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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your First Guitar

5.    Steel-string or Classical?

There are pros and cons to both, make sure to pick the type that sounds best to you

Once you’ve decided that acoustic guitar is the way to go, the sales person will likely ask if you are looking for a steel-string guitar or a classical (also called a nylon-string) guitar. Obviously the biggest difference between the two is the material used to make the strings, but there are a few other things to consider.

Strings made out of nylon are much easier on the fingers and since the tension of these strings is lower than that of steel, they tend to be easier to push down. However, the fretboard on classical guitars is wider than that of steel string guitars, which can cause problems for smaller hands.

While steel strings tend to be a little tougher on the fingers, there are now strings available for steel-string guitar that are softer to the touch (like D’Addario’s Silk & Steels). These strings are much easier on the fingers but provide a sound more like that of steel strings. Which brings us to the next point…

Whether it's classical or steel-string, choose the guitar that sounds best to you.

At the end of the day, the sound of the guitar should be the deciding factor. While it may seem like a classical guitar is easier to play, you may not like the sound as much as that of a steel-string. Much of the acoustic guitar that we hear on the radio or see played in concert is steel-string, so that sound may be more familiar and inspiring than that of a nylon string. If you are a fan of classical music or flamenco (or Willie Nelson) then maybe the sound of the classical is more up your alley. Before making a decision, sit down with the guitar and see how it feels in your hands and either have a friend who plays or a salesperson play the guitar for you so you can evaluate it from a listener’s perspective.

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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your First Guitar