Reply To: Buying a Guitar

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One of the great things about the guitar is that you can get a pretty decent instrument relatively cheaply. (Particularly when compared to most horns or other strings) If someone has never played before, I like to encourage them to get a nylon string guitar. The nylon strings are MUCH easier on the fingers – especially for children, who usually have delicate skin. Furthermore, the strings are far less likely to break. A high ‘E’ on a steel string will frequently snap if tuned even a whole step too high, whereas the same nylon string can be tuned as much as a 4th too high before breaking. For the beginner learning to tune their instrument, this scenario is fairly common. You will find that most classical guitars are much more standard in shape and size than steel string guitars as well.

Glen made a great point in his last post about the different classes of guitar. I have found that those on a budget will be most satisfied with a solid top guitar with laminate sides. The vast majority of a guitars volume and tone is from the top – not the sides – and therefore the side material is really not a very important factor. Furthermore, the overall quality of your guitar will generally be better. It will have better tuning machines, etc.

Think about what you want to do with your guitar. If you want to accompany yourself singing, both work great. If you want to play rock or bluegrass music, you probably want a steel string for authentic sound. If you’re going to play classical, new age, or most latin styles, you probably want to go with a nylon guitar. Steel strings are louder.

Lastly, consider the materials used to build your guitar. Most acoustic guitar tops are made of either cedar or spruce. Spruce is most common, is lighter colored, and has a brighter sound. Cedar is darker in color and in tone. Good quality cedar is cheaper than good quality spruce, so generally you can get a better cedar guitar for the same money.