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Nylon vs. steel strings and playability

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Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 52
Topic starter  

Back here I talked about my difficulty in finding a new guitar. I have a crappy old nylon-strung thing. When I went shopping, I found that I had trouble getting good sounds out of many of the guitars, and attributed it to my exhaustion at the time.

A few days ago, I borrowed a friend's Martin D-15, thinking that it would be nice to play on a good guitar, but worried that I'd like it too much.

Well, even rested, I find it really hard to play. I thought my fingers were a little used to playing, but this thing is just slicing them to shreds; chords that I usually have no trouble with are buzzing all over; it feels much harder to hold the strings down; I can't do the simplest barre; I can't get any sound at all from a hammer-on. (It does sound great when I manage to play something, though.)

Is this a nylon vs. steel issue? I.e., all streel-string acoustics will behave in this general way? Or am I just having bad luck with a bunch of heavily-strung, high-action guitars?

I'm upset that even my small bits of progress are going out the window. And now I have even less idea how to look for a new guitar.

Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2892

The Martin that you played can't be held against the Martin name because we don't know how the action was set. With that said, from what I understand with classical guitars, classical guitars are set with “higher than normal” action. They do have nylon stings and from my experience they are easy on the fingers (Then again, the 12's on my steel strings don't seem heavy enough).

I am also partial to Taylor acoustics, I like the sound much better that any of the other guitars I've tried in the price range. So take my words with a grain of salt, like I said, I am partial to a particular brand, that's just me.

Don't fret though, in time you'll find an axe that speaks to you just like I did.

Trusted Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 55

Don't fret though

HAHA! What a delicious pun. Sorry, I'm sure that comes up all the time but I'm fairly new and found it hilarious.

"Now people put you down for the way that you lived
But those people never knew you the way that I did
Don't be ashamed of who you were of how you died
I know you just wanted to find the brighter side..." - OPM

- Matthew

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 339

I have both nylon and steel on my acoustics. I found the nylon easier to play. Like tracker, I like Taylors. I have a classical also, plays like my nylon string Taylor. You just mya be use to nylon strings and not steel.

John M

Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 779

My experience is that a typical steelstring acustic is much tougher to lefthand fingers than a typical nylonstring acustic.
And especially at the first 3 frets where you play open chords.
Pressing down "light" 0,012 steelstrings from the nut down to the first fret can be really tough. It takes a good time of playing and aching fingertips to do it without buzzing or dull notes.

Tanglewood TW28STE (Shadow P7 EQ) acoustic
Yamaha RGX 320FZ electric guitar/Egnater Tweaker 15 amp.
Yamaha RBX 270 bass/Laney DB 150 amp.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5038

Nylons can be much easier to play. Near the end of his life, Chet Atkins played nylons almost exclusively given his waning strength and thinning nails.

You will need to develop both calluses and strength to play a steel string. Both take some time, but progress/improvements should be quick at first (weeks), then continue less dramatically and more slowly to improve over months and even years (especially the strength).

Stick with it. You'll get there.

-=tension & release=-

Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 159

I started with nylon strings, and there were times when I thought it was hard to fret certain chords. Then I got a steel string, and would use it for 10 minutes and go back to the nylon, and they felt so easy to fret. Now that I play mostly the steel string, when I go back to the classical guitar it seems incredibly easy to fret. Now I have no trouble with the steel strings, so hang in there, your fingers will get stronger. Try to make sure you play a little every day, and you'll see a difference in no time.

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 311

I have a nylon guitar that is almost easier to play than my esp electric! That being said it's a big jump playing around with that then getting onto my 12 string... That'll sure make u feel like you've got girly hands!

'You and I in a little toy shop, bought a bag of balloons with the money we got"

feel free to talk with me on msn at [email protected] no icq anymore