Nylon vs. Steel String Acoustics…Key decision makers…
So, you’ve decided to start playing the guitar! First of all, congratulations, you’re about to embark on a rewarding musical journey that will undoubtedly change your life for the better – yes, guitar is that good! The journey begins by deciding what type of guitar you want to start with though, a tough decision! Of course, you can start with any type of guitar, whether electric, acoustic or classical, and once you’ve learned the basics you can swap between all of them at your own pace, but today we’re going to be talking about the most common starting points for guitarists; acoustic and classical guitars. But which one is right for you between classical vs acoustic guitar?
Why classical vs acoustic guitar?
If you want to know why most guitarists start on an acoustic or classical guitar, it’s usually because an acoustic is a little less harsh on the fingers and a very simple pick-up-and-play option. You don’t need an amplifier to hear the sound properly and they are often available at a lower price than electric guitars.
For now, it’s all about classical vs. acoustic guitars, as we discuss the differences to give you a better idea of what type of guitar might be right for you.
The Differences Between Classical and Acoustic Guitars
1. The fretboard
The fretboard of a classical guitar is a lot wider than that of an acoustic. Quite often classical guitars will not have the fret markers (dots or inlays) along the fingerboard either.
2. The shape
The shape is very different too. Acoustic guitars predominantly come in a dreadnought shape which is considerably larger than that of a classical guitar and cutaways where you have access to the higher frets on classical guitars are rather rare.
3. The price
Often classical guitars are a little cheaper than their acoustic cousins, which is why many beginners start with a classical guitar first.
First of all, let’s clear up one thing – both these guitars are in fact acoustic guitars, except one uses nylon strings (classical) and the other uses steel string (acoustic). Confusing, yes but the differences between the two are vast!
A classical guitar uses nylon strings whereas the modern acoustic uses steel string, hence it’s often referred to as a “steel string acoustic”. These strings both sound and feel very different indeed. The nylon strings of a classical guitar are a lot thicker and mellower or softer sounding than those of a steel string. With steel string acoustic guitar strings you get a very twangy and bright sound that resonates (lasts longer) than a classical guitar. They also feel very different too. Nylon strings are thicker and because the treble strings (G,B, high E) are nylon and the bass strings are nylon cores with metal or use a nylon winding technique on the E, A, D strings, it can be a lot more comfortable to play when you’re a beginner. Steel string acoustic guitars use a variety of metals for strings, including nickel and bronze and they are closer to the likes of electric guitar strings i.e. thinner and somewhat sharper on fingers. Don’t worry though, with enough practice your fingers won’t hurt as much.
5. The Sound
The difference in strings and shape plays a huge part in how the two guitars sound which will also be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing one over the other. Think about what type of music you prefer to listen to. If you like Gypsy Kings style music, Flamenco or Spanish guitar, the classical guitar is right for you and often the main, if not only, type of guitar those types of musician’s use. Pretty much every favourite band of yours will be using a steel string acoustic rather than a classical guitar. Yes, you can learn on either one, but “Wonderwall” by Oasis or “Yesterday” by The Beatles will sound very weird indeed when played with a classical guitar. Most guitarists will make the natural progression from classical to acoustic, but very few choose to stay loyal to a classical guitar.
So which one is the right guitar for me?
Classical Nylon String Guitars
If you like the sounds of Flamenco or Spanish guitar , want a cheaper alternative to learn the basics with or a lighter option that is slightly easier to carry, the classical guitar might be for you. Here are three great affordable nylon string classical guitar options in price ascending order, ranging from quality beginner guitars to a more intermediate option for those who want to continue their journey with the classical guitar.
If you don’t want to spend a great deal on a beginner guitar, the Redwood CG-212 Half Size Classical Guitar is perfect for you. The mixture of solid hardwood body and nylon strings creates a hearty energy paired with comfortable playability. The short scale is ideal for new players who are honing their technique before moving onto a three-quarter or full-scale model.
The Merida Trajan T5 classical guitar is a really good option for those who want an instrument that will last a lifetime without breaking the bank. A quality, hard wearing instrument that sounds as good as it looks.
Steel String Acoustic Guitars
As for steel string acoustic guitars, we’ve rounded up a couple of options, again ranging from beginner to those who want to get a bit more serious. If you like loud, rich tones and an extremely versatile option that you can use for a wide range of music genres, then you’ll probably want to start with a steel string.
Our first option comes from another trusted name in acoustic guitars comes in the form of Yamaha. The brand has been making guitars for musicians of all levels for decades and you can’t really go wrong with the Yamaha F310. A great quality instrument that you won’t have to upgrade (unless you really want to) due to the strong focus on playability and expert craftmanship.
Farida’s well-stocked acoustic range does not disappoint. For those who have decided that the acoustic guitar is for them, you can’t go wrong with the Farida M26-E. The smaller, parlour body produces the warmest of tones and the in-built electronics ensure crystal clear sound that resonates beautifully.
The best thing you can do is try as many guitars as you can and see which style is best for you and the music you like to play. There are thousands of guitars out there, but only a handful are right for you – take your time and have fun!
IF you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Visit your nearest Dawsons Store where our in-house specialists can guide you through the decision-making process.
Quick recap of the guitars highlighted in the article:
- Redwood CG-212 Half-Size Classical Guitar
- Merida Trajan T-5 Classical Guitar
- Yamaha F310 Acoustic Guitar
- Farida M-26E Electro Acoustic Guitar
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For those on a budget, we’ve compiled our “Five Best Classical Guitars Under £300” to get you up and running in no time.
Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns.
After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery.
Utilising his experience in music journalism, Lee now works within the web team at Dawsons Music, where he can still relay his passion for music by producing great content for the Dawsons blog and social media. Lee is still an avid guitar player and writer.