Flamenco guitar strings in a huge variety of materials, shapes and tensions
Today, we have the luxury to choose from a huge variety of different flamenco guitar strings. Since Andrés Segovia and one of Segovia's guitar makers, Albert Augustine, during the second world war, had the brilliant idea, to substitute gut for nylon; guitar string manufacturers have been introducing other innovative materials as well as sophisticated grinding technologies controlled by laser detectors and photoelectric cells. With all these advanced technologies and materials at their disposal, today, flamenco guitar string manufacturers can produce flamenco or classical guitar strings with perfect round shapes, different tensions, perfect intonation, basses made from a nylon core wounded with silver plated copper or a golden metal alloy, trebles made from nylon fibers or carbon fibers. ..All these different options make it not an easy task to select the right flamenco guitar string for you. However the tone of the guitar obviously depends on the strings being used. A Flamenco guitar requires more treble response and an overall percussive sound whereas a classical guitar seeks a deeper timbre.
Finding the right flamenco guitar string is a personal choice according to your preferences for a certain sound like earthier basses or brighter trebles, the characteristics of your guitar, your playing technique as well as your fingernails. Most performers actually mix and match. Flamenco guitar strings are made in different tensions, low tension also referred to as moderate or light, normal or medium tension and hard or high tension. Some prefer high tension flamenco guitar strings, providing a more brilliant, percussive sound, but many flamenco players seem to favour the medium tension. However the higher the tension of your flamenco guitar string, the lower the playability will be, the more muscle power you will need to play your flamenco guitar. In order to understand this, it helps to understand the physics of sound. When a guitar string is strummed or plucked, vibrations in the form of waves travel in both directions along the flamenco guitar string, reflected back at each fixed end. These waves will travel faster when the tension of the string is higher, projecting a more percussive sound. Also the frequency will be higher as the tension increases. However the wave will travel slower on a more massive string. The less mass flamenco guitar strings have, the higher the playability and the less tension is needed to achieve the same frequency. The softer the nylon, the higher the playability, the lower the tension will be, the slower the waves will travel resulting in a less percussive, more mellow sound. A string that is too thick will not deliver a desirable sound. Its increased stiffness will result in a tone that tends to be rather dull. As a start we recommend to use the same tension for all three basses, the tension can be different on trebles and basses. Usually the combination that works the best is high tension for the basses and a medium tension for the trebles.
Regarding the materials, treble nylon flamenco guitar strings can be made with clear or rectified nylon. Clear nylon strings are extruded and next calibrated for accuracy. Rectified nylon strings are extruded in order to produce a very fine roughness of texture projecting a warmer tone and some kind of a controlled, smooth feeling. Carbon trebles projects a brighter sound which can be good or bad depending on the characteristics of your guitar. Carbon trebles do not stretch nearly as much as nylon, so they settle into tune much more quickly. They are also harder, so they last longer. However carbon trebles are much smaller in diameter than nylon guitar strings of the same length and tension. This brings a lower mass at your fingertips which can be a disadvantage for playing vibratos.... As a start we recommend to try some rectified nylon trebles. Flamenco guitarists seem to change the bass strings more frequently than the trebles. The fourth string is the first one to deteriorate because it has a finer winding than the fifth or sixth strings. If you are a daily guitar player, re-stringing once a month should be a good reference.
Flamenco guitar strings such as luthier popular supreme are known due to their endorsement by Paco De Lucia. There are also brands by the flamenco guitar makers themselves such as Conde Hermanos. Others of our guitar makers prefer Savarez or D’Addario flamenco guitar strings.