Returning to guitar - steel or nylon?

Pirate Jim

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Hi guitar playing UUers,

I'm currently making a return to guitar after a long hiatus, it just suddenly began calling to me again. I've picked up a beaten up old steel string for cheap to get going again and am having fun (it doesn't look great, but the neck is true and the action nice).

I'm finding that I miss the nylon-style sound which I've become so used to over the last however many years of uking. I feel like a lot of my techniques aren't translating all that well at the moment - I don't want to return to flatpicking, love to fingerpick. I've been considering making my first proper guitar purchase of my phase 2 guitar playing a nylon stringer rather than steel as I'm so much more comfortable with that now. So, in my shoes, would you do that or persevere with steel as I'll get used to it again? I used to only play steel before but I've learnt a lot more since then, for example I never used to fingerpick.

Factors in play:

- I'm a lefty and my local guitar shop only has lefty steel strung guitars so I can't try a nylon strung instrument
- I do not have room for multiple guitars knocking around - I need to pick one or the other
- The only lefty crossover guitar I've found is the Taylor Academy 12N which looks pretty good to be honest, it's on my shortlist

Any advice or experience to share would be appreciated!
 

Bill Sheehan

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Jim, I feel your pain (as the expression goes) !! I too love the nylon feel and sound (think Duck Baker, Jose Feliciano, or Earl Klugh); and then suddenly I'll hear a nice steel-string instrumental (Ed Gerhard, for instance), and I'll get the steel-string itch. It's so hard to decide, because they're both beautiful in their own way (I sound like Ray Stevens here!); I totally understand that you want to choose one and stay with it exclusively. I understand that feeling, as it seems we're more likely to advance our skills if we focus on one instrument, rather than hopping around among several. I'm sure there are folks who see it differently, but that's kind of how I've always been. If I had to choose right now, I'd probably go with nylon; something about it that just draws me in!
 

Pirate Jim

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Thanks Bill, I'm glad it's not just me!

I currently can't stop listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela - unreal shredding of nylons!

https://open.spotify.com/album/3oupm6nIAuMQzj4g08mBPq?si=K5TiD2PwTkuvRzqHjtzy4A

And then I listen to Isato Nakagawa who makes a steel string just shimmer and sing.

https://open.spotify.com/album/4zcGbSJ6TdCBcPvSbeHWb3?si=SKCnSzYgStmXoccgSDoa7g

Both of these discovered via Spotify - took me a long while to get going with Spotify as I just didn't get it, but I'm finally discovering new things through it and enjoying it.
 

Peter Frary

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Oddly, the reason I was attracted to ukulele and guitalele is they felt like little classical guitars! Cordoba has a few lefty models classicals but as long as an instrument doesn't have a cutaway you can usually convert a right hand model by cutting a new nut and saddle. Takamine also sells a lefty version of the TC132SC if you want a pickup and cutaway.
 

Bill Sheehan

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It should be duly noted, by the way, that P. K. Frary is right up there in the ranks of quality nylon players!
 

Pirate Jim

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Thanks for the input, all, nylon strung it is! Peter, I didn't know about the Takamine, gives me something to save up for. Will post an NGD when I get there!
 

ampeep

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The Takamine would be a good choice. Several of my friends have hybrid nylon cutaway Takamines (Santa Fe?) that are similar. They sound good with or without an amp.

I hadn't played a steel string guitar for years, but last week I tried my friend's old Martin D-28. Was surprised that most of the sound came from the sound hole. With my 37 year old classical, the whole top seems to produce the sound. Took a while but it definitely sounds better than when I bought it.
 

yahalele

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Hi, Jim!

And then I listen to Isato Nakagawa who makes a steel string just shimmer and sing.

https://open.spotify.com/album/4zcGbSJ6TdCBcPvSbeHWb3?si=SKCnSzYgStmXoccgSDoa7g

Isato-san (Isato Nakagawa) has many students. Especially I like Masaaki Kishibe (left) and Kotaro Oshio (right).


upload

Now a days, any company have acoustic electric with pickup models. But there used be not many company made them and Takamine was the top maker of acoustic electric. Tommy Emmanuel used to use Takemine but now Maton offers very good acoustic electric for him. Takamine is still top guitar bland in Japan. It is worth to check.
 

Pirate Jim

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Hi, Jim!



Isato-san (Isato Nakagawa) has many students. Especially I like Masaaki Kishibe (left) and Kotaro Oshio (right).


upload

Now a days, any company have acoustic electric with pickup models. But there used be not many company made them and Takamine was the top maker of acoustic electric. Tommy Emmanuel used to use Takemine but now Maton offers very good acoustic electric for him. Takamine is still top guitar bland in Japan. It is worth to check.

Thanks yahalele - two more artists to check out as well as some guitars!
 

Peter Frary

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Takamine Japan has many amazing models and even does custom orders. Too bad many of these models and custom orders aren't available outside Japan. Now I admit I own more than a few of their higher models. Wonderful gigging instruments: tough, great pickup and sounds good.
 

fingerguy

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Hi guitar playing UUers,

I'm currently making a return to guitar after a long hiatus, it just suddenly began calling to me again. I've picked up a beaten up old steel string for cheap to get going again and am having fun (it doesn't look great, but the neck is true and the action nice).

I'm finding that I miss the nylon-style sound which I've become so used to over the last however many years of uking. I feel like a lot of my techniques aren't translating all that well at the moment - I don't want to return to flatpicking, love to fingerpick. I've been considering making my first proper guitar purchase of my phase 2 guitar playing a nylon stringer rather than steel as I'm so much more comfortable with that now. So, in my shoes, would you do that or persevere with steel as I'll get used to it again? I used to only play steel before but I've learnt a lot more since then, for example I never used to fingerpick.

Factors in play:

- I'm a lefty and my local guitar shop only has lefty steel strung guitars so I can't try a nylon strung instrument
- I do not have room for multiple guitars knocking around - I need to pick one or the other
- The only lefty crossover guitar I've found is the Taylor Academy 12N which looks pretty good to be honest, it's on my shortlist

Any advice or experience to share would be appreciated!

Different strokes for different folks. Transitioning from Ukulele (nylon) to steel isn't that big of deal, just takes time getting used to it. However, if your ear prefers the sound of nylon then get that.

But like you said there is limitations on the stock of lefty guitars so whatever you buy you want to make sure that is the one. I am a Taylor lover myself, and for that reason I say you can't go wrong with a Taylor. Also one of my favorite bands lead singer Zac Brown from the Zac Brown Band prefers nylon, and in interviews says he loves the sound (not sure if he commented on the feel). Now if you listen to them what they play, how he plays, there is nothing holding you back if you were to go nylon.

So in the end stick to what you love, and make the investment in something that is good versus something that is affordable. For there is truth when they say you get what you pay for. Also while I am a huge fan of Taylors I would also look at other nylon brands before making an informed decision.

As for getting your hands on it, well you don't have to play a song, just strum it once before even picking it up and listen, then take it and bar frets and play single notes and listen to it. That will tell you more than enough if that is the guitar for you, then have it strung for a lefty.
 

DownUpDave

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Can’t add much, lots of good recommendations. I have played the Taylor nylon and although plain looking sounded and played very nice. For well under $700 both Taylor and Córdoba have good instruments. If you buy used and have the nut and saddle changed you can pay less.

I played a bit of steel string 15 years ago then 4 years ago found the ukulele. The love for the guitar never died so I started up with guitar about one year ago. I have added two nylon string guitars, both Córdoba and love it. I really enjoy strumming and singing with the steel string and fingerpicking with the nylon. Both scratch a different itch.
 
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Davoravo

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Thanks for This thread, it has inspired me to reconsider my options as I look at upgrading from my starter steel string guitar. Although I hav stood callouses I still get some pinpoint tenderness if I play several days in a row (is practice properly!!!) so I am looking at a hybrid.

Although I finger strum and finger pick I would still like to learn to use a pick, have any of you tried putting a pick guard on a nylon string guitar? Does it deaden the top?
 

Bill Sheehan

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Davoravo, I haven't had occasion to put a pick guard on a nylon string guitar, but I have heard that doing so does not significantly impair the tone or projection, so hopefully you'd be okay if you tried it!
 

DownUpDave

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Thanks for This thread, it has inspired me to reconsider my options as I look at upgrading from my starter steel string guitar. Although I hav stood callouses I still get some pinpoint tenderness if I play several days in a row (is practice properly!!!) so I am looking at a hybrid.

Although I finger strum and finger pick I would still like to learn to use a pick, have any of you tried putting a pick guard on a nylon string guitar? Does it deaden the top?

Apply a clear Mylar pick guard. They are very thin and light and will not effect the tone. Unless you are a concert virtuoso with a $10,000 guitar and have perfect pitch ;)
 

Davoravo

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Thanks for the replies and sorry about the terrible typos in my post (darn phone autocorrect).
 

yahalele

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Hi, Davoravo!

Although I finger strum and finger pick I would still like to learn to use a pick, have any of you tried putting a pick guard on a nylon string guitar? Does it deaden the top?

Felt pick might help you before pick guard. Felt pick is safe for tone board. It is far better to hold than plastic pick. It avoids string noise. We can use felt pick on our ukulele too.

 
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Davoravo

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I had some felt picks for my ukulele (ugly grey things, not nice ones like yours) but my dog ate them. Might buy some more and make more of an effort to keep them off the floor.