The following rant addresses the first-timer’s guitar buying dilemma. None of the points mentioned should be an issue to the experienced player.
Over the more than two decades in the guitar retail business, I have encountered the never-ending endorsement of nylon strings over steel, supported by one simple assumption; that nylon is “easier on the finger tips”. While this statement may be true to some extent, it is hardly reason enough to abandon the rich, booming tone of a steel-string acoustic guitar. And, no, adding “my instructor says …” doesn’t give the claim any extra weight.
Let’s break it down point by point.
Nylon strings have an elastic quality which lead to tuning problems - strings are constantly stretching out, losing tension and thus going flat. It takes multiple corrections before the strings finally settle into place and hold their tuning. Steel strings, on the other hand, require less stretching and settle into place much quicker. Definitely something that a novice would appreciate.
Secondly, most nylon-string guitars are classical guitars. Classical guitars traditionally have a wide fretboard, something that the beginner student would find challenging. The slimmer dimensions of the steel-string neck would be much more forgiving.
When you’re learning, you want to hear everything loud and clear. As beautiful as a classical guitar can sound, especially when played by an experienced musician, the tone and volume of a steel-string is notably crisper and louder.
And, let’s face it, authenticity is everything when it comes to tackling your favourite songs. Steel strings will work with blues, rock, funk, disco, jazz, country and heavy metal. Nylon strings sound great when you’re playing classical music. The choice is clear.
One important consideration is the set-up of the instrument. Has the guitar been maintained properly for forgiving playability? Nobody wants a guitar with high, uncomfortable action. As long as this factor is addressed, the entry-level student is going to get the most out of a steel string guitar.
So, when you’re thinking about that first guitar (unless your plan is to study classical music) steel wins over nylon.
Consider the ALVAREZ ARTIST AF30 ARTIST 30 SERIES FOLK IN NATURAL SATIN FINISH when learning guitar for the first time.
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