Classical vs. Acoustic Guitars – which is right for me?
Nylon String guitars vs. Steel String Acoustic – choose your weapon
If you want to know why most guitarists start on an acoustic or classical guitar, it’s usually because an acoustic is a little less harsh on the fingers and a very simple pick-up-and-play option. You don’t need an amplifier to hear the sound properly and they are often available at a lower price than electric guitars. We actually covered the pros and cons of learning with an electric or an acoustic in a previous blog post.
For now, it’s all about Classical vs. Acoustic guitars, as we discuss the differences to give you a better idea of what type of guitar might be right for you.
The Differences Between Classical and Acoustic Guitars
The fretboard of a classical guitar is a lot wider than that of an acoustic and quite often classical guitars will not have the fret markers (dots or inlays) along the fingerboard.
The shape is very different too. Acoustic guitars predominantly come in a dreadnought shape which is considerably larger than that of a classical guitar and cutaways where you have access to the higher frets on classical guitars are rather rare.
Often classical guitars are a little cheaper than their acoustic cousins, which is why many beginners start with a classical guitar first.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight – both these guitars are in fact acoustic guitars, except one uses nylon strings (classical) and the other uses steel string (acoustic). Confusing, yes but the differences between the two are vast!
A classical guitar uses nylon strings whereas the modern acoustic uses steel string, hence it’s often referred to as a “steel string acoustic”. These strings both sound and feel very different indeed. The nylon strings of a classical guitar are a lot thicker and mellower or softer sounding than those of a steel string. With steel string acoustic guitar strings you get a very twangy and bright sound that resonates (lasts longer) than a classical guitar. They also feel very different too. Nylon strings are thicker and because the treble strings (G,B, high E) are nylon and the bass strings are nylon cores with metal or use a nylon winding technique on the E, A, D strings, it can be a lot more comfortable to play when you’re a beginner. Steel string acoustic guitars use a variety of metals for strings, including nickel and bronze and they are closer to the likes of electric guitar strings i.e. thinner and somewhat sharper on fingers. Don’t worry though, with enough practice your fingers won’t hurt as much.
The difference in strings and shape plays a huge part in how the two guitars sound which will also be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing one over the other. Think about what type of music you prefer to listen to. If you like Gypsy Kings style music, Flamenco or Spanish guitar, the classical guitar is right for you and often the main, if not only, type of guitar those types of musician’s use. Pretty much every favourite band of yours will be using a steel string acoustic rather than a classical guitar. Yes, you can learn on either one, but “Wonderwall” by Oasis or “Yesterday” by The Beatles will sound very weird indeed when played with a classical guitar. Most guitarists will make the natural progression from classical to acoustic, but very few choose to stay loyal to a classical guitar.
So which one is the right guitar for me?
If you like the sounds of Flamenco or Spanish guitar, want a cheaper alternative to learn the basics with or a lighter option that is slightly easier to carry, the classical guitar might be for you. Here are three great affordable classical guitar options in price ascending order, ranging from quality beginner guitars to a more intermediate option for those who want to continue their journey with the classical guitar.
Epiphone Pro-1 Classic Acoustic
Merida Trajan T5 Classical Guitar
Farida CC-20 Cedar Top Classical Guitar
Steel String Acoustic Guitars
As for steel string acoustic guitars, we’ve rounded up three options, again ranging from beginner to those who want to get a bit more serious. If you like loud, rich tones and an extremely versatile option that you can use for a wide range of music genres, then you’ll probably want to start with a steel string.
Squier SA-105 Acoustic Guitar
Yamaha FG700S Acoustic Guitar
Farida SD-35 Acoustic Guitar
The best thing you can do is try as many guitars as you can and see which style is best for you and the music you like to play. There are thousands of guitars out there, but only a handful are right for you – take your time and have fun!
View a complete range of acoustic guitars on the Dawsons website.