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.
Table of Contents
- Top 10 Best Classical Guitars
- Classical Guitars for Beginners
- Cheap Classical Guitars
- Under 500
- Under 1000
- Under 2000
- A little bit of history
- Nylon Strings and Different Build
- Technique and Ease
- Best Classical Guitar Brands
Top 10 Best Classical Guitars
|Ortega Guitars R122SN Family Series||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Yamaha C40 Full Size Nylon-String Classical Guitar||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Cordoba C7 SP||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Yamaha CGX122MCC||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Godin Multiac Nylon Encore Acoustic Electric Classical Guitar||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Cordoba C9 CD/MH Acoustic Nylon String Classical Guitar||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Godin 031498 Grand Concert Duet Multiac Guitar||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Prudencio Saez PS-28-C Classical Guitar||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Yamaha CGS103A ¾ Size Classical Guitar Bundle||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Squier by Fender SA-150N Beginner Acoustic Guitar||(4.6 / 5)||Check on Amazon
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.
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 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 mid tones. 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 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 consider 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 fretting 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.
Best Classical Guitar Brands
It’s really hard to think of a brand that would be more suitable for the name of the best classical guitar brand. Cordoba is the manufacturer you’ll encounter frequently if you’ve set out on a mission of buying a beautiful classical guitar. Their sole purpose has always been the reinvention of nylon-string instruments. They wanted to make them available for wider masses, so that it would gain appeal with more musicians. They are passionate about the tones created with classical guitars, and do everything they can to maintain all of their virtues. Cordoba is a brand which builds its guitars with hands, monitors the quality of each model closely, and puts heart and soul in each instrument. The care and love towards the job they do can be felt via each note you pick on those nylon strings. On the journey to perfection, they went back to Spanish roots and utilized that knowledge to build authentic guitars. You can search their models if you’re looking for an affordable or high-end piece, because they cater to everyone. Quality is their priority, which means that it’s not compromised even with cheaper guitars. Before, Cordoba was a province and city in Spain. Now it’s a legacy in the music industry – a legacy of history, passion and nylon.
There are brands that follow tradition through and through, and there are those that build on that tradition. They take the knowledge we already have, come up with something new and different, and then blend those two together. They turn that attitude into a mission, goal and purpose and produce every piece keeping that in mind. While talking about the mixture of tradition and development, we can’t help but think of Ortega. 1994 was the year when the journey started – German design and technology was brought to the classical guitar market. The brand crafts guitars with the attempt to develop themselves and the industry, to create instruments that are steeped with quality. They brought 12-hole bridge design to every nylon piece from entry-level to professional, turning it into a standard, rather than a high-end addition. Ortega classical guitars can be found in many shapes and sizes. They cater to every player equally: be it a child, an adult, a beginner or a professional. By providing us with affordable options, they make high quality classical guitars accessible to the masses. In short, I just really love their mindset – the way they see the production of instruments isn’t extraordinary, yet it’s a reliable practice. They care about their customers, the environment and their guitars – and those are three pillars that they stand by.
It feels like we’re travelling the world here, since this time we’re talking about a Canadian company – Godin. Originating in Quebec, it’s a brand that was founded by Robert Godin. It started small, but today it’s one of the biggest manufacturers in North America. They build guitars locally – all the woods are sourced there, and the factors are located in Quebec and New Hampshire, making sure that luthiers can feel and test guitars before they hit the market. They handcraft their models, double-check for quality and steep them with that personal character. The latter is something I talk about frequently, and I’m sure you’ll feel it two once you experience more than one guitar.
Godin is a family business. Apart from Godin, this family owns 5 more renowned names, such as Seagull, Simon & Patrick, Norman, LaPatrie and Art & Lutherie. The reason why they have grown this much is simple: they focus on innovation and uniqueness. They always try to create something that the world hasn’t seen before. Remember their Multiac Nylon Encore that we discussed previously? Well, take a look at that and you’ll understand what Godin tries to achieve. But they aren’t stopping there and they are expanding their range and brand constantly. And we, as customers, get to enjoy that development with every new model of classical guitar.
As mentioned, La Patrie is owned by the Godin family, so it’s not hard to assume that they are all about the quality as well. The name stems from a small village in Quebec, which is said to have a long tradition of guitar manufacturing. The brand uses high quality woods that add a beautiful character to each and every instrument. Old trees are turned into guitars that age well, open up with every attempt of playing and reveal their true qualities over time. Such pieces are always an investment, as you know that they will improve day by day. La Patrie tests woods for rigidity and makes sure they can withstand years of abuse. They also coat their guitars with Custom Polished finish, which lets the woods breath while being protected. That’s particularly important if you want your classical guitar to be by your side for a long time. Nylon-string guitars are their main focus, which means they dedicated all their attention to them. Their line-up consists of The Motif, Etude, Concert, Presentation, Collection and Arena and their modifications. Though it might not seem that much, La Patrie offers a wide variety of choices for guitarists who are looking for impeccable tone and quality.
While some brands force you to gaze into the future, others inspire you to go back in time. You can’t understand Kremona if you don’t read about their origins. They are way older than you might initially think – if you follow their roots, they will take you to World War I. The founder, Dimitar Georgiev left the front with his mandolin, went back to Bulgaria and started out with the goal to build classical guitars that would be accessible to the masses. He firmly believed that quality instruments should be made for everyone, and no one should feel excluded. He started a company as a luthier and eventually built something that holds a leading position on the market till this day. Kremona guitars are manufactured in Europe with European legacy, while their American dealers bring that legacy to North America. It’s one of those brands that you can trust with your heart and soul, because they will always deliver quality. Many classical music and jazz artists are associated with their name, proudly showing off all the virtues of Kremona guitars.
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 crept 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.