- 1. Yamaha C40II Classical Guitar
- 2. Ibanez 6 String Guitar, Right Handed, Natural (GA3)
- 3. Yamaha CGS104A Full-Size Guitar Bundle with Hardshell Case
- 4. Yamaha C40 Full Size Nylon-String Guitar
- 5. Washburn Classical Series C5CE
- 6. Yamaha CG122MCH Solid Cedar Top Classical Guitar
- 7. Cordoba C3M Classical Guitar
- 8. Cordoba Guitars C9 Parlor CD/MH 7/8 Size Guitar
- 9. Yamaha NCX1200R Acoustic-Electric Classical Guitar
- 10. Stagg Full-Size Classical Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar
- Classical Guitar Selection Tips
- Types of Classical Guitars
- Top Classical Guitar Brands
- Average Classical Guitar Pricing
- Buying a Classical Guitar: Questions and Answers
Classical, nylon string guitars are considered the best choice for those starting out in the world of guitar playing. Apart from its rich and mellow sound, the classical guitars are also easier to play—what with their bigger necks, low tension strings, etc. Also, if you want to play certain styles of music such as flamenco, jazz, fingerstyle, latino or just pure classical, you’ll have to have a classical guitar. In this list, we have focused mainly on beginner to intermediate range models. In other words, affordable guitars that still deliver great sound and construction. However, if you want to have a go at the very bests in the classical world, check the two models—Cordoba Parlor and the Yamaha Acosutic/Electric—included towards the end of this list.
1. Yamaha C40II Classical Guitar
Like pretty much Yamaha's all C and CS series classical guitars, this C40II model is an excellent guitar for its price. Like some of the other models on this list, this guitar makes for a perfect choice for beginners, but also for guitar players who are accustomed to steel string acoustic or electric guitar but want to try out the classical nylon strings for a change. The guitar does not feature a solid top, but it's not your common laminate type either. Rather, it's a blend of both, a sort of formica with a bulky layer of spruce on top. The back and sides are of Meranti wood and the fretboard and the bridge come in rosewood. It is a full size classical guitar with 19 frets and you've inlaid dots over the fretboard as well (not common for classical guitars, but helpful for beginners). In terms of playability, the instrument delivers superbly with its high relief, wide fretboard with spaced out strings, excellent tuners and all. The sound is pretty good with good sustain (you try it on at any guitar store and you'll be hard put to believe at first that this is not a solid top model!)and even more impressive is the clear and bright tone of the guitar. In all, an excellent model considered its price and one that really punches above its weight.
Pros & cons
- Excellent value for money
- Great playability, ideal for beginners
- Particularly beautiful tone
- The binding is not too good
- The rosewood bridge is stained black (perhaps to give it an ebony look) but the stain tends to come off after some time
2. Ibanez 6 String Guitar, Right Handed, Natural (GA3)
Another great value guitar for its price. Both Yamaha and Ibanez are known to produce excellent models for an affordable price (not to talk of their high end models) and both have its own groups of dedicated aficionados. As for us, we believe that Ibanez does a pretty good job when it comes to their entry level guitars, but it is really their pro models that shine the most. That said, this particular model we find to be excellent for its easy playability and great sound. The guitar comes with a solid spruce top and Agathis back and sides. And for a full scale guitar, it feels remarkably light when you hold it. This, in addition to its low action and fast neck, accounts for its superb playability. We especially like the low action of this model, but if you are making a transition from a steel string or if the action appears too low for your comfort, you can set it to your liking by adjusting the truss rod. Finally, as you would normally expect from a real classical guitar, there are fret markers on side of the neck but no inlaid ones upon the fingerboard.
Pros & cons
- Full size classical guitar with beautiful sound at a highly affordable price
- Solid top with fan bracing
- Light body and easy playability
- According to a number of users the strings that come with the guitar are not too good, so you may have to change them with a string set of your choice
3. Yamaha CGS104A Full-Size Guitar Bundle with Hardshell Case
Another great Yamaha entry level model that is especially suited to beginners. Austin Bazaar is currently selling this model in a bundle that includes pretty much all you'll need as a starting guitar player---a hardshell case, a clip-on tuner, a string winder, extra strings and more. As for the model itself, it is again a solid spruce top with Meranti back and side. The neck is made of nato wood and the bridge and the fretboard come in standard rosewood. This is a full size 4/4 classical guitar with a scale length of 650mm and a nut width of 52mm. Overall, a handy enough model that is easy to play and sounds pretty good. We particularly like the gloss sunset finish of the top of the soundboard that gives the guitar a classic flamenco look (after all, the look of the guitar matters, too, doesn't it?).
Pros & cons
- Ideal for beginners especially with the current bundle offer
- Good resonance
- Light body
- Once you've mastered the instrument to some degree, you may find that the tone is not the best.
- Some users have complaints about the tuner pegs.
4. Yamaha C40 Full Size Nylon-String Guitar
Yamaha C40 has been a perennial favorite with not a few guitarists as an affordable entry level guitar. It provides great sound and tone for a model of its price range. In fact, all models in the Yamaha C series classical guitars excel on this aspect, but C40, for some reason or other, has remained the most popular in the series. The guitar features a solid spruce top and Indonesian Mahogany for the back and the sides. It comes with a Nato neck and the fingerboard is made of special Javanese rosewood. It is a full size and full-bodied guitar with great resonance and a sweet sound. The action is mid to low and is normally easy enough on your hand. However, one downside is that the model does not have an adjustable truss rod. So, if anybody finds the action to be a bit on the higher side for their comfort, they would need to file the saddle down to bring the action to the desired height.
Pros & cons
- Excellent sound and playability
- Highly affordable
- Melamine gloss finish for a beautiful vintage look
- No adjustable trussrod
5. Washburn Classical Series C5CE
If you want a moneysaving all-in-one option, then this Washburn Classical series acoustic/electric may make the perfect choice for you. However, don't take the 'all-in-one' description in any negative manner. There are plenty of models in that category and if we mention particularly this one on our list, it is because the model delivers. It has a clear tone and a bright sound and acoustics is suitable to many different types of guitar playing. So, this is a good one for beginners but also as a travelling guitar---especially for somebody who is a good hand at playing different styles. The guitar features Catalpa sides and back and a laminated spruce top, a mahogany neck and rosewood bridge and fingerboard. There is superior quality EVT electronics fitted into the model, so you'll get a nice and clear sound when you plug it up, too. And since it's an acoustic/electric, the headstock is a slotted and angled type. As for strings, the higher strings are nylon and the basses are nylon wound with bronze.
Pros & cons
- Excellently engineered as an acoustic/electric model
- Superior quality electronics
- Great sound and tone
- The frets are somewhat sharp on the edges, making the higher frets a bit difficult to play with enough ease and comfort
6. Yamaha CG122MCH Solid Cedar Top Classical Guitar
Taking a step up now, here's a model from Yamaha CG series, another great line of classical guitars that are just a notch above than the models in the C and the CS series, both in terms of price and quality. We have described the popular C40 above. However, someone who has played both these models would be able to recognize the upgrade in sound with this CG model. Thanks to its solid cedar top, it has a fuller and richer sound and tone compared to the other model. The model also sports a natural matte finish and more importantly perhaps, a well thought out 3-ply neck construction that improves the durability of the neck and of the model as a whole.
Pros & cons
- Full and rich sound
- Great construction at a reasonable price
- Cedar top and natural finish making for a vintage look
- Glued, but not inlaid design skirting the sound hole
- The action may be a bit too low for comfort
7. Cordoba C3M Classical Guitar
We have mentioned Yamaha and Ibanez, but Cordoba---a relatively recent brand---have been producing some great guitar models for the last two decades and the C3M is one of them. This is a full sized (6500 mm scale length), handcrafted guitar with a solid cedar top, high quality ABS binding and traditional Spanish fan bracing. The back and sides are made of mahogany and the bridge and fingerboard, of rosewood. There is also a hand inlaid rosette that adds to the overall traditional appeal of the model. The guitar also comes with very good resonance and high sustain and a sweet and mellow sound. Overall, something you shall like to check out if you had been sticking with your Yamahas for too long!
Pros & cons
- Great sounding handcrafted guitar at a reasonable price
- High tension (500CJ) Savarez Corum strings
- Not too durable, the construction quality could be better
8. Cordoba Guitars C9 Parlor CD/MH 7/8 Size Guitar
Till now, we'd been hovering around the $200 mark models since this list, as we've mentioned already, is primarily aimed at those looking for good quality classical guitars at an affordable price. However, if you are serious about revving it up, here's something that you'll love to lay your hands on as long as the price is not a constricting factor. This is also the first parlor guitar on our list and this Cordoba model really exemplifies the warm, mellow tone characteristic of the smaller sized guitars. The c3M above is a nice enough model and comes with a great sound considering its price, but we dare say that if you want a 'real Cordoba', you better check this one! Next to custom made luthier guitars, this is about the best you are going to get in classical guitars. The body of the guitar features a solid Canadian cedar top and solid mahogany back and sides. If you want to know what an all solid-construction means on a smaller sized guitar, this is the one to check. And in addition to that, the model also flaunts some nifty aesthetic touches such as the gold plated tuner pegs, high gloss finish, hand inlaid Esteso rosette and more. A beauty, in short!
Pros & cons
- Premium quality craftsmanship
- Incredibly rich sound and warm, sweet tone
- Great aesthetic touches
- There really isn't anything to say against this model, except maybe the price...
9. Yamaha NCX1200R Acoustic-Electric Classical Guitar
Here's another model to check if you want to experience the very best in classical guitar. This particular model is incredibly responsive and has a warm, clear and amazing sound. The model also features the highest quality electronics and once you plug it in to your amp, you'll get a crystal clear sound with a highly natural and uncolored tone. The pickups and the preamps used for this model are the best you're going to find on a classical guitar.
Pros & cons
- Solid Sitka spruce top with Ebony fingerboard
- Amazingly natural and uncolored sound
- ART two-way pickup system
- Some find the model to be a bit too heavy which in turn affects its tone
10. Stagg Full-Size Classical Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar
To round our list up, here's another Acoustic-electric classical model that is however much more affordable than the previous Yamaha NCX1200R. This is also the first cutaway model on our list. And keep it in mind that this is a Staggs thinline (about 8.5 cms in depth), so don't expect the kind of fuller sound and volume that you get out of normal classical guitars and dreadnoughts. The model is actually best suited to those that are more accustomed to playing either electric or normal steel string acoustic, but also like to play classical or fingerstyle from time to time. The model features a laminated spruce top with Catalpa neck, sides and back and the on-board electronics are of a decent quality, too. The thinline body makes it ideal for those who like to practice for long sessions playing different styles.
Pros & cons
- Sound is loud enough for a thinline model, even when you don't plug it up
- Lightweight and durable
- Strings are not of the best quality, so you may need replacements
Classical Guitar Selection Tips
Your selection of a classical guitar would normally depend on a variety of factors such as your playing style, your aspirations and ambitions, your current level of playing and last but not the least, how much you are prepared to pay for the guitar. On the list above, we’ve mainly concentrated on some of the best affordably priced models that are great value for money. However, by no means, we claim the list to be comprehensive and we would like to encourage you to explore further on the price range you’ve settled for.
That said, we may still propose some general suggestions or advice that we hope would be of help to you when you go to buy your next (or first) classical guitar.
Materials, Hardware and Quality of Construction. As with any guitar, the quality of the materials and other hardware (such as saddle bone, nut, tuner pegs, etc.) used for a model would be paramount in determining its sound and its playability. At the same time, construction quality or the craftsmanship that goes into making a guitar also plays a crucial role in determining the overall quality, feel and the sound of the guitar.
To focus on the materials, many beginner or budget models would feature an all-laminate construction. There is nothing particularly wrong with that as long as the guitar is otherwise well made since as a beginner, you ought to put more emphasis on the playability of the model than on its sound or tone. As long as the latter are of decent quality, you’ll be well off and should have nothing to complain about.
That said, we would still encourage you to find a model with laminate construction but with a solid top. A solid wood top results in better resonance and a greater projection and these are important qualities to consider for a beginner or intermediate model. As for hardware points, just make sure that saddle, nut and tuner pegs are made of good quality materials. For example, you should look for die-cast tuners and synthetic nut and saddles (nut and saddles of bone are the best but you cannot realistically expect a bone saddle on a budget or mid-range model, but just make sure that they are not made of plastic). To cap it up, you can get some excellent value-for-price models in the $150-$200 category. However, if you can afford to spend a little extra, (and especially if you are determined enough to stick with your guitar playing—remember, we were talking about ambition and aspirations?) we would strongly suggest that you check out some of the models in the $300-$400 category.
However, it is an altogether different scenario when we come to professional, high-end models with a price tag of $1,000 or thereabout. With these models, you can expect, with all justification, an all solid wood construction. The wood, after all, determines the tone and the overall sound quality of a model. So, no matter whether we’re talking the richness of the sound, tonal depth, projection or a dynamic range, a solid wood model would always fare so much the better than a laminate or laminate with a solid top model. Also, the woods in a solid wood model will mature with age and you’ll always find professionals performing with a ‘broken in’ model instead of a brand-new one. As for the hardware or construction, you don’t need to bother too much about them when it is a top-tier model you are investing in. These guitars are normally handcrafted by skilled luthiers (as compared to more assembly line-like production of less expensive models) and factors like easy playability, tuning stability, etc. are a given with these models.
Types of Classical Guitars
Although, classical, nylon string guitars give themselves to playing a wide variety of styles, they normally tend to come in two basic types—the flamenco guitar (sometimes referred to as Spanish guitars) and the traditional classical guitar. The former is chiefly characterized by its relatively low action that facilitates a faster playing style whereas the traditional classical will have a somewhat higher action. As a general advice, we recommend that you settle for a traditional model unless you’ve already chosen flamenco as your preferred style and would like to stick with that choice.
Apart from this, there are variations (more technical than organic) such as classical electro-acoustic, smaller sized parlor or concert guitars or simply, a classical guitar with electronics installed on board (the electro-classical). Electronics are normally required when you are performing before an audience. In other words, this chiefly relates to professional guitarists and even then, most pro classical players prefer using condenser mikes to amplifiers. So, the electronics are never a big factor when it comes to classical models and we would suggest that you go for an electro-acoustic classical or an electro-classical only if you are a hobbyist (albeit with a good degree of skill) who like to play a variety of styles on his guitar.
Top Classical Guitar Brands
Well, right off the bat, we can name three names and this would leave little space for any dispute and these three are—Kremona, Yamaha and Cordoba. Both Kremona and Yamaha can boast of a long heritage in guitar manufacturing and most of their high end models are simply awesome. Cordoba, although a relatively recent brand (staring out in 1997), has already made a name for itself both in the affordable as well as in the premium market, but especially in the latter. In fact, some of their premium models are so highly cherished and coveted that many people like to term only their high-end models as ‘real Cordobas’! We’ve included two such top-of-the-tier models in your list, however do feel free to check out a few more to zero in on the one that will suit your playing style and other requirements to a tee.
Average Classical Guitar Pricing
Well, as to this, we may say right away that there are no average pricing for classical, nylon string guitars. But only that there are different categories. For a starter, you can get fairly decent models (as exemplified by our above list) in the $150-$200 price bracket. To go a step up, there are mid-range models of recognizably superior quality in the $350-$500 range. And then, you’ve got excellent quality professional models and most of these are priced in the vicinity of $1,000, although some even better models can cost you $2,000 or more. That is more or less the ceiling if you’re looking to get a branded model. And after this, you only have the choice to go for custom luthier builds that would also mean a rather high leap to an altogether different price range.
Buying a Classical Guitar: Questions and Answers
What is a Classical Guitar?
Basically, a classical guitar is a nylon string guitar (as opposed to steel strings of an acoustic or electric) that is used to play a variety of different guitar styles including jazz, Latin , flamenco as well as traditional classical compositions. They are characterized by their wider neck with spaced out strings, a smaller fretboard (typically, 19 frets) and low tension nylon strings. Beginners are often advised to start on a classical guitar due to its easy playability and overall more comfortable feel.
What is the difference between a classical and acoustic guitar?
Well, etymologically at least, there is no difference whatsoever. Both classical and the so-called ‘acoustic’ guitars are acoustic guitars, the main difference being that the former uses nylon strings whereas the latter are rigged with steel strings (or, as it often happens, steel strings with nickel and bronze plate or coil over them). In fact, bass or low strings (E, A, D) of classical guitars are bronze strings with nylon covers. Whatever, the basic difference is that the nylon strings on a classical guitar are thicker than their acoustic counterparts and as such, are easier on the player’s fingers and are more comfortable to play. The nylon strings also give a sweeter and mellower sound compared to acoustic guitars. Other significant differences lie in the shape and the fretboard designs of the two. In an acoustic, the fretboard is longer but narrower, which means you’ve access to more frets (commonly, twenty-one) but the narrower fretboard also makes it somewhat more difficult to play compared to a classical. As for shape, acoustics come in a wide variety of shapes but the standard is the dreadnought which is larger than common classical guitars. Also, many acoustic models come in a cutaway shape that makes for easier access of the higher frets. Also, fingerboard inlay dots are a common feature with acoustic models whereas in classical models, these marker dots are normally put on the side of the neck.
What is the best classical guitar for kids?
Some of the best kid classical guitar models include Yamaha CGS 3/4 Size Classical, Yamaha C40 GigMaker and Hohner HAG250P. But there are many others as well, so you may look around a bit. As a rule of thumb, though, ¼ or ½ size guitars are ideal for smaller kids whereas a ¾ size guitar should be best for kids 8 t0 11/12 years old.
What is the best classical guitar for beginners?
As we’ve mentioned already, there is no one model that can be termed as the best and it primarily depends on your preferences. That said, any of the comfortably priced guitars mentioned on our list above ought to make for an excellent starter guitar.
How much does a good classical guitar cost?
To reiterate, the best branded classical guitars are available in the $1,000-$2,000 bracket. However, if you want a custom luthier built model, the price can go way higher. However, the custom luthier guitars are almost exclusively used by experienced performers who already know their business all too well (and probably wouldn’t come to us for suggestions!).
George A. Smith received a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Berkeley. George has been teaching music professionally for the past 8 years. George regularly contributes content to several music websites including LoadRecords.com.