Mixing Nylon and Steel Guitar Strings: What You Need To Know

When stringing a guitar, it’s important to use the right materials that will optimize the sound quality and protect your instrument from damage. So, today we’re exploring whether you can mix nylon and steel strings on a guitar. 

In short, you shouldn’t mix nylon strings and steel strings on any guitar (whether bass, electric, or acoustic). It’s also not recommended to use nylon strings on a “steel-stringed guitar”. But you can mix different brands of strings if they’re the same/correct material.

To learn more about the best protocol for stringing guitars, keep reading. We’ll explore the risks you run when mixing nylon and steel guitar strings, as well as the risks of using the wrong string material based on your guitar type.

Mixing Nylon and Steel Guitar Strings

Nylon guitar strings and steel guitar strings are incompatible when it comes to stringing a single guitar. You really shouldn’t try to string a guitar with a half and half mix, as you’ll end up with poor sound quality and damage to your instrument. 

For one thing, steel guitar strings are much tenser than nylon strings are. So if you were to put both of them on the same guitar at the same time, you’d ruin its tension and possibly damage the bridge, warp the top, or warp the neck. And you could run into these issues whether you’re stringing a bass guitar, electric, or acoustic. 

Furthermore, the way that string gauges or sizes are designed isn’t compatible when you compare nylon and steel guitar strings. Nylon strings are gauged by their tension level (i.e. normal or hard tension), whereas steel strings are gauged by their weight (i.e. light, medium, heavy, etc.). 

Nylon Strings on Steel-String Guitars

The next question you might have is whether or not strings are interchangeable with the type of guitar. The short answer is no, you really shouldn’t put nylon guitar strings on a steel-string guitar. This is a particularly bad idea when it comes to acoustic steel-string guitars, as they’re specifically designed to accommodate steel strings. 

Some of the other reasons that nylon strings won’t work well on steel-string guitars include the fact that they’re typically:

  • Softer
  • More sensitive
  • Lower in tension
  • More prone to tuning

More likely than not, if you use nylon strings on a steel-string guitar, you’re going to cause significant damage to the guitar’s neck due to tension issues. Nylon strings are ideal for classical-style guitars, and you should keep them that way. 

And if you’re still trying to cut corners, you might even wonder whether you could possibly try this combo on an electric steel-string guitar. Again, the answer is no, you shouldn’t try that either because there are similar compatibility issues. 

Steel Strings on Classical Guitars

So, what if you want to do the complete opposite and put a set of steel strings on your classical guitar, which is designed for nylon strings? At this point, it should come as little surprise that you should avoid doing this if at all possible. 

Essentially, trying to put steel strings on a classical guitar is going to damage your instrument and make it difficult to repair. Most classical guitars aren’t fitted with truss rods to protect the neck portion. 

And if you’re going to put steel strings on a guitar, you absolutely need this protection due to the increased string tension and weight. Otherwise, you run the risk of severely warping the guitar’s neck. 

Further, in a worst-case scenario, the extreme tension of steel strings could even cause the guitar’s neck to snap, essentially making your instrument useless.

Mixing Guitar String Brands

Although there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to mixing guitar string materials, you can mix strings of different brands. As long as the strings are the same gauge and have the same material composition, you should be fine. 

For instance, if you only need to replace half of the strings on your classical guitar, you could replace those strings with another brand. Keep in mind, however, that if your existing guitar strings are fairly old, it may be beneficial to just replace all of the strings at once with the same brand. 

Final Thoughts On Mixing Guitar Strings

Many guitarists wonder can you mix nylon and steel strings on a guitar? at some point in their musical career. Be aware of the very real risks of doing so, as guitar strings made of different materials are incompatible on the same guitar. Whether you have an acoustic, electric, or bass guitar, you don’t want to mix nylon and steel strings. 

You also want to avoid putting nylon strings on a steel-string guitar, and vice versa, as you’ll damage the neck and could ruin your guitar. You can, however, mix strings of different brands if they’re the same gauge and material. Keep these factors in mind before you restring your guitar.