Nylon string guitar?


#1

I try and read all the posts and if I do not I do check the name of the post. Any way does anyone here play a classical guitar ? The only way my guirtar sounds good is if someone else is playing it LOL. Please share with us the experiece you have had with nylon strings . it would widen our knowledge .


#2

Yep. My degree is in classical guitar performance, however I haven’t played many classical guitar gigs recently. If you are looking to get into classical, I can recommend some good books to get you started reading notation, and learning repertoire.

It is a funny thing that when you are learning new tunes for bluegrass, you are learning tunes, “Hey, I learned a couple of new bluegrass fiddle tunes.” But if you are learning classical guitar tunes, it sounds more like this, “I’m widening my classical guitar repertoire.”

It’s been my experience that classical musicians can often come across kind of snooty. I had to wear boots to my wife’s opera parties many years ago cause sometimes it would get so deep in the room.

Anyway, I currently own two classicals, both are Giannini made. The one on the left (GWNFL-ST) was built in Brazil about 1993 and is thin bodied and made for gigging with an amp (not particularly loud and lively acoustically). It is very comfortable to play, with low action (would be considered high action if it were a steel string acoustic) and high tension silver plated strings.

The one on the right I recently purchased for sentimental reasons. It is a Craviola style classical (Giannini designed model GNCRA-CDR). I owned another of this style many years ago and loved playing it. However, I sold it (in a weak moment) to a student who had fallen in love with it and regretted it ever since. So I purchased this one recently. It is Chinese made (the Brazilian version is quite expensive) and it sounds and plays wonderfully. The pickup system is only okay (I will probably get to upgrading that at some point), however it has a warm, round tone with a nice ring. It plays very nicely and has a strong cedar aroma to it (almost chocolatey).

There are some real advantages to playing a classical guitar over a traditional steel string:

[ul]Low tension strings allow for all day play (extremely easy on the fingers)
Nylon strings are inherently dark and mellow sounding
Nut width and saddle width allow for clean finger picking
Smaller body size allows for comfortable couch playing
More intimate volume and tone is great when singing
Strings tend to last a long time (except the always breaking D string)[/ul]

You would never take a classical to a bluegrass jam, but for playing around the house, folk or classical gigs, they they are a great choice.


#3

As always good advice, thank you for the information .


#4

I have one Nylon, a Martin N-20 (like trigger) that is currently being held my my Mother in law. She really likes it. I like nylon, but I didn’t play it as much as I had hoped. They are generally nice and comfy and have a totally different tone.


#5

— Begin quote from “mreisz”

I have one Nylon, a Martin N-20 (like trigger) that is currently being held my my Mother in law. She really likes it. I like nylon, but I didn’t play it as much as I had hoped. They are generally nice and comfy and have a totally different tone.

— End quote

I have always wanted a Martin classical (I love odd duck instruments), as Martin is not really known for their classical guitars (with the stark exception of Trigger). I have never even played one (they rarely find their way to guitar shops). Another Martin I would love to own is an F series jazz guitar like this one:

They are also relatively rare to find yet do not command the high price of Gibson archtops of the same year. My guess is the spruce top with mahogany back and side would produce a rounder, less aggressive tone. I think I might like that.


#6

I think the Martin 0000 in a way came from their archtops. As I understand it, before Martin made a 0000, some guitarists had archtops converted to flat tops, thus giving birth to the 0000. I read it somewhere, so it must be true :slight_smile:

You can get the Martin archtops at what seems a good price, but I have never played one, so I can’t weigh in on them. If I remember correctly some had rosewood B/S and other models had mahogany.

Yep, the N-20 is a bit of an odd duck. I am not skilled enough as a classical guitarist to judge its merit, but it seems nice enough to me. It’s warm and deep sounding and overall very pleasing. It probably lacks the punch of a serious players instrument. Supposedly, the Martin/Humpreys are pretty serious instruments, but players are a bit polarized over them. They either love 'em or hate 'em. I like odd ducks as well. I have a few I have been seeking for quite some time, but haven’t come across. Rarity adds to the fun of the hunt.


#7

— Begin quote from “mreisz”

I think the Martin 0000 in a way came from their archtops. As I understand it, before Martin made a 0000, some guitarists had archtops converted to flat tops, thus giving birth to the 0000. I read it somewhere, so it must be true :slight_smile:

— End quote

A few years ago, I was at a guitar workshop featuring Mark Cosgrove. Sitting next to me at the workshop was David Bromberg. It was a hands-on workshop so I had my trusty M-38 with me. After about 45 minutes David leaned over to me and said, “I’m the reason you have that guitar”. It turns out that many years ago, David brought an old Martin archtop to the factory to have the top removed and a flattop installed. The resulting instrument had a big voice but also had wonderful string to string balance. After that, a number of performing acoustic players had the same modification done for other Martin archtops. That style of guitar became the modern M (0000) series acoustic Martins.


#8

— Begin quote from “drguitar”

— Begin quote from “mreisz”

I think the Martin 0000 in a way came from their archtops. As I understand it, before Martin made a 0000, some guitarists had archtops converted to flat tops, thus giving birth to the 0000. I read it somewhere, so it must be true :slight_smile:

— End quote

A few years ago, I was at a guitar workshop featuring Mark Cosgrove. Sitting next to me at the workshop was David Bromberg. It was a hands-on workshop so I had my trusty M-38 with me. After about 45 minutes David leaned over to me and said, “I’m the reason you have that guitar”. It turns out that many years ago, David brought an old Martin archtop to the factory to have the top removed and a flattop installed. The resulting instrument had a big voice but also had wonderful string to string balance. After that, a number of performing acoustic players had the same modification done for other Martin archtops. That style of guitar became the modern M (0000) series acoustic Martins.

— End quote

What a cool story!!! 

An early guitar of mine was a classical guitar. My brother played banjo, so I used fingerpicks just to compete.
Next came a 12 string… often an 11 or 10 string, depending on how loud the party where I was trying to tune it up.
I came across a Martin D 35… played it for about 10 years. I bought it used… it looked like it had ben played with a chain saw…
No pick guard. Prior owner definitely a strummer.
Golden tone… but intonation issues… no truss rod… used to have to bend notes into tune up the neck. Several hundred dollars in a shop with no improvement…

I had a small recording studio… analog. Plucked a Taylor cutaway in a shop and was hooked. Perfect intonation… decent pickup… it took a hit I the tone department, but we scrapped half an album we had recorded with the Martin and began again with the Taylor. Good choice.


#9

— Begin quote from “drguitar”

Yep. My degree is in classical guitar performance, however I haven’t played many classical guitar gigs recently. If you are looking to get into classical, I can recommend some good books to get you started reading notation, and learning repertoire.

It is a funny thing that when you are learning new tunes for bluegrass, you are learning tunes, “Hey, I learned a couple of new bluegrass fiddle tunes.” But if you are learning classical guitar tunes, it sounds more like this, “I’m widening my classical guitar repertoire.”

It’s been my experience that classical musicians can often come across kind of snooty. I had to wear boots to my wife’s opera parties many years ago cause sometimes it would get so deep in the room.

Anyway, I currently own two classicals, both are Giannini made. The one on the left (GWNFL-ST) was built in Brazil about 1993 and is thin bodied and made for gigging with an amp (not particularly loud and lively acoustically). It is very comfortable to play, with low action (would be considered high action if it were a steel string acoustic) and high tension silver plated strings.

The one on the right I recently purchased for sentimental reasons. It is a Craviola style classical (Giannini designed model GNCRA-CDR). I owned another of this style many years ago and loved playing it. However, I sold it (in a weak moment) to a student who had fallen in love with it and regretted it ever since. So I purchased this one recently. It is Chinese made (the Brazilian version is quite expensive) and it sounds and plays wonderfully. The pickup system is only okay (I will probably get to upgrading that at some point), however it has a warm, round tone with a nice ring. It plays very nicely and has a strong cedar aroma to it (almost chocolatey).

There are some real advantages to playing a classical guitar over a traditional steel string:

[ul]Low tension strings allow for all day play (extremely easy on the fingers)
Nylon strings are inherently dark and mellow sounding
Nut width and saddle width allow for clean finger picking
Smaller body size allows for comfortable couch playing
More intimate volume and tone is great when singing
Strings tend to last a long time (except the always breaking D string)[/ul]

You would never take a classical to a bluegrass jam, but for playing around the house, folk or classical gigs, they they are a great choice.

— End quote

  I laughed about the snooty attitude you mentioned. 

I joined a praise team that featured a fellow with a master’s in violin performance. He discovered I played fingrrstyle… not classical… guitar, and I didn’t read music…

It was literally nose in the air… turn on the heel and walk away.

After our set, he came up to me in the hall and asked,’ How do you do what you do?’

I said I use the circle of fifths and a system called caged and I transpose and use a capo.
He said,’ You can’t do that!’…

I said,’ Let me ask you a question… In the very beginning… when people were first making music… did they just play it, or did they follow dots on paper?’

Nose in air… about face
And he was gone…


#10

It is sad that people get snooty about music. We are all trying to make music, whether we are reading dots from the paper or using nothing but our ears to guide us. I have played with what I consider very enjoyable musicians that fall anywhere along the spectrum, and a few that can play fantastic by reading or by ear.


#11

Doc, you mentioned the (relatively) high but comfortable action of the classical. I know next to nothing about classical setups. What do you consider a good 12th fret height for a classical?


#12

— Begin quote from “mreisz”

Doc, you mentioned the (relatively) high but comfortable action of the classical. I know next to nothing about classical setups. What do you consider a good 12th fret height for a classical?

— End quote

Hmmm…

To be completely honest, it has only been in recent years that I have actually bothered to set action by measuring the string height over the 12th fret (acoustic, classical or electric). I used to do it all by feel and what the owner of the guitar needed (heavy right hand=higher action, light right hand=lower action…etc). It has only been in the last 10 or 15 years that I bothered to actually measure these heights as I always tended to make the action as low as possible and still get a clean, clear tone.

I like my classical action to be on the low side for a classical. My standard sized classical (mostly used acoustically) is set up with 9/64" clearance on the low E and 15/128" under the high E. My thin body classical (mostly used plugged in) is 8/64" under the low E and 7/64" under the high E. I tend to keep high tension strings on my classical as they give me a little more volume and a slightly cleaner tone. I guess I should point out that I did not make measurements on either of these guitars when I set them up. To give a frame of reference, most luthiers will set the action on a classical at about 4mm (10/64") under the low E and 3mm (8/64") under the high E (+ or - .5mm depending on how powerful a right hand the player has and what strings the player uses). I guess setting up the guitar action by feel can get you pretty close to the ideal height when you have done this a lot. :astonished:

Thanks to this post. It made me pull out my regular classical which has a wonderfully rich scented cedar top; just like sweet chocolate! I think I will spend some time with it today.

— Begin quote from “Harv”

…I said,’ Let me ask you a question… In the very beginning… when people were first making music… did they just play it, or did they follow dots on paper?’

Nose in air… about face
And he was gone…

— End quote

Isn’t that the truth. Yep, I went to college and got my degree in classical guitar, but not to be snooty; I realized that I needed someone to push me to learn how to read music better and there is nothing like spending lots of money to force yourself to actually practice! :blush:

About 30 years ago, I picked up two Philadelphia orchestra members as students who wanted to learn how to improvise. They were amazing musicians and amazing readers, however they were lost when it came to having their own voice, having the ability to improvise a melody. When I asked the violinist to just play a C major scale while I played some chords, she did not understand the request. “Just play a quarter note C major scale while I play some chords in the key of C major”. Dumbfounded, she followed the request and found that she liked the way the sound of the notes inter-played with the chords. However, she was so fixed with her style of learning (read and interpret music notes), that she found it difficult to be free enough to trust her ears to lead her to new learning. She did not last long. I also had a trumpet player for the orchestra that also wanted to learn improvisation. He did very well and plays out with jazz ensembles to this day.

The point is that folks come to music from all different mindsets, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. And the truth of the matter is that I learn from every student I teach, even those with the least ability, as there is always something about that musician that makes them special or sets them apart.

This has made me not want to deal with folks who have huge egos. I guess you could say that I am intolerant of the intolerant. :wink:


#13

Thanks for the specs. If I remember correctly, the N-20 was around 8/64 low E. It looked high (compared to what I was used to seeing in acoustics) but played really easy (thanks to the nylon). I’ll check it out next time I see that guitar.


#14

— Begin quote from “mreisz”

Thanks for the specs. If I remember correctly, the N-20 was around 8/64 low E. It looked high (compared to what I was used to seeing in acoustics) but played really easy (thanks to the nylon). I’ll check it out next time I see that guitar.

— End quote

Yep, that action is considered low for a classical. Nylon strings have a wider vibrating amplitude compared to a steel string. They need a higher action to keep the strings from rattling against the frets. However they are so much lower tension that the higher action is not really a concern. In addition, they are much less susceptible to going out of pitch when bent (stay in pitch better than steel strings).

With action like that, I bet it played like a dream!


#15

I totally agree, Mike.

I see music as a sandbox that everybody can play in. 

Been around folks that need to be the star. Kinda sad really…


#16

Nose in air… about face
And he was gone…
All things work together for good.
User avatar
Harv

Posts: 108
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2014 4:40 am

I have ran into that some around flat pickers , you always have one who thinks they are better at everything. Prima donas or donnas don’t know don’t care but yes we have that to contend with from time to time. I don’t care how bad someone plays I will play guitars with them, well except Bam Bam he had the same chord same strum whop whop whop whop and I never said a word about his playing just waited till he left LOL . You have not lived until you hear Bam Bam play “bad leroy brown” . Quite the experience .