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Narrower string spacing at the nut of a classical guitar

The typical nut on a classical guitar is 52mm wide and has slots cut in it to give string spacing somewhere between 42mm and 44mm.

If you find this too wide for comfort you can change to a guitar with a narrower nut width (and with this narrower string spacing).

An alternative is to have a new nut made with narrower string spacing. There are two approaches to this

  • increase the distance between the outer string slots and the edge of the neck/fingerboard and reduce the spacing between all 6 slots. The possible disadvantage of this is that the space between the outer strings and the edge of the neck/fingerboard my feel uncomfortable – particularly on the treble side.
  • Keep the distance between the new slot for the first treble string the same distance from the edge of the neck/fingerboard and then close up all the other slots; this results in all 5 lower strings being positioned further away from the bass edge of the neck/fingerboard, particularly noticeable on the lowest bass string which will have an unusually large gap. This should not be a problem (once you are used to it) unless your style of playing involves using your thumb to fret the lowest string – more typical of a blues style of playing than a classical, but it definitely suits some players.

There are two financial advantages of changing nut rather than changing guitar: a nut is much less expensive than a new guitar, and it is easy enough to put a standard nut back if you want to sell the guitar and you are then selling a “standard” model which is often easier than selling a custom instrument.

It is a relatively easy job to change nuts – sometimes they are unglued and just lift out, sometimes they are held in with a very small drop of glue and can be tapped out. Best check with the guitar maker before you take a hammer to the nut, just in case it is fastened more securely than usual.

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Classical and Flamenco Guitar Body Size and Depth

Over the years, the shape of the classical guitar body has increased in size. There have also been other evolutionary changes

  • changes in soundboard bracing
  • changes in string tension

and so it is not a simple matter to attribute the sound qualities of the instrument simply to one factor alone.

However it can be said in general that the larger the body the greater the volume of the instrument but that beyond a certain volume the sound acquires a “boomy” quality – a lack of clarity and separation of the tones.

If you compare the modern flamenco and modern classical guitars you see that the flamenco instrument, while its length and width (of the figure of 8 shape) are very similar, its depth from front to back is less. The tonal difference between the two is largely a matter of more attack and slightly less sustain on the flamenca than on the classical.

(Attack – the time taken between plucking a string and the note achieving its maximum volume

Sustain – the duration of the note sounding after it has been plucked).

You also find that a number of electro-classical guitars have a shallower body. This is typically done so that feedback is reduced.

A question often asked is whether a cutaway in a nylon string guitar affects the sound. Its physical effect is to reduce the volume of air in the body and so given the above discussion it is likely that it reduces overall volume and sustain and increases attack. From experience I think these effects are there but not very pronounced and masked when comparing one instrument to the next by the natural variations in the acoustic properties of the different pieces of wood making up the soundboards.