Can You Put Steel Strings on a Classical Guitar?

Published Categorized as Acoustic Guitar String Selection, Care and Maintenance, Guitar Care Tuning Restringing, Restringing

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Classical Guitar two views

When someone asks me if it’s ok to put steel strings on a classical guitar, my reaction is that of horror!

Well actually it’s more of relief – relief that they asked first and didnt do it ‘first and then ask later.

The answer to this question is an emphatic NO.

Steel Strings Exert Too Much Tension

Steel strings exert a lot more tension that nylon strings. In fact they produce roughly twice as much tension.

That means that steel strings are putting a lot more pressure on your guitar.

An acoustic steel string guitar is designed to take the extra tension of steel strings.

A classical guitar on the other hand is designed with the intention of holding nylon strings – a much less burdensome task.

Classical (Nylon) Strings

When you buy Nylon strings you can actually buy them in different tensions – depending on what you like the sound and feel of and what type of music you are playing.

Learn more about choosing nylon strings on my blog.

It is even sometimes recommended that you should loosen off your strings on a classical guitar if you are using high tension nylon strings. This is to save damage to your guitar.

Steel strings produce even greater tension than high tension nylon strings so imagine the damage they can do to your classical guitar.

What Damage Should I Expect

There are a couple of major things that could go wrong if you fit steel strings to a classical guitar including:

  • A bent neck
  • The bridge being pried away from the soundboard
  • Damage to the tuners

Leave steel strings for long enough on your classical guitar and it will become unplayable – if it doesn’t implode first!

(Related: How to Choose Acoustic Guitar Strings)

Final Verdict

If it’s not yet clear – DON’T put steel strings on your classical guitar, unless you want to experiment with slowly destroying your guitar!

If you really want to play with steel strings you will need to get yourself a steel string acoustic guitar.

If you were wanting to do this because you like the size of your classical, then there are parlour sized and concert sized (smaller sizes) guitars that are made for steel strings that you can get like the Art and Lutherie Ami.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article has answered your question.

FAQs

Are steel strings good for classical guitar?

DON’T put steel strings on your classical guitar, unless you want to experiment with slowly destroying your guitar!

Do classical guitars need special strings?

Only use nylon strings on your classical guitar.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

4 comments

  1. Yeah – I’ve seen it/heard about it all too often! Whenever I see it I cringe a little. Easy mistake to make though, when your new to guitars.

  2. Yes this is a no no. The extra tension added by the steel strings tends to make the neck warp so the the action becomes so intense that only the most callous finger can stand to play it for more than a few moments. I have bumped into this one a few times over the years and always wondered (before I figured out what was happened) who the heck would ever want to play this guitar…..? The answer of course was NO ONE, which is why those particular instruments always sat in the corner collecting dust.

  3. also don’t buy a guitar that’s been sitting in a shop window , I bought my first guitar like this and found out by painfull fingers that the neck was out.

    1. Hey John.

      Thanks for the advice – hopefully this grim experience is something that readers on the site can learn from, so we thank you again for sharing. It’s quite something how much of an effect the external elements can have on an instrument such as this.

      Nate.

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