For example, in the Race Across America, RAAM, an annual bicycle event that draws many ultra-endurance athletes, it takes even the fastest rider more than a week to make it across the country; riders usually ride for as long as they can each day, surviving on an hour or two of sleep each day. The speed might not be high, but the moderate average speed yields large distances over time. But in 1985 Jonathan Boyer changed that. He was a former professional bike racer who had finished as high as 12th in the Tour De France and was used to riding very, very fast for 100 to 150 miles. He gobbled up huge chunks of distance and got extra sleep which fueled him to a new record. To stretch this metaphor a bit, my 12-string guitar only rides at one 'speed' of expression, whereas the classical guitar is like Jonathan Boyer and easily switches from staccato to legato.
A steel stringed guitar cannot do all of what the nylon stringed instrument can do. Here are some the the effects that I've found it can do sometimes as well as a classical guitar:
- loud / soft
- muting (or damping)
- slight timbre change from picking at bridge to picking at fretboard
I've been working on muting lately by lowering the pad at the base of the thumb onto the strings. But this causes some pain, so I'm trying to find a better way.
Loud / soft dynamics are probably the easiest to do, and probably should be used more, at least by the home recordist who doesn't have to compete with bar patrons to be heard.
A last note: using an electric pickup probably limits dynamic expression even more.