Nylon Strings vs. Steel Strings

Written by Bhagwan on June 23rd, 2011. Posted in Music Education Articles, Parent Tips

Purchasing a guitar for a young child is a wonderful investment to make.  Of course, we need to spend our hard-earned money wisely, so it’s good to learn a bit about guitars before making your purchase.

When buying for a child, it’s most sensible to get something that gives the student an adequate instrument for the first several years of his/her study, while not breaking the bank.

There are three types of guitars to choose from.  Electric, steel string acoustic, and nylon string acoustic.   Electric guitars have the lightest strings of the three types, although nylon strings are soft and therefore also easy on the fingers.  Steel strings are, well, steel.  They can take some getting used to for beginners until calluses are developed.

Nylon strings are easier on the fingers, but they also have a softer sound.   Classical, Spanish, and Bossa Nova generally use nylon string guitars.  The strings are set apart further than steel string guitars to accommodate the use of finger picking (fingers naturally need more space than guitar picks).

Steel strings are brighter in sound but closer together on the fingerboard.  Smaller hands might appreciate the thinner neck, but closer strings require additional accuracy with the picking hand.

Each type of guitar can be used to play most styles of music, but they do have distinctively different sounds.  Since the idea is to find the best instrument for the student, it’s good for students to listen to both types of instruments before a purchase.

Here are two videos to show the different types of guitar in action. The first video features two guitarists playing the same guitar. Mozart deserves two guitar players, right???

Here is a video of Eric Clapton playing a blues on an acoustic guitar.  Enjoy!

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