.

My Recommendation: D’Addario Pro Arte

My Top Pick
D'Addario EJ45 Pro-Arte Normal Tension Classical Guitar Strings
$10.99

With computer-controlled laser measurements for detailed calculations of diameter and tension, you can be assured that your set of strings will give you the beautiful intonation and tonality you want with a classical guitar.

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The D’Addario Pro Arte classical string set was by far the favorite among acoustic specialists and players alike. The Pro Arte set is D’Addario’s best selling nylon strings worldwide and with good reason.

By combining high-quality materials and excellent manufacturing consistency, D’Addario Pro Arte strings will provide you with the exceptional performance you desire.

Using computer-controlled laser measurements to make detailed calculations for diameter and tension, you can be assured that each set of Pro Arte strings will be quality inspected and will give you the beautiful intonation and tonality you want with a classical guitar.

The bass strings are wound with precision and are made with silver-plated copper winding on a multi-filament nylon core for projecting a warm consistent tone.

We recommend the D’Addario Pro Arte normal tension strings to offer the best balance of volume and comfortable string resistance, but it may be a good idea to try other tension options as well.

Best for Beginners: Augustine Classic Red

Top Pick for Beginners
Augustine Classic Red
$14.16 $10.49

Makes a great choice for beginner players because they are one of the softest options for the fingers.

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Albert Augustine Ltd. has been making high-quality nylon strings since 1947 and has become a very important manufacturer of classical guitar strings worldwide.

According to reviews, these strings make a great choice for beginner players because they are one of the softest options for the fingers. They have a nice bright projection so that your notes can be heard.

Although the D’Addario Pro Arte is our first choice, the Augustine Classic Red nylon guitar string set is also a good option and is worth a try if you are experimenting to find the perfect set for your guitar.

Savarez 500AR Nylon Classical Guitar Strings

Savarez 500AR Alliance Corum Normal Tension Classic Guitar Strings
$17.99

The carbon and corum material in the treble and bass strings brings out a brighter sound than most string sets.

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This string set also came with high recommendations. The carbon and corum material in the treble and bass strings brings out a brighter sound than most string sets.

Credit: Savarez

Some of the treble strings in this set have a smaller diameter allowing for an increased distance between the strings and may make it easier to fret.

Reviewers stated that these strings give a more “aged” sound to the wood of the guitar and last longer than D’addario strings. The Savarez 500AR nylon classical guitar strings are definitely worth a try.

La Bella 900 Gold

LaBella 900 La Bella Guitar Stg Set
$12.85

Extremely smooth surface on the basses allowing a player to easily shift positions without any squeaking.

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The La Bella 900 Gold Superior set classical strings provides excellent quality gold nylon trebles and lustrous golden alloy wound basses. These strings are made especially for the concert performer.

The strings have an extremely smooth surface on the basses allowing a player to easily shift positions without any squeaking. The La Bella 900 Gold strings are great for both studio recording and live performances.

If you plan to play a more classical style or will be doing lots of performing, these strings may be a good fit for you.

Martin M260 Ball-End Regular Tension

C.F. Martin & Co. M260 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Medium
$9.31

Made of crystal nylon and a bronze alloy for vibrant sound and long string life.

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The Martin&Co Guitar Company has been making quality guitars and quality strings for the past 175 years. The Martin M260 Ball-End Classical Strings continue in this quality of excellence.

These strings are made of crystal nylon and a bronze alloy for vibrant sound and long string life. They have a good even balance across the strings and have a warm, almost “jazzy” sound to them.

The ball-ends make changing the strings on your classical guitar incredibly easy. They are also priced well.

Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk Nylon Strings

Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk
$11.55 $6.95

Plain strings made of a solid nylon filament.

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The Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk Nylon Ball-End Strings is another good choice for classical guitar players who do not want to string their own guitar. These are plain strings made of a solid nylon filament.

The first through third strings have a clear, ball end, and the fourth through sixth strings are made of 80/20 bronze alloy wrapped nylon and have a gold ball-end.

These strings have a soft tone to them and reviewers recommend using them with music that does not include bends. There are also some reviews that state that the G string sounds dull.

How to Pick Quality Guitar Strings for Beginners & Students

Because the strings on an acoustic guitar greatly affect the sound and amplification in the music you will be able to produce, it is extremely important to pick strings that are a good fit for your guitar and playing style.

In acoustic playing, you cannot rely on pickups or amplifiers to modify the tonal qualities or volume of the guitar, so finding the right strings will have an even greater impact on your guitar’s overall sound. Therefore, the factors that go into string selection need to be carefully considered.

Acoustic Vs. Classical Guitars

This may seem obvious, but the first major factor to look at is what type of guitar you have. There are crucial differences between classical guitars fitted with nylon strings and steel string acoustic guitars.

The strings for these guitars are not interchangeable. If you try to put steel strings on a classical guitar built for nylon strings only, you can cause severe damage.

The construction of the neck, bridge, saddles, and top bracing of a classical guitar is not designed to handle the higher tension created by steel strings, and a well-crafted classical guitar will quickly deteriorate if played with the wrong strings.

Another slight difference between acoustic and classical guitars that will affect your string choice is the end types. Typically, steel stringed guitars are fitted to use only ball-end strings.

Classical nylon string guitars can go either way. According to one acoustic specialist, there is not a huge difference in the sound quality in using ball-end versus tie-end strings with a classical guitar.

Usually those who use the tie-end strings are looking to improve the aesthetic appeal of their guitar. Tie-end strings are harder to get set up, so if you are a beginner, we recommend buying the ball-end strings for easier assembly.

Characteristics of Classical Guitar Strings

Classical guitars are frequently used for classical, flamenco, bossa nova, and folk music. They have a softer and smoother tone and higher touch response than their acoustic steel string cousins.

The mellower tone produced by nylon string guitars has made the classical type guitar a favorite among all sorts of guitarists, even jazz and country players.

Many players who are new to guitar choose nylon string guitars because they are easier on the fingers. The materials that make up nylon strings are softer and have a lower tension than the average steel-string guitar.

Nylon strings stretch more than steel acoustic strings. They will need to be tuned more regularly, especially when they are initially put in place.

Nylon strings are also much more sensitive to atmospheric changes, and players of nylon string guitars will have to make more frequent adjustments.

Although at the start, a nylon string guitar will be easier on fingers new to guitar playing, every player will experience some degree of tenderness in their fingers and will eventually form callouses that make the tenderness a non-issue.

Someone new to guitar should choose their guitar based on their musical interests, not on the beginning ease of play.

String Gauges: Are thinner guitar strings easier to play?

String gauges are often labeled as extra light, light and medium. Unfortunately, there are no set-in-stone definitions for these and the gauge can feel different from brand to brand.

Because of this, it is much better to compare the actual diameters of the strings before you purchase. String diameters are measured in 1/1000th’s of an inch, and string gauges can range anywhere from .008 on the lightest first string to .056 on the heaviest sixth string.

Here is an example of a chart showing the six string diameters in three different gauges:

Extra Light – (.009/.011/.016/.024/.032/.042)
Light – (.010/.013/.017/.026/.036/.046)
Medium – (.011/.015/.018/.026/.036/.050)

Guitar players generally refer to an entire set of strings by the size of the high E string to make things simpler. For example, a medium gauge string from the above chart would simply be called an “11”.

With classical strings, the tension of the string is a more important distinction than the gauge of the string.

Oftentimes, nylon strings will be classified by low, medium, or high tension rather than by the string gauge, even though the string gauge is usually still shown.

Are light guitar strings easier to play?

So what difference does the gauge make? Light gauge strings are almost always easier to play, allow for easier bending of notes and fretting.

Light gauge break easier, create less volume and sustain, are susceptible to cause fret buzzing, and exert less tension on the guitar neck (this makes them a safer choice for vintage guitars).

Lighter gauge strings are better for beginner playing because they are easier on the fingers and are more responsive to finger-work. They are often the top choice for blues or soloing because it is easier to bend the notes with a lighter gauge string.

Lighter gauge strings tend to emphasize the higher tremble end of the guitar as opposed to the bass tones. They are also usually chosen for smaller-bodied guitars because they tend to sound better on these instruments.

Heavier gauge strings are, as a general rule, harder to play because they require more finger pressure to fret and bend notes. Heavy gauge strings will exert more tension on the guitar neck, so you will want to make sure your guitar has the strength to handle this gauge.

Heavier gauged strings will produce more volume and sustain, so they are often chosen for un-amplified acoustic playing.

These work well for heavy strummers because they are more durable, side playing or drop tuning because they keep a firmer string tension, low action guitars because they are more resistant to fret buzz, and jazz because this style does not require note bending.

Players who want to emphasize the lower bass end of the guitar’s tonal spectrum would want heavier gauge strings as opposed the lighter gauges, which will end up sounding higher on your guitar.

Some manufacturers make a hybrid gauge string set and will call them something like medium-light gauge. This string set uses lighter gauges on G,B,E and heavier gauges on E,A,D. These hybrid strings can be used for players who want a good mix of picking and strumming.

Tension Designations

Classical guitar strings are sold in sets with particular gauges, but as stated earlier, the tension ratings are what is usually marketed with nylon strings. With tension, there is no set standard for ratings.

Confusing matters further, sometimes packaged string sets come with mix and match tensions within the distinct strings, yet list a single tension specification on the package.

You may need to do some experimenting among different string manufacturers, tensions, and even specific sets to find what works best for you.

There are three main tension designations: Low Tension (sometimes called Moderate or Light Tension), Normal Tension (sometimes called Medium or Regular Tension), and High Tension (sometimes called Hard or Strong Tension).

Low tension strings allow for easier fretting, especially on guitars with a higher action. There is less volume and projection in the sound, and there is a less striking attack in played notes.

With low tension strings, there is a greater tendency for a buzzing sound on the frets. Low tension strings are best used for smooth legato playing techniques.

High tension strings are more difficult to fret. This is especially the case on guitars with high action. High tension strings allow for more volume and projection in sound with a more pronounced attack on the notes.

These strings may cause issues with the necks, bridges, and top bracing on more delicate guitars, so you need to be cautious when first trying out nylon strings with a higher tension. High tension strings are best used in strong rhythmic playing.

Normal tension strings are simply a balance between the attributes of low and high tension strings.

Many string manufacturers make extra-light or extra-hard tension strings as well as in between sets (i.e. medium-hard). One recommendation is to decide on which tension works best with your desired playing style, then determine what your preferred brand and wound string material is.

After you have made those decisions, experiment with a few sets within those parameters until you find what works best for you.

Nylon String Materials

With classical guitar strings, there a four common materials from which the strings could made: gut, nylon, silver-plated copper (“silver strings”), and 80/20 bronze (“gold strings”). Before 1940, all strings were made from the intestines of sheep, cows, and other farm animals.

The most common types of nylon are rectified nylon, black nylon, composite and clear nylon (this is by far the most favored of the nylons).

In the production of “silver strings,” silver-plated copper is wrapped around the nylon core of the brass strings to create a warm rich tone for playing. 80/20 bronze or “gold strings” are often preferred over silver-plated copper because it has a brighter sound and more projection.

Bass and treble strings are constructed differently. Most modern classical, folk, and flamenco guitars use plain nylon, fluorocarbon or other synthetic filaments on the treble strings (G,B, high E) and bronze wire or silver plated copper wire wrapped around a core of fine threads is most often used on the bass strings (E, A, D).

Most nylon guitar strings have straight ends and are meant to be tied on to classical guitar bridges. As stated earlier, some nylon strings have ball ends which can make it easier to get set up on your guitar. If nothing is specified, assume that a string set has tie-ends.

Is It Time to Change Your Guitar Strings?

There are several signs that it is time for a string change. If getting in tune and staying in tune begins to become more of a challenge, your tone starts sounding flat or dull, or rust or other discoloration appears on your strings, it’s probably time to buy some new strings.

If you can’t remember the last time you changed the strings on your guitar, chances are you are playing with strings that are too old and changing the strings will significantly improve the sound of your guitar.

No hard and fast rules exist to say how often strings should be changed, but there are several factors that will shorten the life of your strings.

If you play aggressively with a lot of bending or hard picking, if you play frequently or change tunings regularly, or if you often play in smoky or humid environments, you may need to change your strings more regularly.

Sweaty hands while playing can quickly lead to worn down strings because of the acidity of your perspiration. Keeping a clean cloth handy and wiping down strings after every time you play will prolong the life of your strings, and washing your hands before playing can hamper string oxidation.

It’s also very important that you wind the strings properly on your tuners. Improper string windings is the main reason why strings break prematurely. Here is a video on how to properly wind your guitar with tie-end strings:

Buying strings in bulk can be a smart and budget-friendly way to save money on strings. You will always need them eventually and they never go bad. It is also a good idea to keep an extra set on hand with you in case of emergency changes.

Recap of the top nylon strings:
My Top Pick
D'Addario EJ45 Pro-Arte Normal Tension Classical Guitar Strings
$10.99

With computer-controlled laser measurements for detailed calculations of diameter and tension, you can be assured that your set of strings will give you the beautiful intonation and tonality you want with a classical guitar.

Check on Amazon Check on Musician's Friend
08/13/2022 04:53 am GMT
Top Pick for Beginners
Augustine Classic Red
$14.16 $10.49

Makes a great choice for beginner players because they are one of the softest options for the fingers.

Check on Amazon Check on eBay
08/13/2022 06:08 am GMT
Savarez 500AR Alliance Corum Normal Tension Classic Guitar Strings
$17.99

The carbon and corum material in the treble and bass strings brings out a brighter sound than most string sets.

Check on Amazon Check on eBay
08/13/2022 07:17 am GMT
LaBella 900 La Bella Guitar Stg Set
$12.85

Extremely smooth surface on the basses allowing a player to easily shift positions without any squeaking.

Check on Amazon Check on eBay
08/13/2022 08:36 am GMT
C.F. Martin & Co. M260 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Medium
$9.31

Made of crystal nylon and a bronze alloy for vibrant sound and long string life.

Check on Amazon Check on Musician's Friend
08/13/2022 09:50 am GMT
Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk
$11.55 $6.95

Plain strings made of a solid nylon filament.

Check on Amazon Check on Musician's Friend
08/13/2022 12:12 am GMT

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