#1
I have been playing the guitar for 6 months with a cheap classical guitar that has absolutely horrible sound. I'm looking to purchase a decent guitar. At the moment I can only afford to buy one guitar.

I'm trying to decide between a classical guitar and a steel-stringed acoustic guitar but I can't make up my mind. I'm going for a fully acoustic guitar; I will discard any guitar that has built-in electronics as I have no use for such features. Regarding this I'd like to add that I thoroghly dislike the sound of an electric guitar. I came here to look for advice and opinions on which type of guitar I should buy.

Most of the time I play classical music on the guitar because I enjoy it. I also like the ability to sing along with the music since several people have complemented me on my singing voice. For me, these aspects of the guitar are of equal importance - although I do spend considerably more time practicing to play classical music with fingerpicking that playing chords with a plastic pick. As of now I have no prior experience in playing decent steel-stringed acoustic guitar nor a decent classical guitar. Hence I'm in a plight to choose between them.

Is it considerably harder to fingerpick a steel-stringed guitar? Does it sound much worse?

What about classical guitar? Does it sound good to use a plastic pick to play chords on it?

Should I go for a steel-stinged acoustic guitar or a classical guitar?
#2
fingering a standard acoustic should be much easier than on a classical( i have absolutely NO experience on a classical, none, zero,zilch) as the strings are much closer to the fretboard. the neck is much wider than your typical acoustic guitar so, if your used to that classical, it might take some adjusting on the thinner neck. i wouldn't imagine that using a pick on a nylon strung classical can sound good at all !
need more gear and a lot more talent(courtesytuxs)
#3
Steel string acoustics have about twice the string tension of a classical, or any nylon string guitar. As a result of this, the strings of a classical are much easier to "fret", or push down. However, nylon strings do need a "high action". For me, a high action, whether with nylon or steel strings, becomes increasingly awkward as you go high up the neck, as it requires that you pick up your fingers too high to cross between strings.

With that said, much or your playing will be done below the 7th fret anyway, making this somewhat of a moot point.

A great many people who finger pick their steel string guitars enjoy a fairly wide neck, as of that on a classical guitar. The standard neck width for a classical can be as much as 2", whereas the most common neck width for a steel string is 1 11/16". Many finger style players consider that 1 11/16" width, a bit too narrow, and opt for guitars with wider necks, from possibly 1 3/4" up to almost 2".

Nylon strings hardly build up callouses, but steel strings require them, to avoid discomfort with either hand, picking or fretting.

As for the overall sound of an instrument, steel and nylon strung guitars sound almost nothing alike, and it is up to your ears to resolve that issue, not mine.

Willie Nelson I'm told, does use a pick and hybrid picking style on his classical style guitar. The downside is, if I've been informed correctly , a pick is kind of rough on nylon strings, and requires more frequent changing and / or tuning.

If you were to force an opinion out of me, it doesn't sound exactly as if you're looking for the "metallic twang" that a steel string guitar provides. But then, I could be wrong.
#4
Thanks for the input.

Lets assume that I practiced playing a classical guitar with a pick an hour a day. How often do you suppose it would be appropriate to change the strings on average compared to the steel-stringed guitar? More frequent tuning is fine with me, but spending a lot more money on strings is not since I'm running on a student budget.

What about silk strings on a steel-stringed guitar? How do they compare with nylon strings? Does the strumming with them sound as good as with steel strings? Do they wear out much faster?
#5
i finger pick on both steel and nylon, and while i love silk and steels, they don't make an acoustic guitar sound like a classical, just warmer. btw, if you buy an acoustic, make sure not to get one with a thinner nut - which most have, especially in the cheaper regions. if you're used to classical, you probably won't like them.

btw, do you have a budget in mind? the seagull original S6 sounds beautiful, not twangy, balanced and has a wider nut and string spacing.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
#6
My budget is about 500-600€ (about 700-800 USD). I might be able to scape up 700€ if I get a good deal. I've been looking at Alhambra 4P from classical guitars and Taylor GS mini from acoustic guitars. I'm more than happy to take recommendations from people with more experience than me.
#7
No; from my experience, playing a steel stringed guitar is no harder or easier than playing a classical. There are, I suppose, 3 main things to consider when comparing the two: action, string tension, and tone. Classicals (usually) have higher action, lower string tension, and a more delicate and soft and intricate tone. Steel stringed guitars (usually) have lower action, far higher string tension, and a more bold and clear and tangy tone. One is not better or worse or harder or easier to play than the other, if you have a standard understanding of proper form and technique and how certain guitars function differently from others.

I would recommend investing in a steel stringed guitar, mainly because, as a beginner-intermediate player, it will give you a far broader foundation and understanding of techniques and styles, which you can also later apply to a classical guitar if you so wish.

Also, disregard the thought of using a pick if you decide to take the classical route; fingers belong on nylon strings, not a plectrum. Though, you can try - it will just sound horribly rough and alien.
#8
Thanks for all the useful infomation.

Based on the replies I'm going to look for a steel stringed guitar due to the fact that this setup enables me to properly play a wider range of music. I think I'm going to look for something that has wide nut, spruce top and sounds good with silk strings. When I have some money again after saving up a couple of years I might look into buying a good classical guitar.

Which models other than Seagull S6 should I definitely try out when I visit the music store?

How's the Seagull Maritime SWS series for fingerpicking? Based on their specifications at musiciansfriend.com this series seems promising - and it fits my budget quite nicely, too.
#9
Now Tallipallo, as a little input, steel strings are going to hurt those fingers more at first. Classical is a lot less painful. Either way, you'll get heavier calluses if you go the steel route in no time. Also, picks don't sound half bad on a classical. I learned on one, and still use it to this day (nearly 8 years later). It just takes a little more precision to get it down right. Both steel and nylon have their strong and weak points. I must agree with the majority, however. I think a decent steel string would probably do you better in the long run. In the end, it's up to what YOU want. Now, regarding the best models of guitars for finger picking (which is what I have focused on more in my musical journey), there is alot of talk about this and that about shape and string spacing and so forth. The truth in my experience is that it honestly doesn't really matter all that much. Nearly all guitars are picked and strummed upon. I personally think that strings with a slightly wider spacing from one another is a little more comfortable, but in reality, it probably doesn't even make a difference for me.

Now, for the Seagull Maritime, to me it looks pretty good. Those 4.5-5 stars on musicians friend show that others like them alot. Seagull usually makes a good guitar, anyway. But be open to other options as well.

Speaking of Musicians Friend, here is a good shopping method. Check out the stars and customer reviews. I don't usually buy anything under 4 stars. You can filter it to display the rating. This way, you can always know you will get a good quality product. Definitely try to stay away from 3 stars or lower. Plus, if you find a guitar in a shop you're thinking about but you're not sure if it's a deal, get the make and model number then go check it out online. You can see if it's a win or lose for sure there. Anyways, didn't mean to get things off subject. Just thought I'd throw in my thoughts. lol
#10
Also, if you go for the steel string, try this tuning method. I didn't discover it until about a year of getting my steel string. It's faster, easier, and most of all, it keeps those strings in tune MUCH longer! You don't really need to worry about the slacking method at about 20 seconds in, though. It's less than two minutes, too. haha.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEJ11rZADw0
#11
Thanks for the tips.

When I first got my current nylon-stinged guitar I could play for hours straight without ever experiencing any ache whatsoever on my fingertips. At the moment I'm not even slightly concerned about potential pain in my fingers. I don't know how much tougher steel strings are but I think I'll be fine.

What do you think about playing an acoustic guitar with silk-steel strings in the classical guitar stance? Do you think it's necessary to buy some fingerpicks to preserve the nails of my strumming hand?
#12
Quote by Talipallo
Thanks for the tips.

When I first got my current nylon-stinged guitar I could play for hours straight without ever experiencing any ache whatsoever on my fingertips. At the moment I'm not even slightly concerned about potential pain in my fingers. I don't know how much tougher steel strings are but I think I'll be fine.

What do you think about playing an acoustic guitar with silk-steel strings in the classical guitar stance? Do you think it's necessary to buy some fingerpicks to preserve the nails of my strumming hand?


I have both steel string and nylon string guitars and love and play them all. If I had to choose between them I'd probably choose nylon.

However, why choose at all? With a budget of 600 - 700 Euro you can buy a perfectly good classical guitar and a perfectly good steel string guitar. The "famous name" guitars are often no better in terms of material quality and workmanship than some of the PacRim brands that are much cheaper. Look at: Cort, Crafter, LAG, Tanglewood, Vintage, Yamaha. All these produce excellent instruments - go out and play some.
#13
Quote by Garthman
I have both steel string and nylon string guitars and love and play them all. If I had to choose between them I'd probably choose nylon.

However, why choose at all? With a budget of 600 - 700 Euro you can buy a perfectly good classical guitar and a perfectly good steel string guitar. The "famous name" guitars are often no better in terms of material quality and workmanship than some of the PacRim brands that are much cheaper. Look at: Cort, Crafter, LAG, Tanglewood, Vintage, Yamaha. All these produce excellent instruments - go out and play some.

I have two reasons why I rather buy one guitar of higher quality than two of lower quality.
1) As a student I will have very low income for the next 5 years. With the time horizont of 5 years it's cheaper for me to buy an intermediate guitar that'll last me for at least 5 years than to buy two entry-level guitars that I want to upgrade after few years.
2) I'll be spending two non-consecutive years studying abroad. Hence I want to buy a guitar that is worth the trouble of transporting it in an airplane. Also, it doesn't make sense for me to bring more than one guitar with me abroad. I would probably buy both - an intermediate steel-string and an intermediate nylon-string guitar - if I had the money. Unfortunately at the moment I must choose between the two.
#14
I fingerpick both steel and nylon string acoustics, the choice depending mostly on my mood. From what you have written, I don't think I or anyone else could make the choice for you. There is a lot of crossover in styles between nylon and steel string, so you can flatpick or strum a nylon string - think Willie Nelson. You have to decide which direction you want to go, it's all good. I've found nylon strings are more friendly to slightly discordant jazzy arrangements than steel strings, and they are easier to play once you get used to the wider neck. Classical style would be challenging on a steel string unless you use thin strings that will not bring out the best in the instrument. OTOH, most inexpensive nylon strings don't seem to sound very good, whereas there are a lot of good-sounding inexpensive steel strings around these days.

You can also put suitable light gauge steel strings on a nylon string with reasonable results (there will be intonation problems), but very few string steel guitars sound any good with nylon strings, and the nut would have to be modified. Even my 1925 Martin didn't, though it was designed for both.

FWIW, if I were buying a guitar today it would be a crossover nylon, like the Cordoba Fusion series - slightly narrower neck and radiused board - but that is because I'm perfectly happy with my steel strings, not because I think a nylon string is in any way better. Also, I'm expecting to have some age-related problems before too long, and nylon string should be more geriatric-friendly.

ADDENDUM - The major downside of nylon strings for me is that you can't retune on the fly, from say standard to dropped D, because nylons strings take too long to settle in. So if you want to try different tunings on the same guitar, that would effectively limit you to steel strings.
Last edited by Tony Done at Jun 11, 2014,
#15
Quote by Talipallo
Thanks for the tips.

When I first got my current nylon-stinged guitar I could play for hours straight without ever experiencing any ache whatsoever on my fingertips. At the moment I'm not even slightly concerned about potential pain in my fingers. I don't know how much tougher steel strings are but I think I'll be fine.

What do you think about playing an acoustic guitar with silk-steel strings in the classical guitar stance? Do you think it's necessary to buy some fingerpicks to preserve the nails of my strumming hand?



Yeah, it's no big deal with the finger pain. It will hurt more for a while, but not more than say a week. I used to do the same: play my classical for 3 hours at a time and not feel any pain. The switch over to steel was painful for a while, but didn't last.

Now as far as the finger picks, you definitely don't need them. I strum, pick, and do hybrid picking/strumming with my bear fingers on all guitars I play. Check out some stuff by Andy Mckee. He uses only his fingers for everything. He strums, picks, and does percussive stuff. He also is always using hard steel strings, and sometimes plays fairly hard. Now, the picks will get a different sound, a bit tinnier and more harmonic. Lots of people use them. You've just got to play around.

Also, what exactly do you mean by classical guitar stance? Are you referring to the standard way to hold a classical? If so, go for it. I used to sit all guitars on my left leg, until it just kind of faded into the right. lol. Hold that sucker any way you feel comfy.
Last edited by mooface at Jun 12, 2014,
#16
Quote by mooface
Also, what exactly do you mean by classical guitar stance? Are you referring to the standard way to hold a classical? If so, go for it. I used to sit all guitars on my left leg, until it just kind of faded into the right. lol. Hold that sucker any way you feel comfy.

Yes, that's what I was referring to. I'm concerned whether I'm able to pick the heavier strings of a steel-stringed guitar in the classical guitar stance. I'm also wondering whether a steel-stringed guitar produces good sound when plucked that way.


Quote by Tony Done
You can also put suitable light gauge steel strings on a nylon string with reasonable results (there will be intonation problems), but very few string steel guitars sound any good with nylon strings, and the nut would have to be modified. Even my 1925 Martin didn't, though it was designed for both.

I might look into this before deciding which guitar to buy. I don't know if the sound is any good with this kind of a setup but I guess it's worth a shot.

If I want to buy a guitar on which I can alternate between low-tension steel-strings and high-tension nylon strings, what kind of guitar do you think would most likely be able to do this?

Should I look into steel-stringed guitars with smaller bodies (eg. parlor guitars instead of dreadnoughts)? Should I opt to check out (sturdy) classical guitars instead?

Isn't it dangerous to put light-cauge steel-strings on a classical guitar? Even if the tension is only a little bit higher than that of nylon strings, couldn't it damage and possibly break the guitar which isn't designed to endure high pressure from the strings (especially long-term)?
Quote by Tony Done

FWIW, if I were buying a guitar today it would be a crossover nylon, like the Cordoba Fusion series - slightly narrower neck and radiused board - but that is because I'm perfectly happy with my steel strings, not because I think a nylon string is in any way better. Also, I'm expecting to have some age-related problems before too long, and nylon string should be more geriatric-friendly.

Are there any other differences between crossover nylons and traditional classical guitars than cutaways, narrower nuts, radiuced boards and (quite commonly) electronics? Doesn't the sound of a nylon-stringed guitar suffer when the body is altered this way? Does it still sound good when plucked with fingers?

Have you tried strumming a crossover nylon with a pick? Is the strumming sound any better than on a normal classical guitar?
Last edited by Talipallo at Jun 12, 2014,
#17
Quote by Talipallo
. . . I would probably buy both - an intermediate steel-string and an intermediate nylon-string guitar - if I had the money. Unfortunately at the moment I must choose between the two.


In that case I would 2nd Tony's recommendation and go for a crossover.
#18
Quote by Talipallo
Yes, that's what I was referring to. I'm concerned whether I'm able to pick the heavier strings of a steel-stringed guitar in the classical guitar stance. I'm also wondering whether a steel-stringed guitar produces good sound when plucked that way.


I might look into this before deciding which guitar to buy. I don't know if the sound is any good with this kind of a setup but I guess it's worth a shot.

If I want to buy a guitar on which I can alternate between low-tension steel-strings and high-tension nylon strings, what kind of guitar do you think would most likely be able to do this?

Should I look into steel-stringed guitars with smaller bodies (eg. parlor guitars instead of dreadnoughts)? Should I opt to check out (sturdy) classical guitars instead?

Isn't it dangerous to put light-cauge steel-strings on a classical guitar? Even if the tension is only a little bit higher than that of nylon strings, couldn't it damage and possibly break the guitar which isn't designed to endure high pressure from the strings (especially long-term)?

Are there any other differences between crossover nylons and traditional classical guitars than cutaways, narrower nuts, radiuced boards and (quite commonly) electronics? Doesn't the sound of a nylon-stringed guitar suffer when the body is altered this way? Does it still sound good when plucked with fingers?

Have you tried strumming a crossover nylon with a pick? Is the strumming sound any better than on a normal classical guitar?


I would see steel strings as a not-very-good compromise on a nylon string guitar, and wouldn't risk anything heavier than 10-46, even lighter if the neck doesn't have a truss rod. Or these:

http://www.rotosound.com/silk-n-steel-classical/

They seem a little heavy to me, but I haven't made a detailed study of tension comparisons.

There is no reason to expect a crossover to sound any different from a traditional classical in the low to mid price ranges, and the cutaway will make very little difference, if any. So whatever they do will be about the same except for feel. It all comes down to makes, models and individual guitars.

I don't strum, but I would expect very light steel strings to sound thin and jangly compared to nylon strings What you will get from steel strings that you won't from nylon is easy detuning (eg to dopped D) and big bends. As a fingerpicker who uses several different tunings, that would attract me. I wouldn't see the strings as freely interchangeable, because I would want a lower action with steel than with nylon.