Steel vs Nylon. What’s the difference... and does it really matter?
So, you’re thinking you might start learning the guitar. You’ve been googling for hours & still have no idea where to start?
- What’s the best guitar for a beginner?
- Am I too old to start learning guitar?
- I don’t want to spend too much until I know if I like it.
- Should I check out Gumtree?
- Should I get lessons or just go on YouTube?
Don’t worry! At Concept Music, we “get it” and we’re here to help you navigate that “Where do I even start?” jungle. So, please don’t worry about asking a ‘dumb’ question, the chances are we’ll have heard it many times before. And regardless, as far as we’re concerned “there is no such thing as a dumb question” so please, ask away.
We know that for some of you, walking into a guitar store for the first time can be overwhelming but we reckon it really is the best way to get started... you can touch, see and listen to all the different types of guitar and pretty soon you’ll have a good idea - not only of what they cost (in which case you’ll also know if that 2nd hand one you saw on Gumtree really is a bargain or not?!) but also what’s the best type of guitar for you... because everybody is different.
The good news is, there is no “wrong” way to start. That doesn’t mean that after some stage you might not want a different style of guitar (or even many different guitars!). Once you’ve started you can always change direction if you want to. You’ll already have tackled the hardest bit... just walking in, asking questions and getting started.
So, yes, we’ll definitely have that conversation about “Should I get a steel string or a nylon string guitar?” and we will explain (and show you) how the sound of a steel string guitar is more in line with modern or contemporary music, whereas if your desire is to play classical music, then we know from experience that you are very likely to quickly gravitate towards the tone of a nylon string guitar.
Of course, there are also structural and physical differences between the two. In a (very small) nutshell...
- Steel string: a more modern, louder sounding guitar with a narrower neck and fingerboard so your fingers don’t have to ‘stretch’ as far to reach all the notes BUT the strings are certainly much harder on your fingers at first, so they’ll take longer to toughen up (literally!).
- Nylon string: the sound they produce is far more suited to classical music as it is a softer more ‘relaxing’ tone. They also have a much wider fingerboard so there is a lot more space between the strings which means there is more room for your fingers ... plus the strings feel softer so your fingertips won’t hurt quite as much – but yes, they will still hurt. That’s normal! Nylon strings also ‘stretch’ a lot more than steel so you’ll probably want to get an inexpensive electronic ‘clip on’ tuner to help you get it tune more quickly (& accurately) than you can tuning by ear.
So, to recap. Is either right or wrong? No... a lot of people start on nylon as they feel it’s ‘easier’ and then ‘graduate’ to a steel string guitar, but both are great & both have their place. If you really get into it, the likelihood is that’ll want one of each (at least!) as the sound is so different, so you’ll find yourself enjoying swapping between them depending on what piece of music you’re playing.
Good luck! And remember... you’ll have taken the hardest step of all just walking in.
See you soon!
PLUS: Check out Will's video at conceptmusic.com.au/Nylon-Vs-Steel-String-Acoustic-Guitars