Black Nylon Strings, what’s their history?

Graham Greenbag

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 15, 2017
Messages
2,172
Reaction score
1,142
Location
U.K.
Nylon strings came into use in the mid to late 1940’s, the first use was on Guitars and LaBella used a clear DuPont product . As I understand it those strings rapidly became popular and black strings followed at some point. Black strings apparently use colouring material in a carrier material and that compatible (to nylon) carrier material and colour is added to nylon which is then extruded - please either correct me if I’m wrong or add additional detail.

I‘d be very interested to know the history behind black nylon strings. How are they made, what’s actually in them and why were they made?
 
Last edited:
Thank you for posting this. The same origin question recently popped into my head after installing a set of aNueNue brand black strings on my (actually, as of tomorrow, my son’s) Famous pineapple.

Departing a tad from the primary subject: I can discern no auditory or tactile difference between the aNueNues and the Fremonts I’ve long preferred, which leads me to surmise that there is a supplier partnership there, much the same as the Aquila - made D’Addario Nyltechs.
 
I don't know much about history :) but fyi D'Addario makes both clear and black nylon ukulele strings. They advertise the clear nylon strings as "warm, projecting, acoustic tone" and the black nylon strings as "warm, dark tone". To my ears, the clear strings are brighter or maybe the black strings are more muted at the higher end.
 
From a classical guitar website:
Wallace Carothers, an employee at Du Pont, had invented nylon back in 1935. New York instrument maker Albert Augustine chanced upon some nylon at an army surplus store, and contacted the Du Pont Company with the idea of using the material for guitar strings. Augustine worked for three years with Du Pont, and brought Segovia onboard to advise them on refining the tone of the strings. After much experimentation, the first Augustine nylon guitar strings were manufactured with the assistance of Olinto Mari, president of E. & O. Mari/La Bella Strings, in Mari’s New York factory in 1948.
“It is my understanding from conversations with Rose Augustine,” states Stephen Greisgraber, president of Augustine Strings, “that Segovia played the black label sets and that these were the ‘original’ Augustine strings. Rose also told me that he later played Imperial/Red sets, which were also used by Julian Bream.” The string innovations of Albert Augustine and Segovia were quickly embraced by guitarists the world over.

Segovia described trying the nylon for the first string on his guitar: “When it had reached its proper pitch and I heard its clear sound, although it had a faint metallic accent that distinguished it from gut, I knew at once that a fuller and happier life was to open up for my beloved guitar.”
 
I use GHS black on everything, my Lanikais and Vineyard came with them. They also make clear. As usually described, black is more flexible and "warm", clear is stiffer and "crisp".
As I understand it, plastics are colored with pigments just like paint. You can make strings any color you want. Black pigment is usually carbon based, not sure what quality it imparts to nylon, maybe the flexibility. Black nylon sets are .002 - .004 heavier gauge than clear, so have slightly more tension.

I remember a video showing monofilament manufacture. The extrusion (think toothpaste is extruded from the tube) starts out about 1/2 inch diameter. It's kept warm so it can go though a series of rollers that squeeze it down to the final diameter. Then it's cooled, polished between felt rollers and wound onto drums. I don't remember it showing being cut to length and packaged. I would assume most of the whole process is automated.
 
Last edited:
I use GHS black on everything, they also make clear. As usually described, black is more flexible and "warm", clear is stiffer and "crisp".
As I understand it, plastics are colored with pigments just like paint. You can make strings any color you want. Black pigment is usually carbon based, not sure what quality it imparts to nylon, maybe the flexibility. Black nylon sets are heavier gauge than clear, so have less tension.

I remember a video showing monofilament manufacture. The extrusion (think toothpaste is extruded from the tube) starts out about 1/2 inch diameter. It's kept warm so it can go though a series of rollers that squeeze it down to the final diameter. Then it's cooled, polished between felt rollers and wound onto drums. I don't remember it showing being cut to length and packaged. I would assume most of the whole process is automated.
Shouldn't heavier gauge require higher tension to bring them up to pitch, assuming the same density?
 
Thank you for posting this. The same origin question recently popped into my head after installing a set of aNueNue brand black strings on my (actually, as of tomorrow, my son’s) Famous pineapple.

Departing a tad from the primary subject: I can discern no auditory or tactile difference between the aNueNues and the Fremonts I’ve long preferred, which leads me to surmise that there is a supplier partnership there, much the same as the Aquila - made D’Addario Nyltechs.
Congratulations to your Son, he’s one lucky chap.

The aNueNue Black Water and Fremont Black Line strings are both made from black fluorocarbon line of Japanese origin; there may be no or, more likely, little difference between the two string sets and the material that they’re made from. String materials can be confusing, an easy mistake, I’m looking towards information on black Nylon.

”I‘d be very interested to know the history behind black nylon strings. How are they made, what’s actually in them and why were they made?”
 
Last edited:
I don't think that Segovias black label were actually black strings. I vaguely remember that decades ago black nylon strings were often associated with folk guitars for strumming and the clear nylon was preferred by classical players.
In the 1960s I performed as a folksinger in New York, and as @merlin666 said, black strings (usually inexpensive and with ball ends) were available in most music stores and could be used in a pinch. Afterwards, I studied classical guitar as part of my music degree in college and saw an enormous number of guitarists from the level of Andes Segovia down to me and my fellow students and every level in between (including guitarists playing in duets, trios, quartets). I never saw black nylon used by a classical guitarist. I stopped performing and teaching around 1980, so things may have changed since then.
 
Congratulations to your Son, he’s one lucky chap.

The aNueNue Black Water and Fremont Black Line strings are both made from black fluorocarbon line of Japanese origin; there may be no or, more likely, little difference between the two string sets and the material that they’re made from. String materials can be confusing, an easy mistake, I’m looking towards information on black Nylon.
Ugh. I apologize for that silly reading comprehension oversight on my part. You’ve now unintentionally caused Del McCoury’s version of ‘Vincent Black Lightning’ to get stuck in my head and I’ll hear it the rest of the day. :eek:
 
In the 1960s I performed as a folksinger in New York, and as @merlin666 said, black strings (usually inexpensive and with ball ends) were available in most music stores and could be used in a pinch. Afterwards, I studied classical guitar as part of my music degree in college and saw an enormous number of guitarists from the level of Andes Segovia down to me and my fellow students and every level in between (including guitarists playing in duets, trios, quartets). I never saw black nylon used by a classical guitarist. I stopped performing and teaching around 1980, so things may have changed since then.
You must have a lot of stories to tell!
 
The aNueNue Black Water and Fremont Black Line strings are both made from black fluorocarbon line of Japanese origin
As far as I know, aNueNue discontinued their black nylon strings a couple of years ago, which was annoying because I'd only just discovered them and they were really good.
 
Shouldn't heavier gauge require higher tension to bring them up to pitch, assuming the same density?
I don't think that is right. Heavier gauge means they are thicker and thicker strings of same material and scale length will have higher tension for same frequency.

Thanks! You are right, I looked at my tension charts wrong. I've corrected the post. Clear is harder (more dense) than black, or the difference would be greater.
 
As far as I know, aNueNue discontinued their black nylon strings a couple of years ago, which was annoying because I'd only just discovered them and they were really good.
I feel your pain and can only remind you of this old thread which might help you or someone else: https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/threads/original-flea-strings.155846/

On Sopranos I’ve always had trouble getting nylon C strings to intonate properly, but tune it up towards D and the issues disappear. Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky with the string sets or something. Mostly what I tried were cheap strings but I did have some GHS black too, all had the same fault.
Edit. Concert strings run at a higher tension than Sopranos (for the same diameter and note) - that can make the necessary difference.
 
Last edited:
Just a ‘naughty’ bump in the hope of prompting some more helpful comments before this thread is buried under others.

“I‘d be very interested to know the history behind black nylon strings. How are they made, what’s actually in them and why were they made?”
 
Are they actually nylon?

Polypropylene is the black plastic used for irrigation. So are they actually polypropylene strings, labelled as Black Nylon?

If so find out when polypropylene was developed and you will get a historical date.

Thanks, it’s a thought.

I trawled the internet yet again and this time came up with the comment below from a man who’s rather likely to know, it’s probably as good as I’m going to get.

Q: “What is the point behind black trebles? Is it just a different colour or does black nylon give a different sound or different mechanical properties, which affect playability?”

A: “Just the color.
Normally it is the pygment called 'Carbonblack'. it is just 2% added to the Nylon pellet; i.e. nothing for the sound quality.
:D

Mimmo”.

There are later answers too, by Mimmo, in that thread that are well worth reading. Unless I’m mistaken if the additive to the clear nylon does anything then it acts as a dampener.

 
Last edited:
That Spanish company has been making strings since 1868! Here’s the website, which you can opt to read in English. It has a page of company history.

I don't know if they still make them, but I have a (50-year-old) wound/wrapped high E classical guitar string (Ferrer 1 Me #116) from Gatto Negro. I think it was black when I bought it, but it is grey now. If they do still make them, it would be possible for someone who is so inclined to have a gcea uke with all wound/wrapped strings.
 
Top Bottom