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When choosing your starter acoustic guitar, it's important to keep in mind what style of music you want to learn and play. This will help shape your playing experience and give you direction for different styles. Choosing which strings to use will help determine which style of guitar you start with as well. The two main types of strings for guitars are nylon strings and steel strings. It is important to keep in mind that, when you decide to go with one or the other, you should not swap steel strings for nylon or vice versa, because this may damage your guitar (especially if you buy a nylon string guitar and put on steel-strings).
Do you enjoy classical guitar sounds? Or would you prefer to play folk or country licks? Whatever style you want to pursue and develop your talent in will help give you an idea of what type of string to choose. Traditionally, the nylon string acoustic guitar gives a more classical, mellow sound. The standard neck is 48-55mm wide at the top, allowing for intricate finger picking.
Steel string acoustic guitars have a brighter, metallic sound that most people today associate with acoustic guitars. This is favored in folk, country and rock music. The neck is typically around 40mm wide at the top, and optimized for playing with a pick; however, you can finger pick steel strings as well. Soloists tend to opt for the steel string, as the neck often allows the player easier access to the higher frets.
A common consideration for aspiring musicians with their starter acoustic guitar is which type of string will hurt their fingers less. Although the nylon strings can be easier on fingers, mostly due to having less string tension, a properly strung steel string guitar will not cause much pain either. Either string will cause initial tenderness to your fingertips as you get used to your guitar.
Cost can be a huge factor when initially making your purchase. At the beginner stage, you may not want spend much on a hobby that you have yet to begin. A quality steel string may have a higher price than a good nylon string guitar, but it's important to understand why there is a price difference. The steel strings are more stable than nylon, which means you will not be tuning them as often (the softer material of the nylon strings are affected more easily by temperature and humidity than steel strings).
Nylon string guitars are a great choice for a more mellow sound, especially if you want to get into classical guitar work. They are often lighter, smaller guitars, which makes them an easier instrument for smaller musicians to handle. If you prefer the louder, more versatile tones, a steel string is the answer for you.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference when choosing between a nylon string guitar and a steel string guitar. In the end, you may find you enjoy playing both on nylon strings and steel strings, and you should know that this will most likely require you to have two guitars at your disposal.
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