Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar
I often get asked by people who are just starting to learn guitar, what guitar I recommend that they should get- a nylon string guitar (aka Classical Guitar) or steel string guitar (aka Acoustic Guitar)?
I want to help you all make the best decision specifically for you, so I will go over each one, give you some quick examples of their differing sound qualities in various song genres, then give you my personal recommendations, and also answer some of the most commonly asked questions I receive.
What's the Difference Between Nylon and Steel Guitar Strings?
There are big differences between nylon and steel guitar strings, and those differences may help you to choose which type is best for you.
Nylon Strings can often look just like steel strings. They commonly have a nylon core with a metal wrapping. Because they are nylon, it makes it easier to press down on them, plus they are thicker, which means they are easier on your fingertips. This type of string is most commonly played with your fingers, but you can also use a pick if you like.
Steel Strings have much more tension in them, so they are harder on your fingers until you get used to them. They are narrower than nylon strings and can make your fingers sore. They are most commonly played with a guitar pick, but they also sound good when finger picked too!
Differences Between Acoustic and Classical Guitar
There are vast differences between the sound qualities of acoustic (nylon string) and classical (steel string) guitars.
Nylon string guitars have a soft mellow sound to them, while steel string guitars are louder and brighter in sound.
Choose nylon if you want to play classical, Spanish (flamenco or Latin), or fingerstyle guitar. But if you want to play pop-rock, folk, country bluegrass, or singer-songwriter style, then steel string guitars are the match for you!
In the corresponding video at the top of the page, I have played for you some sample riffs on both the nylon and steel string guitars. These are examples of various musical styles to give you an idea and appreciation of the unique sound qualities expressed by each guitar type.
Here is a list of the different styles being played on each guitar, and their coordinating time stamps for you to navigate more easily.
01:42 Nylon String - Pop Strumming
01:58 Steel String - Pop Strumming
02:23 Nylon String - Bossa Nova Style
02:56 Steel String - Bossa Nova Style
03:37 Nylon String - Fingerstyle
04:12 Steel String - Fingerstyle
04:54 Nylon String - Bass Note Country Style
05:07 Steel String - Bass Note Country Style
05:28 Nylon String - Blues in E
06:00 Steel String - Blues in E
06:40 Nylon String - Shuffle Rock Lick
06:54 Steel String - Shuffle Rock Lick
07:23 Nylon String - Rumba Flamenco
Can Nylon String Guitars Use Steel Strings?
Some of you have asked me this question and the short answer is no. Putting any kind of steel strings on a nylon string guitar can break the guitar. This type of guitar is simply not made to hold the tension of metal strings.
Can Nylon Strings Go On Any Guitar?
It is possible to put nylon strings on an acoustic guitar, but I don’t recommend it. The reason is simple- it just sounds BAD. Plus it would be difficult to do because the tuning keys and the bridge are completely different from a nylon or classical guitar.
Is the Nylon String Guitar Easier to Play?
There is no real yes or no answer to this. It just depends on what you consider easier. The strings on a nylon guitar have less tension, so it is easier on the fingers, which many new guitar players would appreciate. But the catch to that is the neck is wider on a nylon guitar, so it can be difficult if you have small hands to reach a bar chord or more difficult chords like a G chord.
Should I Start With a Classical or Acoustic Guitar?
The answer to this question rests solely with whoever is going to be playing the guitar. Do you have a particular style of music that you want to play? Depending on what style of music you want to delve into, would decide what guitar you should choose.
My recommendation to you is to choose the type of guitar that is most commonly used in the styles of music that you want to play. There is far more of a reward to you if the guitar you choose sounds most familiar with the styles of music that you listen to. And who knows, you may want to have both someday!
Want to make your acoustic steel string guitar easier to play? Check out the link below!
This was a very informative video. I play an acoustic guitar for my lessons, but really wanted to see how some of the Spanish sounds were different on a nylon string guitar. I bought a Yamaha student grade guitar for kicks, and found the sound softer than my acoustic, and with a different quality. For most of my lessons, I use my steel string acoustic guitar, but every so often, I take out the nylon string guitar and play some beautiful Spanish melodies, just to hear the sound. I loved hearing the melodies or riffs played in this video on BOTH guitars! Hearing it as a comparison was very valuable. Thanks Tomas!