Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar: Which is the best for beginners?

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Classical Guitar (Spanish Guitar) vs Acoustic Guitar: See how they differ from each other, in terms of build, ease of learning and cost.

If you are a beginner and if you are likely to buy a guitar soon, most probably you may not know the difference between the two.

Besides the basic differences, you may want to know things like:

Which one is usually cheaper or expensive? Is it easier to learn on one than the other? What are the pros and cons of buying classical guitar as opposed to on acoustic guitar or vice versa?

Acoustic vs Classical Guitar: The Main Difference

At the end of the day, both are acoustic instruments (produce sound in a natural manner, without any pickup/amplifier).

Nylon vs Steel String
But the main difference between the two types of guitars is that acoustic uses steel-string whereas classical guitars use nylon string.

Sound
Nylon strings (on a classical guitar) are a lot thicker and produce mellower or softer sound. Steel strings on acoustic guitars produce a twangy and bright sound that resonates (lasts longer) than a classical guitar.

Cost
Beginner classical (spanish) guitars also tend to be little cheaper than their acoustic cousins, which is another reason why many beginners start with a classical guitar first (nylon is also easier to play upon).

Truss Rod
Because of the lower tension in nylon strings (compared to steel strings), classical guitars do not require a truss rod to compensate for the string tension.

Fret Board
Fret board of a classical guitar is much wider compared to the one on an acoustic guitar. Classical guitars usually don’t have the fret markers (dots or inlays) along the fingerboard.

The shape
Certain shapes/cuts available on acoustic guitars may not be available on classical guitars. Acoustic guitars mostly come in a dreadnought shape (considerably larger than that of a classical guitar). Cutaway design (that allows you to easily access the higher frets) are also rare on classical guitars.

Want a guitar for campfire sing-along? You will need an Acoustic guitar because of its louder and brighter tone.

Classical Guitar for Finger-Style (Fingerpicking) Playing

So while a classical guitar may look similar to an acoustic guitar, guitar players use classical guitars to play primarily finger-style (fingerpicking).

The nylon strings make it easier to play finger-style on Spanish guitars.

Most guitarists usually make the natural progression from classical to acoustic, but very few stay dedicated to the classical guitar.

Music Styles Commonly Played on Classical Guitar

Classical Guitar is used in Latin and Brazilian music; some pop, folk, and jazz as well.

The Acoustic guitar is used to play most musical genres. Its suitable for rock (Dave Mathews), folk (Bob Dylan), soft rock (James Taylor), and blues (Eric Clapton).

Most musician/songwriters prefer to use an Acoustic guitar for composing songs.

Acoustic Guitar vs Classical Guitar: More Differences

Here are some basic differences and similarities:

Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar

  • First of all, a classical guitar is also an acoustic guitar. You do not have to plug it into an amplifier.
  • Acoustic guitars are available with steel strings and nylon strings. The guitars with nylon strings are often referred to as classical guitars
  • Classical guitar is also known as Classic guitar, Spanish guitar or Concert Guitar
  • Classical guitar is a 6-stringed instrument that is played finger-style and never with a pick.
  • The neck is flat and wider on a classical guitar making it harder to reach across, so you need to b more skilfull to do that.
  • The neck scale or the length of the vibrating string between the nut and the saddle is longer on classical guitars. This is to increase the string tension in nylon strings.

  • Classical vs Acoustic Guitar

    Debate of Handmade

    If you consider the more expensive products in this category, you would see terms such as “Handmade in Europe” or “Handmade in Spain” and so on, with the term “handmade” used to indicate that some experienced luthier has made the guitar. Though it could be true, however most of the time companies use that terms as a marketing tool.

    After all, almost all the Guitars are handmade to some extent, even if you consider the cheapest ones. So ideally, there’s no need to get really excited about the ‘handmade’ thing.

    If you’re really looking for a hand-made one by an experienced luthier, you need to find out more about the hands who make them. You need to understand their processes, wood inspection and selection method, what measurements they use, and other sorts.

    Remember, you get classical guitars that cost anywhere from $3000 to $5000; Guitar prices get steeper with excellent craftmanship, where the luthier has paid attention to every single bracing, wood, fretboard alignment, etc.

    So even though you may be a beginner, it’s good to know how the greatest guitars in the world are built and how much do they cost.

    Misconceptions

    Easier to Learn?
    It is not than a Classical Guitar is easier to learn than an acoustic guitar or vice versa. The learning process for both is the same.

    A classical guitar could feel easier on your fingers though because of the nylon strings, whereas the steel strings on an acoustic will hurt to begin with till you get used to it.

    Play only Classical?
    Classical Guitar does not mean that you can only play classical stuff on it. You can very well play other kinds of music like folk, jazz, etc. It is because of its long history that you will find that a lot of classical music does get played with the Classical Guitar.

    But generally, lot of musicians use a classical guitar only for playing classical music whereas if you want to play in several genres of music then an acoustic guitar is preferred.

    Cheaper?
    So when it comes to Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar, which is cheaper or more expensive?

    If you consider the nylon and steel string guitars of comparable quality, then there won’t be much difference in the prices.

    Just pickup something that suits your budget and a guitar with all wood (solid) top for a fuller sound.

    Buying Links: Best Guitars for Various Prices


    Here’s a nice video that shows further comparison between Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar

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