Do Guitars Have Plastic String?

Most guitars use metal strings. For whatever reason, you might be wondering if it is only metal that can be used to make strings and if other materials like plastic can be used in its stead.

Many guitars also use plastic nylons as strings. These guitars are often called classical guitars because they are mostly used to play classical-like music. Due to the nature of the materials, plastic and metal strings differ quite wildly in output and design.

Let’s take a detailed look at plastic guitar strings and the differences between them and conventional metal strings. Also, one might wonder if it is possible to change one kind of string for the other and if plastic strings will be better for beginners. All of these questions will be answered.

Plastic Strings On Guitars

Historically, guitar strings, whether acoustic or electric, were made of metal. However, due to different sound needs classical guitars had to have different types of strings. Pre World war II, classical guitar strings were made with animal intestine and silk. Due to restrictions of the war, the use of nylon for making strings was explored for the first time. Since then, both nylons have been used

The three treble strings of classical guitars are made with nylon filament while the bass strings are made with threadlike nylon filaments wound with bronze or copper wire.

The guitars that use nylon strings are called classical guitars because they are used to play mainly classical and folk music.

Plastic strings produce a mellow and warm sound, in contrast with the bright and crisp sound made with metal strings.

Plastic Strings Vs Metal Strings

Plastic and metal guitar strings are so fundamentally different that they might as well be called different names.

Tuning

One big difference between plastic strings and metal strings is that the former need to be tuned far more frequently than the latter. This is because nylons are more sensitive materials, so they are more susceptible to temperature and humidity. These two environmental factors make plastic strings go out of tune quickly. While metal strings also need constant tuning for the first few months of use, this need for tuning continues for the entire lifetime of nylon strings.

Sound

Nylon strings make a warm and soft sound while metal strings make a bright and crisp sound. Due to this, plastic strings are used to play classical, folk, jazz and flamenco music. On the other hand, metal strings are more versatile and can be used to play rock, folk, country, pop and blues music.

Of course, you can use either of these types of strings to play any type of music if you play correctly. Nonetheless, it is better to use the best fit to play.

Material

It remains to be said that due to the wild difference in the materials used to make both, managing and using them differs too. Plastic strings can be played for a longer time before they make calluses or cause sore fingers. Also, they aren’t played with picks, unlike metal strings.

Physical Difference between guitars

Beyond the strings themselves, guitars that use both types of strings differ in physical build. This is not surprising as they serve different purposes.

Guitars with metal strings often have a larger body and the strings are held in place on the guitar’s bridge using bridge pins. On the other hand, classical guitars have smaller bodies and wider necks. Their headstocks usually have slots with poles that the strings are wrapped around, and the strings are tied to the guitar bridge.

Also, because they aren’t played with picks, guitars with plastic strings don’t have Pickguards.

Plastic Strings On Guitars For Beginners

There is a common misconception that it will be easier to learn guitar playing with plastic strings. This is because plastic or nylon strings are “supposed to be easier to the hands”. However, this is just not true. The tautness of the string ensures that it will feel uncomfortable to a beginner nonetheless.

Playing the guitar with plastic strings doesn’t mean you won’t have sore thumbs. If you play for long enough, you will feel the same effect as with playing metal strings. However, nylon strings won’t hurt the thumbs as fast as metal strings.

For Beginners, you should get the guitar adjusted before you start using it, whether it’s made of plastic or metal strings.

The fact that plastic strings don’t hurt like metal strings isn’t enough for a beginner to decide on them as the best for playing the guitar. This is because of the many differences in sound between the two. Rather, you should consider the style you want to play and make a decision on what kind of guitar suits it accordingly.

Can One Interchange Plastic And Metal Strings?

This is a question that isn’t far from the minds of many people when they learn of these two types of guitar strings. After all, having the ability to change these strings will practically convert your guitar from regular acoustic to classical, or vice versa.

Desirable as it is, it is a tall order and for various reasons. The main reason for this is the different construction of the guitars that use both strings. As said in one of the previous sections, classical guitars are designed differently from normal acoustic guitars to make them both fit their strings. Interchanging the strings will therefore lead to a suboptimal result. Some of these include damage to the guitar because the tension required from metal strings is higher than the tension of plastic strings. Also, plastic strings are tied to the guitar bridge while metal strings are attached to the bridge using ball end pins.

Conclusion

Many guitars now use plastic strings. While they are different from conventional metal strings, they bring a different feel from what the former brings. They are often used to play soft and warm musical styles like classical and folk music. Because of this, guitars that have plastic strings are called classical guitars.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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