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View Full Version : How to tell if your guitar should be strung with steel or nylons trings?



rasputinsghost
12-21-2010, 03:16 AM
Hey all,

I just picked up a vintage parlor guitar and am fooling around with it. It has nylons (3 wound and 3 non-wound) on it right now and am trying to figure out if light gauge Elixirs will work on it. is there an easy way to tell if it will or not? Thanks.

Tor
12-21-2010, 03:40 AM
If the bridge is reasonably straight (like on the ukulele) it's made for nylon, not steel. Steel string guitars will have an angled bridge.
If it's made for nylons you must not even think of trying steel, not even 010 Elixirs - there's just too much tension. If the sound is too muffled for your taste and the guitar can take it you may try extra high tension nylons (they are sometimes hard to find though).

Skitzic
12-21-2010, 03:41 AM
In my experience, nylon guitars have a slotted head stock, while steel strings do not (except in high end instruments). Can you contact the previous owner?

Tor
12-21-2010, 03:53 AM
In my experience, nylon guitars have a slotted head stock, while steel strings do not (except in high end instruments).[...]
Or in old instruments.. like old parlors, actually. As a boy I played on a cheap old one which I inherited. It was for steel string, but it it had a slotted head stock. The bridge gave it away though - it was slanted, not straight, so not nylon (and it came with old original steel strings on as well, which was another giveaway :))

Skitzic
12-21-2010, 03:55 AM
Or in old instruments.. like old parlors, actually. As a boy I played on a cheap old one which I inherited. It was for steel string, but it it had a slotted head stock. The bridge gave it away though - it was slanted, not straight, so not nylon (and it came with old original steel strings on as well, which was another giveaway :))

I was writing that while you posted about the saddle. I never thought of that, but now that you mention it, it makes sense.

Jnobianchi
12-21-2010, 04:11 AM
And to complicate matters, I used to have a Martin parlor guitar, and it had a straight bridge, slotted headstock and was built to take either steel or gut strings. I used ultra light gauge steel strings, which the luthier at the Music Emporium, then in Cambridge, recommended. It worked perfectly.

Skitzic
12-21-2010, 04:18 AM
And to complicate matters, I used to have a Martin parlor guitar, and it had a straight bridge, slotted headstock and was built to take either steel or gut strings. I used ultra light gauge steel strings, which the luthier at the Music Emporium, then in Cambridge, recommended. It worked perfectly.

So I think the best answer would be, google the brand and model number and see what comes up.

Tor
12-21-2010, 04:34 AM
It's also possible to have a look at the bracing, if everything else fails. The bracing used for steel string guitars is usually very different from the bracing used in nylon string guitars. But this rule doesn't hold all the time either, unfortunately. For old instruments there may have been more variation than today too.

Of course there's also the issue of pegs.. if there are peg holes and pegs it'll be made for steel (but then the bridge will be slanted too. I guess the bridge on that Martin parlor was straight exactly because it was made to also be used with gut strings). But there are exceptions to all these rules! :)

If it's impossible to figure out it's best to have a luthier or an acoustic guitar tech look at it and tell you.

rasputinsghost
12-21-2010, 05:52 AM
Just got an email from the original owner, he said it originally had steel strings. Thanks for all of your help, folks!

buddhuu
08-26-2011, 05:48 AM
Most steel strung will also have a truss rod.