If you're looking into getting your first guitar (or getting a first guitar for a son or daughter), one of the important decisions you have to make is whether to get nylon strings or steel strings. It can seem a little unfair; how can a beginner be expected to make a decision like this when they may not have even strummed a guitar before? Don't just give up and flip a coin. Even if you've never touched a guitar before, you can still have some basis for your decision.

Think About The Music You Want To Play

Nylon-string guitars and steel-string guitars do sound somewhat different. Nylon strings are more commonly used for classical music or mellow folk, while steel strings are used for rock and country. These aren't hard-and-fast rules, but if you're particularly interested in playing a certain type of music, choose your strings based on that.

Listen To The Difference

If you go to a guitar store, you can hear the difference between nylon and steel strings up close. Ask someone at the shop to demonstrate the types of strings for you, and you can get a sense of how they will sound once you have gained some skill at guitar. You can listen to recorded music as well, but it can be more difficult to find out what type of guitar is being used, and there's always the possibility that the recording will sound different because of post-production "cleaning up" of a recording.

For Children, Consider Nylon

If you're looking for a guitar for a younger child, nylon strings have a big advantage: they are easier to press down and cause less finger soreness for beginners. This isn't such a big deal for an adult, who will have the finger strength to use either type of string. But a child's fingers aren't as strong, so the difference is more pronounced.

With time and practice (and proper adjustment of the guitar), this finger soreness will go away quickly. But you don't want this annoyance getting in the way of the enthusiasm of a younger player – and children also often have less patience than adults and may get fed up with even a temporary annoyance like this.

What About Electric?

It's possible to start on an electric guitar, but there are a number of advantages to starting acoustic even if you plan to move to electric guitar later. Learning on an acoustic, your skills will transfer to an electric guitar easily. But an acoustic has the advantage of being easily portable. This can make an especially big difference in the beginning, when you'll most likely be carting it back and forth to lessons. And even if you're self-taught, it can be nice to be able to play absolutely anywhere without worrying about electricity or amplifiers.