Can You Put Nylon Strings on an Electric Guitar?


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

While the strings are one of the most essential parts of guitars, most people don’t focus on the type of strings they place on their guitar. Some guitarists even change out string types due to the feel the strings have on their fingers or how they sound. One of these combinations has to be nylon strings on an electric guitar, right? 

Acoustic guitar strings cannot work on an electric guitar, especially whenever it comes to nylon. The main reason is that electric guitars need strings made of magnetically conductive materials that can produce a magnetic field. Without this field, it’s impossible to produce a sound. 

This article will take you through the two types of strings, how an electric guitar works, and why the standard electric guitar strings are the best choice for playing on an electric guitar. 

What Are Nylon Strings?

Before we get into how the electric guitar produces sound whenever it’s plugged in, we need to look at nylon strings and specifically what about nylon strings that don’t work for an electric guitar. 

Nylon strings are often used for classical or folk guitars, and they produce a mellow and warm sound when played. They have two types of strings: three basses or strings that are wound and wrapped in a sheath of metal and three treble strings, which are simply three plain and unwrapped strings

These strings are much easier on your fingers than steel strings for an acoustic guitar, and they are also more comfortable for beginners as they’re easy to push down. The strings for acoustic guitars, in general, are often much heavier as well since the heavier strings help to displace the air around the guitar to create the sound in the first place. 

How Electric Guitars Work

After plugging it into an amp, the electric guitar creates a magnetic field. This field gets disturbed whenever you strum the guitar’s strings. An electric guitar typically has strings made of metal that react to magnets and disturb the magnetic field whenever they are moved. Whenever that field is disturbed by movement, it creates an electrical charge. 

Now, that electrical signal goes into the amplifier that you have plugged your guitar into, and the signal turns into sound. With a bit of distortion, this helps you produce the music that you want to play. Then, all the tones and knobs on the guitar and amp help you control just how much of an electrical charge is generated and how much volume is forced through the amp. 

Pretty cool right? Knowing how your guitar works not only allows you to have more fun playing with it, but you can also make the necessary adjustments whenever things go wrong with your guitar. Or make changes to improve your own special sound.

Common Electric Guitar String Materials

Most of the electric guitar strings are made using magnetically conductive alloys. These include strings made primarily from steel and nickel or even nickel-plated steel. Still, the core is primarily always made from steel, and then they are wrapped with an alloy or some other metal for protection and cosmetic reasons to help give the guitar that finished look. That’s why most electric guitars are referred to as ‘steel-stringed guitars.’

Nickel-plated steel guitar strings are easily the most popular types of electric guitar strings. Pure nickel and stainless steel strings also have that ‘snap’ that every guitar player looks for. Still, you can find other alloys too, and which one you pick depends on your needs and how you want your guitar to sound. 

Understanding the music you want to make and the skills and styles you want to play will help you choose the strings you need.  Plus, it can be fun to know that your guitar and your strings are made to play all the songs that you want to play.

Why Can’t You Put Nylon Strings on an Electric?

The answer is pretty quickly figured out from the features mentioned above. 

Nylon strings and other acoustic strings are not magnetic. Thus, whenever you move them by strumming, they don’t trigger the magnetic field required for producing the sound, and the sound isn’t produced, or if it is, the sound is produced very quietly. 

Now, you will get sound, and the different strings might even produce something that you enjoy, but it isn’t going to play through an amp. Plus, you will get an uneven tone through the strumming of the strings, which can make even playing unplugged songs sound rough. 

Plus, nylon strings have no metal within them, unlike some of the other acoustic strings. So if you string your electric guitar with nylon strings, then you might get a quick flash of acoustic sound when you play the guitar unplugged, but you aren’t going to hear anything from the amplifier. 

Can You Do the Reverse?

Now, what if you want to put your old electric strings onto your new acoustic guitar? If you decide that you want to do this, then you certainly can experiment with it. Depending on the quality of the strings, you can find that the metal strings tend to give you a twanging sound that is perfect for playing the blues and getting your country music going. 

There are plenty of steel-stringed acoustic guitars that you can use as well, but changing one set of strings for the other isn’t always the best for you. Acoustic guitars have acoustic guitar strings made for them, and the same goes for electric guitars. 

Switching strings around might work if you have some creative desires to change your sound up, but most of the time, you should be focused on playing the correct string for the correct guitar. That’s how you will get the best sound for your guitar, and it stops you from fixing things that just aren’t broken about your instrument (Relevant article: guitar hum stops when you touch jack). 

Can I Put Normal Acoustic Guitar Strings on an Electric?

Aside from nylon strings, there are other types of acoustic guitar strings, including steel and bronze coated ones. For a standard set of acoustic guitar strings, the bottom two strings (B and E) are typically made from steel to give them their higher pitch. Of course, steel will react to the magnetic field, and it will more than likely sound fine whenever you play them. 

However, steel isn’t the only material that the strings are made of, and the other four strings (E, A, D, and G) are often made from or at least wrapped in bronze. Bronze isn’t going to react to a magnet, so you will get a much quieter sound when compared to the bottom two strings. 

This can make the guitar harder to play as the bottom two strings will be much louder, while you will get a muted sound from the remaining four strings. That’s not the best arrangement for playing songs or performing music, so you should probably just stick with the electric guitar strings. 

Will I Ever Need To Put Different Strings on My Electric?

Often, your electric guitar comes with good strings right out of the box. If you need to replace broken strings, you can often get more of the exact string. However, with all the string options out there, do you need to put any other types of strings on your electric guitar? 

That will depend on how you play your guitar and what type of sound you want to get out of it. You can change the material and the gauge (or thickness) of the strings as well. Strings with a lighter gauge are easier to play and tend to let you bend notes easier. 

Heavier gauge strings are harder to play but also produce more volume for your music. The most significant factors for changing the type of strings are how you play and how often you play. For example, if you have a guitar with heavier strings but you want to play many songs with bent notes and a lot of shredding, you should replace them with lighter strings. 

You’ll figure out what strings work the best for you by experimenting with them and figuring out what type of music and techniques you want to play with. It will take a while to find your style and sound, but once you do, you can focus on the strings that will get you to that sound. 

Conclusion

If you decide that you want to put nylon strings on an acoustic guitar, good luck because you will not be getting any sound. With no metal to change the magnetic field and cause the electrical current to appear, your amp won’t make any sound. Playing without the amp makes it low and tinny as well, certainly not what you want when playing music. 

Just stick with the steel strings the electric guitar comes with. That’s going to get you further in your practice and music career than endlessly changing your strings will, and your music will sound much better too.

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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