If you’ve never heard the soft overtones of Nylon, you have missed out on one of the biggest pleasures of the guitar world. That is what I tell people who are not aware of the virtues of the classical guitar. On the other hand, if you are here, with me, reading this, you must already be at least partially aware of the warmest sounds in the world of 6 string instruments. The classical guitar is a fascinating instrument because it has existed longer than the more famous steel string guitar and because its presence in popular culture has remained obscure, despite being prevalent. The best classical guitars are even more fascinating: their versatility and the warmth of their sound, the softness of their tones, and the ease, comfort with which they are played is unmatched.
Top 10 Best Classical Guitars
I do have one problem with the nylon string guitar. It is more of a regret than a problem: I have never owned one. Not because I have never wanted to, but because it was so easily available to me in my home town. The nylon string guitar was very popular with a few of my parent’s friends, big fans of flamenco. So whenever I wanted to play one, all I had to do is call up my auntie Liz and ask her if I could come over. Over time my interests moved in a different direction. Still, I’m going to purchase one as. No guitar collection is complete without one.
We can’t talk about beginners without mentioning the kids. It’s never too late to take up guitar, but young explorers are more likely to get interested and nag us to purchase an instrument for them. Lucky for us, there are some wonderful options out there. Yamaha CGS103A ¾ Size Classical Guitar Bundle is a perfect choice for everyone, who wants to find a great deal. Not only does it include a decent classical guitar, but it does also come with essential accessories for beginners. The guitar itself has a spruce top and meranti back and sides. The neck is made from nato, while the fingerboard is built with rosewood. These materials and tonewoods might not have the best quality, however, they are good enough to satisfy the needs of any kid or a beginner. Regardless of the price, it sounds really good – notes are crisp and defined. Small size and deep body make it really easy to play, and the nylon strings add up to the simplicity. The package also includes a gig bag, tuner, strings, string winder, Austin Bazaar instructional DVD and a polishing cloth. Even though this bundle doesn’t cover all the essentials, it’s still an amazing starting point. Check it out!
- Great value for money
- Perfect size for kids
- Includes some of the essential accessories
- Included gig back has a poor quality
The fact that beginners don’t require expensive guitars has already turned into a common sense. But how cheap can they go? Squier by Fender SA-150N proves that you can actually get a decent classical guitar for less than a pair of Levis jeans. No, I’m not kidding – that is possible, for real. You might think that it’s a total piece of crap due to its price, but you’d be wrong. This fella is a pretty amazing bang for the buck. The body is put together with laminated woods, be it the top (lindenwood), back or sides (mahogany). Mahogany neck and stained maple fretboard complete the guitar and add a touch of simplicity to the whole package. The design of this fella is tailored to beginners, as its size and playability are perfect for those who are taking their first steps. Even though it could be a nice match for more advanced players as well, I believe they would require a bit more from its sound. For the novices, it has enough depth and definition to help them on their way to greater adventures. SA-150N is worth a shot, trust me!
- Extremely affordable
- Decent quality
- Amazing sound
The art of making a classical guitar has been around for a while. When the art of manufacturing something for as long as it does the optimization of the process takes place naturally. This results in incredibly high quality guitars being produced and produced for a price that does not seem like it makes sense. The Ortega Guitars RS122SN is one such guitar. The beautiful Cedar top of the guitar, combined with a mahogany back and sides produces an idyllic sound that will satisfy both the professional and the beginner playing it. This full bodied guitar with a satin finish is beautiful both in looks and sound, but is outshined by how extremely affordable it is for the value it provides. It is thus perfect for those trying their hands at the classical guitar for the first time, providing a solid basis for learning, as well as a great ramp to master the instrument.
- Good strings
- Good quality
- Get more for what you pay
- Not the best volume
- Not a gigging guitar
If you have been reading my reviews for a while, you will know that I tend to praise Yamaha a lot for their efficiency in providing incredible performance for the fraction of the price that other guitar manufacturers do. If you are bored of hearing that, take a minute to read about the C40 Full Size Classical Guitar by Yamaha. This guitar showcases, once again, that Yamaha knows how to produce a guitar right. The spruce top and the nato neck of the guitar provide an well rounded sound that any beginner or professional looking for a practice guitar, will appreciate. The guitar is incredibly comfortable to play, making it one of the best beginner nylon-string guitars out there. Yamaha, thinking of beginners, also understands that price is a big question, so they also made the guitar the best affordable classical guitar out there. So tell me, how can I not praise Yamaha?
- Good sound
- Comfortable for beginners
- Bad strings
- No truss rod adjustment
Argentina and Spain each have a city that shares a name: Cordoba. In both cases it is a beautiful region with immense amounts of history. Judging how the history of the classical guitars is tightly connected to both Spain and Argentina the name of the Cordoba series guitars is as spot on as it gets. Also judging by how the C7 SP is a guitar capable of powerful, warm tones that resonate more with the soul than the mind, the evocation of the ancient city brings a whole new meaning to the instrument. The guitar is a beautiful example of hand made crafts, with the European spruce top being complemented by the beautiful Indian rosewood back and sides. These materials provide the resonance that so many guitars in the same price range hope to accomplish and lack. This is the perfect step up from a beginner guitar without the bank breaking qualities of the other examples.
- Quality tonewoods
- Great Price for what the guitar offers
- Action might be a bit too high
- Might think about changing strings for better sound
I will refrain from boring you again with my praise for Yamaha. This time around I will concentrate solely on the individual guitar and the mastery of the craftsmanship it is made with and its amazing sound quality. This cedar top of this guitar becomes the perfect resonator for the improbably mellow and warm sounds that this guitar produces, while also allowing for the fast paced and energetic passages of the classical compositions. Yamaha CGX122MCC is equipped with a preamp system, allowing it to be both an electric and acoustic classical guitar, meaning unparalleled versatility in sound both in terms of tone and volume. This is a great option for those looking for a guitar that will last them a long time, even after they leave the presupposed range of skill that this guitar is perfect for. After all, with such versatility and affordability, this guitar is perfect for anyone looking to practice more and more.
- Great top tonewood
- Great sound
- Finish is not the best
If you are looking for something unique, something rarely seen and heard even less, your first stop, and possibly last, should be the Godin Multiac Nylon Encore Acoustic Electric Guitar. It is unparalleled both in looks and sound, as it combined the world of warmth and mellowness with the ability to make these tones into a loud and charged, vibrant music. The nylon strings of this guitar don’t take to sustain as much as steel strings would, meaning that the guitar produces quite a unique sound for any electric guitar. The thing is, the price point of this guitar is just as unique as the guitar itself, bringing the nylon electric guitar down into the more affordable area. It has a solid cedar top, a two chambered silver leaf body, and a custom Godin Dual Source System. This guitar is perfect both for the loudest concertos and the quietest of rooms and all those who are looking to play them.
- Great electronics
- Tonewood is high-quality
- Might hum when plugged in
The city of Cordoba has been invoked on this list already, but it has not been invoked the way this guitar invokes it. This is a masterfully crafted ode written to the spirit of the city of Cordoba, a testament and dedication to it from the times of Rome up to the modern days of beauty. Which is why the guitar sounds like the spirit of Cordoba is singing the tones being played. The warm overtones, low, mid or high, are as sweet to the ear as they are to the heart. The solid Canadian Cedar Top combined with the mahogany back and sides are the reason tones resonate so readily and sweetly though the guitar, spreading so easily to the body. The affordability of Cordoba C9 CD/MH veils the fact that this guitar is a step above intermediate and slightly above advanced. This incredible piece of music is one of the best additions to any guitar collections you could ask for.
- Great tonewood
- Amazing sound
- There are some people that say that the top wood is too soft
- Might not be that affordable for beginners (but for a contra argument read the review)
Now that you know that there are affordable versions of such a guitar, it is time that I teased you with the higher end versions of them. I do not call it teasing because these guitars are plain expensive, I call it teasing because the difference in price can be felt in the quality of the guitar. The Godin 031498 Grand Concert Duet Multiac Guitar is as surreal as its name suggests, offering the instrumentalist performing on it unparalleled versatility and flexibility in its tones, sound and accessibility. This guitar was made in mind with the biggest of concerts, meaning it includes an electric aspect that allows it to compete with the loudest instruments in the orchestra. The thing is, this classical guitar is not satisfied with entering the new age simply by becoming electric, so it establishes a relationship with computers, entering the unique world of computer manipulated sounds. So yes, this guitar is as surreal as it looks. It is also heavily grounded in its roots, remaining a classical guitar despite having a modern twist.
- Professional electronics that give you full control
- Good quality tonewood
- Amazing amplified sound
- Basic hardware
- Gig bag (I would expect a solid case for this price)
If you’re willing to experience classical guitars to the fullest, of course, you have to follow their Spanish roots and go back to the origins. I’m not saying that you can’t purchase a wonderful classical guitar from big manufacturers, but let’s all agree that Spanish luthiers add an extra touch to their creations. They craft classical guitars with passion and affection, and such an attitude can be felt throughout the whole experience. Prudencio Saez has been producing guitars with his own hands since the 1960s. They usually belong to the high-end range, but their quality always justifies the price. His PS-28-C will be your perfect tool to the world of nylon strings. It has a solid cedar top and solid back and sides, as well as carbon reinforced cedar neck and African ebony fingerboard. It has a fan-bracing, which keeps the tone pristine clear. Its mellow sounds will definitely force you to fall for it, while balanced bass and trebles will turn it into your preferred choice. I don’t know what, but there’s definitely something special about PS-28-C. Maybe it’s the individual touch or the fact that it’s handmade – if you figure out the secret, please, let me know!
- Great build quality
- Defined and balanced tone
- High-quality tonewoods
A little bit of history
There is a reason the classical guitar is named as it is and despite the fact that you might have guessed it or know it all along, I will tell you, because I like to tell people things. Don’t hold it against me, hold it against my teachers who never told me to shut up.
The apt naming of the instrument comes from the fact that it is one of the oldest examples of a guitar and is used in the world of classical music more often than anywhere else. The instrument, as we know it today, has existed since the early 18th century. Composition of incredible variety exist for the guitar, all written from those times and on and new ones are still being written. What is even more fascinating is the fact that the guitar, despite its continued presence in the context of classical music, has also made repeated appearances over a range of genres. Country music, rock and roll and pop music have all gotten their hands on the instrument and have included its soft, warm tones in their own songs.
The classical guitar is the inspiration for the variety of guitars that exist today, but it is also the guitar where the techniques you use on your guitar were born. Fingerpicking techniques that you see so much in country, blues, rock and roll and even metal were all born on the classical guitar. Strumming, the most basic and accessible technique, was born because the guitarristas of the old knew the satisfying allure of the full sound of a guitar. The history of the classical guitar is the history of the any guitar in the world, and it deserves to be respected the way any electric Les Paul is.
Nylon Strings and Different Build
The classical guitar has a two main differences from the much more pop culture accepted steel string guitar. These differences are what make the guitar unique in sound and tone as well as in looks.
The first difference many will notice is the alternative shape of the body, the classical guitar does not have the dreadnought body style that the steel strings have. As a result the guitar has a more slender, smaller look, as well as a slightly softer, less booming sound that responds well to midtones. This body shape also results in only 12 frets being free of the body, while the rest are located on the body itself. A shorter fingerboard makes the guitar slightly shorter and the rest of the frets a little less accessible. This does not make the guitar any harder to play, just requires a slight adjustment to how it is held so that the picking hand (left or right) is free to move easily.
The second difference, and probably the most important one, noticed the second the guitar is played or even held for the first time, is the fact that its strings are made of Nylon, instead of steel. This difference is the one you would be expecting if you know that the instrument is sometimes called a nylon string guitar. These strings produce a very soft and pleasant sound and are much less susceptible to the sustain of steel string guitars. The notes played on these strings tend to be warmer and and less “twangy” than the sound of the steel string guitar. The nylon string also tends to resonate for a shorter time than the steel string. This means a faster succession of notes played without the danger of sounds getting mixed up and producing a “dirty” effect.
Technique and Ease
The alternative build and sound of the classical guitar also warrant a slight change in the techniques used to play the guitar. These techniques are not complicated to learn, but do require a certain amount of dedication to be mastered successfully. As any guitar technique does, so really, worrying about whether you will be successful in learning them is pointless.
The thing is, since you are looking for the best classical guitars this list might seem slightly redundant to you. Whether aware of them or already a master of them, I think it is still important to review some of these techniques. Just in case you need to refresh yourself on the basics. Otherwise, if you are new to classical guitars, it might be wise to considering picking up a beginner’s classical before you go for the best nylon string guitars on the market. Though don’t let that stop you from learning more about the techniques talked about below – this will only be useful.
The first thing to consider is the way the guitar is held. While a steel string guitar rests close to the hip and can be played standing up, this is not the case with the classical guitar. The nylon string is best played when resting on the leg that is on the side of the fret hand. This results in the plucking or strumming taking part below the soundhole, which further enhances the uniqueness of the guitar’s sound. It also allows the fretboard hand easier access to the frets that are on the body of the guitar. The playing of the first frets is not impeded since the fretboard of the classical guitar is slightly shorter than the fretboard of the steel string guitar, meaning easy reach.
Now for the techniques:
- Fingerpicking is a technique all guitarists are aware of and kind of love. The thing is, the classical guitar slightly alters this technique, preferring to use nails of the right hand instead of picks or fingertips. This allows for faster picking with a much more resonant sound than what would be allowed by a single pick o the fingertips of the hand.
- Arpeggios in direct translation to english mean “broken chords”. This implies playing each string of the chord in succession instead of the same time. This produces a more detailed sound than the normally played chords do.
- Hammer ons and pull offs, better knows as slurs in the classical guitar world, are a complicated technique that even advanced players have trouble with. Despite this, the technique is incredibly valuable to a good sound and could enhance your ability to mesmerize an audience.
Despite the presence of alternative techniques to learn the classical guitar is much easier to learn than many people think. It is a combination of comfort, ease on the fingers and the beautiful sound that make the guitar easy to play. The thing is, as with any instrument, the classical guitar requires persistence and dedication to be eventually mastered.
It is so strange to think that as a kid and a teen I enjoyed flamenco music so much. I mean, I used to hang out with auntie Liz specifically because I wanted to listen to her and learn how to play like her. Then over the years, as the edge of the teen creeped in and the long black hair with the heavy metal overtones campaigned to rule my life, I kind of abandoned the genre and with it the classical guitar as well. At the time I thought that the nylon strings of the guitar could not have produced any sound that would be in any way compatible with my metallic persuasions.
It was not until I finally escaped the grasp of single minded pursuit that I realized how much modern music, especially metal, is the child of the techniques used by the classical musicians. The fingerpicking and the shredding techniques so coveted by people like me at the age of thirteen, are simply an inheritance, slightly modified for genre purposes, handed down from the old masters of the art. The electric guitar is simply a modified vehicle, a reference and a heir to the great classical guitar. The mother instrument to all the new, the one that permeates the culture to its bone, even if you and me and the untrained ear or eye, miss its existence. Maybe I would have been a better musician if I had learned from the best classical guitar player I knew? Whichever it is, go on ahead and enjoy your new guitar.