A cross over is a common name for a nylon string guitar with dimensions and features closer to a steel string guitar. For hundreds of years the classical guitar has remained almost unchanged – no cutaway and a wide neck. But as nylon string guitars become more popular with a wider variety of players in varying styles of music, they are demanding change. A cutaway allows access to the higher frets. A slimmer nut width and neck girth makes left-hand play easier and wide stretches less daunting.
Many players are simply ready for an instrument that’s easier to play and allows them to create their music with less of a fight. Many modern builders are responding to this call. Here at Dream Guitars we offer instruments from Alejandro Cervantes, John Buscarino, Steve Fischer, Brian Applegate, Daniel Stark, Paul McGill and others who are embracing and welcoming this change.
The primary features that identify a crossover are very obvious. Typically the nut width is around 48 mm or 1 7/8 inches. “We see nylon crossover Guitars with as narrow a nut as 1 3/4″ up to perhaps 1 15/16″ nut. 1 7/8ths (48mm) seems to be the most popular. Given that nylon strings are physically wider, a nut width greater than 1 3/4″ seems to help players play more cleanly and be able to fit the fingers into complex chord shapes. Also nylon strings do vibrate in a much wider arc so the string spacing all the way up the fingerboard must allow for that. All of these dimensions work so depending on the player’s needs we can find them the appropriate feel.” – Paul Heumiller, Dream Guitars
The other key feature is the cutaway. A cutaway allows a player to more easily reach up to the 15th fret and beyond for pieces that go into the higher register. Paul adds, “I think the classical guitar world has resisted using the cutaway in an attempt to get all of the possible volume out of the instrument. Making a nylon string instrument loud and strong is quite a challenge since there is very little string energy to begin with. But in our experience, a cutaway has a very minor effect on the sound of an instrument. If you think about it, the upper portion of a guitar’s top toward the neck joint does not move very much. You have the entire neck heel inside that area and it is glued directly to the top and back. In addition the fingerboard is glued down to the face and there is a big popsicle brace inside above the sound hole. All of that severely restricts the soundboard in the upper area of the body. We think players are simply no longer wanting to sacrifice playability for whatever minor tonal difference there might be.”
Pickup systems are also common on crossover guitars. Modern pickups are so natural sounding that players are much more excepting of amplifying in that way. This gives players the ability to use nylon string on stage much more easily and just enjoy amplification at home where you can add a little bit of reverb to create a wonderful spacious ambience.
As for voicing, crossover guitars are often exactly the same as classical guitars. Traditional fan bracing is employed by many builders so that the voice is indeed a classical guitar. Other builders are employing new design ideas such as double tops and lattice bracing. But that is true also of classical guitars today so it is not truly a difference any longer.
Click the Image Above to Watch Al Petteway Play a New Cervantes Crossover
Paul Heumiller adds, “what we are seeing is that the nylon string instrument has become extremely popular with Fingerstyle players in the styles of Jazz, Brazilian, Samba, Folk and other steel string players who are aging or simply prefer the easier play of a nylon string guitar. Another big segment are steel string players who simply want another voice for certain pieces. Players like Eric Clapton have shown that nylon string guitar is not just for classical anymore. It’s a very exciting development – one that I think will continue to grow in popularity. It is so much fun to play nylon string and explore the Tonal pallet that you can create.”
Each of the Guitars mentioned here has a video performance on our website, click the links above to hear what crossover Guitars might offer you’re playing. Call us today to add one to your arsenal.