Nylon guitar strings are the strings most widely used on the classical guitar. The classical guitar is an older member of the electric guitar family historically used in early classical music, as well as in jazz and pop music. An old-fashioned acoustic guitar with wooden strings made from nylon or gut, it's a forerunner of the modern electric and acoustic guitars, both of which employ metal strings. For many years nylon was the only material used for classical guitar strings, but in recent times they have been replaced by composites such as polyester.
There are several different types of nylon guitar strings, differentiated by the number of windings per string. Double wound is the most common type, having three wound halves wound together at different points. Double-wound neckpieces are also available, consisting of two wound halves joined by a spiral turn, with one neckpiece wound onto a thin thread, while the other is left free of threads. Single-wound strings have only one winding per string, making them lighter and easier to learn to play. Worn across the entire neck, single-wound strings give a warm vintage tone. Like its single-wound cousin, double-wound neckpieces are available in a large range of styles and sizes.
Many nylon strings, including the standard class A, B and C, contain plastic strands coated with ethylene or polyethylene. Polyethylene is a substance that can be combined with a variety of chemicals to create a wide range of color-shifting dyes; the effect is dependent upon the shade of the dye being used. This means that nylon guitar strings can be painted any color that you want - red, blue, green, yellow, pink, black, white, brown and even green. Some nylon strings even have transparent polyethylene in them, which is transparent enough to see the strings underneath.
If you're looking for a rich classical tone, then nylon strings are probably not what you're looking for. Classical guitar enthusiasts know that nylon strings are a poor substitute for steel guitar strings because they are hollow. This hollowing makes them highly responsive to picking, but the problem becomes amplified when you use several of them at once. The resulting nylon sounds clunky and tends to drone rather than resonate. Classical guitar players who favor nylon strings are often stuck playing underpowered nylon guitars with their fingers because of this problem.
Nylon strings feel much more pliable than high-tension strings, and they are often found in jazz or pop music because of this. High-tension strings tend to pull down on the strings when the first note is hit, while low-tension strings are much less intrusive. When you're holding a nylon guitar in your hand, the strings don't feel as impacted because the truss rod is closer to the neck of the instrument.
There are two common nylon strings types. The first type, known as flat-wound, is wound like steel. The other, round wound, has a spiral wrap around the core. The spiral wraps on the outside before being tied onto the neck of the guitar. Both types have their advantages, so consider your preferred method of playing before deciding which to buy.
Although nylon strings cost more than steel strings, they are more comfortable for the beginner guitar player because of their pliability. They also have a brighter sound than steel strings, which is what many guitarists find appealing. Some nylon strings are also quite sensitive, but even this is lessened by the low tension of the instrument. It is recommended that beginners start out with steel strings, and if they wish to move on to nylon strings later, they can.
Before attempting any acoustic guitar repair, you should check to see if the strings are properly fitted to the bridge. If the strings are too loose, the bridge may not be able to keep the strings attached, causing a problem. Nylon strings will always fit perfectly on the bridge, so don't worry about trying to use other strings to compensate for the difference.