What's the Difference Between Steel-String And Nylon-String Acoustic Guitars?

12 minutes read

Steel-string acoustic guitars and nylon-string acoustic guitars have distinct differences in terms of sound quality, playing style, and the genres of music they are typically used for.


Steel-string acoustic guitars produce a brighter, louder, and more robust sound compared to nylon-string guitars. They are commonly used in genres such as country, rock, pop, and folk music due to their ability to cut through the mix and provide a more dynamic sound.


Nylon-string acoustic guitars, on the other hand, produce a softer, warmer, and mellower sound. They are commonly used in classical, flamenco, and traditional Latin music due to their ability to create a more delicate and expressive tone.


In terms of playing style, steel-string guitars are typically played with a pick and require more finger strength to press down on the strings. Nylon-string guitars are played with the fingers and have wider necks, making them easier to play for beginners and players with smaller hands.


Overall, the choice between a steel-string and a nylon-string acoustic guitar comes down to personal preference and the style of music you want to play. Both types of guitars have their own unique characteristics and can be suitable for a variety of musical genres and playing styles.

Best Acoustic Guitars of May 2024

1
Yamaha FG800J Solid Top Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar, Natural

Rating is 5 out of 5

Yamaha FG800J Solid Top Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar, Natural

  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Nato and mahogany back & sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Rosewood bridge
2
Fender Acoustic Guitar, CD-60S, with 2-Year Warranty, Dreadnought Classic Design with Rounded Walnut Fingerboard, Glossed Finish, All-Mahogany Construction

Rating is 4.9 out of 5

Fender Acoustic Guitar, CD-60S, with 2-Year Warranty, Dreadnought Classic Design with Rounded Walnut Fingerboard, Glossed Finish, All-Mahogany Construction

  • One right-handed Fender CD-60S Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
  • Dreadnought Body: This guitar’s dreadnought body shape resonates with a bold and rich bass tone, great for playing country, folk or bluegrass
  • Rock Steady Tuners: Chrome die-cast tuners help keep your guitar tuned with the perfect amount of tension, and they don't attract much dust or grime
3
Fender Squier Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Black Learn-to-Play Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Strap, Strings, String Winder, Picks, Fender Play Online Lessons, and Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD

Rating is 4.8 out of 5

Fender Squier Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Black Learn-to-Play Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Strap, Strings, String Winder, Picks, Fender Play Online Lessons, and Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD

  • The Squier SA-150 is a full-size steel-string acoustic that offers big sound at a small price.
  • This guitar also features scalloped "X"-bracing, mahogany neck and a durable dark-stained maple fingerboard to give you an instrument that looks as good as it sounds.
  • With its slim, easy-to-play neck and full-bodied dreadnought tone, the SA-150 is an ideal choice for all rookie strummers.
4
Squier by Fender Acoustic Guitar, with 2-Year Warranty, Dreadnought with Maple Fingerboard, Glossed Natural Finish, Mahogany Back and Side, Mahogany Neck, SA-150 Model

Rating is 4.7 out of 5

Squier by Fender Acoustic Guitar, with 2-Year Warranty, Dreadnought with Maple Fingerboard, Glossed Natural Finish, Mahogany Back and Side, Mahogany Neck, SA-150 Model

  • One right-handed Fender SA-150 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
  • Dreadnought Body: This guitar’s dreadnought body shape resonates with a bold and rich bass tone, great for playing country, folk or bluegrass
  • Durable Materials: All-Laminate construction allows this guitar to last long and sound as great as it looks a an affordable price
5
Fender FA-25 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar, Beginner Guitar, with 2-Year Warranty, Includes Free Lessons, Natural

Rating is 4.6 out of 5

Fender FA-25 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar, Beginner Guitar, with 2-Year Warranty, Includes Free Lessons, Natural

  • One right-handed Fender Alternative Series Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar – a perfect beginner guitar for both kids and adults
  • Backed by a 75 year legacy of quality and craftsmanship -- the FA Series has all the sound and style of Fender's iconic acoustic guitars with specially designed features for beginners.
  • This guitar’s dreadnought body shape resonates with a bold and rich bass tone, great for playing country, folk or bluegrass
6
Jasmine S34C NEX Acoustic Guitar,Natural

Rating is 4.5 out of 5

Jasmine S34C NEX Acoustic Guitar,Natural

  • Gloss Natural
  • Dreadnought body style
  • Laminate Spruce top
  • Sapele back and sides
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
7
Yamaha F325D Acoustic Guitar, Natural

Rating is 4.4 out of 5

Yamaha F325D Acoustic Guitar, Natural

  • The perfect guitar for beginners
  • Legendary Yamaha build quality
  • Spruce Top
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Chrome Tuners
8
Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Open Pore Natural

Rating is 4.3 out of 5

Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Open Pore Natural

  • Dreadnought body
  • Solid mahogany top
  • Mahogany back & sides
  • Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood bridge and fretboard


How to maintain the fretboard of a steel-string acoustic guitar?

To maintain the fretboard of a steel-string acoustic guitar, you can follow these steps:

  1. Keep the fretboard clean by wiping it down with a clean, dry cloth after each use. This will help to remove any dirt, sweat, or oils that can build up on the fretboard and prevent it from drying out.
  2. If the fretboard is particularly dirty or sticky, you can use a small amount of guitar polish or lemon oil specifically designed for fretboards to clean and condition the wood. Apply the polish or oil onto a soft, clean cloth and rub it into the fretboard, making sure to avoid getting any on the frets themselves.
  3. Check the fretboard regularly for any signs of dryness or cracking. If you notice that the wood is starting to look dry or feel rough to the touch, you can apply a small amount of lemon oil to help condition and moisturize the wood. Be sure to only use a small amount and avoid over-saturating the fretboard.
  4. Avoid exposing the guitar to extreme temperatures or humidity levels, as this can cause the wood to expand or contract and potentially damage the fretboard. Store your guitar in a controlled environment with moderate temperature and humidity levels to prevent any issues with the wood.
  5. When changing strings, be careful not to scratch or damage the fretboard with the ends of the strings. Use a string winder to help remove and install strings quickly and easily without causing any harm to the fretboard.


By following these tips, you can help maintain the fretboard of your steel-string acoustic guitar and keep it looking and playing its best for years to come.


What is the most common scale length for steel-string acoustic guitars?

The most common scale length for steel-string acoustic guitars is 25.5 inches (648 mm). This scale length is used by many popular guitar manufacturers, such as Martin and Taylor, for their acoustic guitar models.


How to change the strings on a steel-string acoustic guitar?

  1. Loosen the strings: Start by using the tuning keys to loosen each string. Turn the tuning keys counterclockwise until the tension on the string is released.
  2. Remove the old strings: Once the strings are loose, unwind them from the tuning keys. Remove the bridge pins at the bridge of the guitar to release the strings.
  3. Clean the fretboard: Now is a good time to clean the fretboard of your guitar. Use a soft cloth and guitar cleaner to remove any dirt or residue.
  4. Install the new strings: Begin by threading the new strings through the holes in the bridge. Make sure the ball end of the string is securely seated in the bridge. Pull the string through and insert it into the hole in the tuning key. Wind the string around the tuning key in the direction that tightens the string as you tune it.
  5. Tune the strings: Tune each string to the correct pitch using an electronic tuner or tuning fork. Stretch the strings gently to help them settle into place.
  6. Trim the excess string: Once the strings are in tune, use wire cutters to trim off any excess string sticking out from the tuning keys.
  7. Stretch the strings: To help the strings settle and hold their tune better, gently stretch each string by pulling up on it away from the fretboard. Retune the guitar as needed.
  8. Check the action and intonation: Play each string up and down the fretboard to check for proper action and intonation. Make any necessary adjustments to the bridge or saddle if needed.
  9. Enjoy your newly restringed guitar: Your guitar is now ready to play with fresh strings! Experiment with different types and brands of strings to find the ones that best suit your playing style and sound preferences.
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