Beginners often have to ask whether metal or nylon strings are best used for learning. There is no definitive answer. In this article I will help to understand what is the fundamental difference between them and what you need to take into account to make the right choice.
Nylon strings are designed for classical guitar due to the design and sound engineering features of this instrument.
Many people by the word «classical» mistakenly mean «ordinary», i.e. a guitar without a pickup or some other «bends». But it is not so. Classical guitar is a specific type of instrument, the main features of which are a wide glued neck without anchor rod and, actually, nylon strings.
Such strings are also widely used by beginners during training. They are much softer than steel and do not cut fingers. In the early stages this is a significant advantage. Because the fingers that are not affected will hurt during and after class. This determines the duration and intensity of training that the student can afford. Pain will be present until the fingertips harden from constant exercise. Nylon strings will reduce discomfort, allow you to increase the duration and frequency of training. This has a positive impact on learning processes and outcomes.
But there are drawbacks. The fact that nylon strings have a specific mute sound. For classical guitar, which is played mostly in single notes, it is rather an advantage. And those who learn to play the guitar for themselves, more interested in the technique of strumming or finger-picking. In this case, the guitar with nylon strings will sound deaf, quiet and completely different from what we used to hear.
This is a serious problem that should not be underestimated. Because the newcomer usually wants to emulate famous artists when learning their first chords and songs. With unnatural sound, it is difficult to measure real progress and similarity with the original. This can slow progress and lead in the wrong direction while searching for the right sound. Not to mention the fact that the desire to do may disappear due to the fact that supposedly «it does not work».
The second type of strings is metal. These are the usual strings that everyone used to see and hear on most guitars. They differ from nylon by a saturated loud sound. Actually, they are played by musicians in bands. And their sound can be heard in any song with guitar accompaniment. They have one advantage for beginners — the right sound, to which the student will get used from the first days.
The downside of such strings is the fact that they are much more difficult to clamp than nylon ones. For proper sound production you need to put more effort. Your fingers will hurt harder and tire faster. And this can slow learning, make the process itself excruciating and even cause the refusal of classes.
|Nylon||Easy to clamp,|
do not hurt fingers
|Deaf, silent sound|
|Metal||Bright, full sound||Harder to clamp,|
fingers will hurt
until they get used to
Which strings to choose
So which strings are better suited for learning? My opinion is unequivocal and based on the experience of many novice guitarists.
At the first stages, when a person is just learning to hold a guitar, clip strings, extract sounds, master the correct placement of fingers and take the first simple chords, it is worth using nylon strings. They will accelerate the study of basic techniques, allow more time to spend with the instrument and will not discourage the desire to do more.
And as soon as the initial stage is passed (the basic chords are learned, the technique of basic strumming or finger-picking is mastered), it is necessary to replace the strings with metal. After such a change, the learning progress increases sharply. Because the learned elements acquire «real» sound and this very well stimulates to further activities.
When switching to metal strings should consider an important nuance. For beginners it is better to use a thin gauge of 0.009 or 0,010 inches. The thinner the strings, the softer they are and the easier they are to clamp. But putting the thinnest of possible is also not the best option. Novice guitarists don’t know how to apply and distribute force when hitting strings, which makes thin strings faster and require replacement. Personally, I think the optimal string thickness for beginners is the 0.010 gauge. At this thickness, the right balance of strength and softness is observed.
At the end I would like to say another interesting material. We are talking about metal strings, in the winding of which silk thread is woven. Such sets usually have the words «silk» and «soft» in the title. They are positioned by some mixture or transition stage between nylon and pure metal. They are said to have absorbed all the proses and removed the minuses of these two types of strings. This is true to some extent, but only partially.
In fact, they are still metal strings, the winding of which was diluted with synthetic thread and reduced the thickness of the bass. As a result, their tension was reduced, and such strings became easier to clamp.
But the difference between pure metal and such a mixture is not very significant. And they are usually more expensive than conventional strings. So I do not recommend this option for beginners. But I advise you to pay attention to those who like soft strings and a quiet velvety sound.