can you put nylon strings on an electric guitar

Can You Put Nylon Strings On An Electric Guitar?

If you put nylon strings on an electric guitar, you would hope that it would make the perfect sound for a ripping solo or some refined playing. But sadly that’s not the case.

You can put nylon strings on an electric guitar, but it isn’t that simple. You will need to play it with a piezo pickup, otherwise the magnetic properties of standard guitar pickups will prevent any sound coming from the guitar.

It makes using nylon strings a left-field choice for use on an electric guitar. Particularly when they are designed for use on classical acoustic guitars.

Despite this, it doesn’t stop some guitarists from trying this. Guitars can be especially adapted to be played with nylon strings with the right tools.

Trying Nylon on Standard Electric Guitars

If you put nylon strings on an electric guitar without any modification, you are going to end up bitterly disappointed. Especially as the stringing process won’t be difficult.

Playing the strings without any gear will still make a noise if you strum along. However, all of this changes when you get everything hooked up.

To generate noise, a standard electric guitar pickup works by picking up magnetic vibrations. When these vibrations register with a pickup, it turns each frequency into the noise that is generated through the amp.

If the string material has no magnetic properties, then it won’t make any noise. It’s why conventional electric guitar strings are often made from magnetic metal compounds such as steel, copper or nickel.

Therefore, using a synthetic non-metallic material such as nylon won’t generate any noise whatsoever. It will render anything you play obsolete. This means that, in this setup, nothing would work if you put nylon strings on an electric guitar once you plug it into an amp.

How Can You Put Nylon Strings On An Electric Guitar?

Despite not having any magnetic properties, nylon strings can still work on an electric guitar. However, it needs additional tweaks to make this happen.

It involves removing the standard electric guitar pickups and swapping them out for a Piezo pickup. Once a piezo pickup is installed, then nylon strings will produce sounds through the amp and your issue will be resolved.

How Do Piezo Pickups Work?

For anyone unfamiliar with piezo pickups, these modified guitar pickups help convert any sounds or vibrations into electric signals.

What this means is that as you play, the nylon strings vibrate and these movements are picked up by the Piezo pickup. As it picks these up, the converted signals are fed through the system and changed into sounds that are audible through an amplifier.

Piezo pickups are normally not commonly built into electric guitars. Instead, they would have to be a customization added to the original model.

The only time you would find guitars with a Piezo pickup is in an acoustic-electric model. As these guitars often switch depending on the style they are used for, having these built-in makes it easier for a guitarist to use them for either acoustic or electric purposes.

Why Do Guitarists Like Using Nylon Strings?

Steel guitar strings are all well and good if you want a big, loud sound that is suited for all types of genres. But for the more refined player, nylon strings give an added edge to their playing.

In most cases, nylon strings are fitted onto guitars that are used for finer sounds. This revolves around accentuating single notes, long solos or for anyone fingerpicking.

The properties of nylon make it an attractive proposition for some guitarists. It’s a feeling echoed by Prof. Jim Woodhouse, Professor Emeritus of Structural Dynamics from Cambridge University’s Engineering Department, who reflects on the properties that make nylon suitable for guitarists.

Woodhouse explains. “Warm sound is associated with not too much energy at higher frequencies,” explains Prof. Woodhouse. “Too little warmth becomes a bright sound. Monofilament nylon strings give you more brightness”

This natural sound brightness makes using nylon perfect for highlighting each note. It’s a sound that the ears naturally pick up as strings are played.

For example, imagine listening to someone playing a Spanish guitar. When these are played, particularly for flamenco, it’s not too uncommon to hear individual notes played on just one string.

That high sound is where nylon strings come into their element. It makes the individual note stand out more than just strumming chords to a pop song.

It’s why players who prefer fingerpicking or soloing opt to use a guitar that is set up for nylon strings. It makes their playing stand out.

How Do Nylon Strings Work?

As much as these sounds might feel naturally geared towards nylon strings, it also depends on how the guitar itself is strung. In some occasions, it doesn’t matter what material they are made from, the result still ends up the same.

“For any particular string, there will be a difference in sound,” explains Prof. Woodhouse. “The sharper the pluck geometry, the higher frequency you can put into that string.”

“ The key quantity is the damping of the string – which varies with frequency.  For example, a very fat nylon string will give an unsatisfactory dull sound whatever you do. This is because it is incapable of resonating for any length of time at a higher frequency”

It’s why understanding the type of string thickness also impacts the overall sound you want to find. It’s something that Prof. Woodhouse continues to emphasise.

“Over-wound string construction helps with brightness which is why you don’t use thicker monofilament strings for the lower strings of a guitar.”

All this makes an impact on why nylon strings make their trademark brighter sounds. This influences the reason why guitarists opt to use them in place of steel strings.

Examples of Nylon-Stringed Electric Guitars

In recent years, a huge sub-market for for nylon-stringed guitars that are also electric has emerged. But what models lead to this strange trend?

Ibanez FRH10N

Japanese guitar stalwarts Ibanez are known for covering all areas of the guitar market. Unsurprisingly, this also includes nylon-stringed acoustic-electric.

Their FRH10N is a nylon-stringed electric that has an especially designed T-Bar Undersaddle pickup that allows it to convert any vibrations into sound. It makes it a great choice for anyone wanting an automatically nylon-stringed guitar to play at home.

Ibanez TOD10N Tim Henson Signature

Polyphia have made a name for themselves thanks to their unique blend of math-rock mixed with prog stylings. Much of these key sounds come from the hands of co-founder Tim Henson.

Henson’s signature style amazingly comes using a nylon-stringed electric. Ibanez has refined this by using a Fishman SoniCore pickup to translate signatures into sound.

Doing this makes this acoustic-electric a unique-sounding axe across the metal world.


As you can see, deciding to put nylon strings on an electric guitar takes a lot of thought. However, it also takes some adjustments to bring the thought to reality.

Knowing just what you need to do to make the right sounds is a big part of making the switch that much more effective. Otherwise, you will hear nothing but an awkward silence.

Understanding the properties of nylon strings also helps. Knowing how they naturally sound indicates what to expect. Furthermore, understanding string dynamics also helps you get the most from your strings once rethreaded.

Combining all this makes it easier to consider whether to make the switch or not. However, you may also be lucky enough to stumble across guitars already built for your exact want. It’s why doing your homework is crucial if you put nylon strings on an electric guitar.

Special thanks to Prof. Jim Woodhouse

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