And if you choose acoustic, then which type, steel or nylon string?
Before starting to play the guitar, some people are already asking these questions, but many people have no idea even what the different types are. In this article I’m going to explain the characteristics of each type of guitar and suggest some things you should consider before deciding which type of guitar to get.
There are many different types of electric guitar but for the purposes of this article I’m going to only talk about the most common type: a solid body electric guitar.
Here are the main 3 types of guitar commonly available:
2) Nylon-String Acoustic Guitars
(This is a Classical Guitar. There are some other types of nylon-string acoustic guitars but these are the most common).
3) Steel-String Acoustic Guitars
Which type of guitar you should get really depends on several things. One of the most important is the style of music you want to play. Many people mistakenly believe they should start on acoustic and then switch to electric later on after getting a grasp of the basics – because it’s easier to do it that way! This is definitely a wrong belief! Electric guitar is the easier one to play – if you want to play rock music, start with electric! Even kids as young as 5 or 6 will find it easier to play on a small size electric than on an acoustic.
However, if you want to play a mixture of styles, some blues, classic rock, pop songs, jazz and maybe even some easy classical, and get a general feeling for guitar playing and music overall, then I would recommend starting with an acoustic, even though it’s the harder instrument to play.
If you choose to go for an acoustic, then you have two choices: a steel string or a nylon string. I normally recommend that beginners choose a nylon string as in the beginning they are easier on the fingers. The nylon strings are softer than steel strings. Steel strings take a bit longer to get used to, and they might be a little bit more painful at the beginning when you are trying to press them down with soft fingers! Also in my experience, nylon-string guitars at the lower end of the market, say between €80 and €150, are better quality than steel string guitars in the same price range.
When choosing between nylon and steel string acoustic guitars, again it depends on what you aim to do with your guitar. Steel strings make more sound, in other words they are louder. So if you want to play and sing songs in a noisy pub, nylon strings won’t cut it. But if you want to play at home and maybe sometimes with a few friends, nylon strings will be fine.
I personally much prefer to play nylon string acoustic guitars, but that’s because I play fingerstyle (I don’t use a pick), and I play a lot of jazz and fingerstyle music. I like the soft sound of nylon strings. It suits the kind of music I play.
I play both acoustic and electric guitars, but one thing I REALLY like about playing an acoustic guitar is that you can feel the instrument vibrating when you play it. You can feel the sound. If you strum louder, you FEEL the instrument is making more sound by vibrating more. With electric guitars, only the strings vibrate, not the body of the guitar, and the sound is transmitted to an amplifier. Without the amp there is hardly any sound.
When you are playing an electric guitar, it is definitely easier to press the strings and get the chords to sound cleanly. To get a good sound with an amp is much more difficult. You need to have good equipment. A bad sounding amplifier will always sound bad! You also need great technique to sound good… but with an acoustic guitar I think you can rely more on your technique than the instrument to sound good. Unless you have a REALLY poor quality guitar in which case it will be difficult.
To demostrate what I mean, here is a video I recorded of myself playing a jazz standard on a nylon string guitar. Guess how much the guitar is worth! I’ll let you know in the next post.