Take Your Pick: Classical Guitar vs. Acoustic Guitar

words Al Woods

Are you a beginner looking to play guitar? The first instrument you choose can make or break your journey as a guitarist. With countless types out there, picking one instrument to help you produce beautiful music is one of the greatest delights of playing guitar.

While acoustic guitars and classical guitars look somehow the same, there are differences between them that you should take note of. In this article, we’ll discuss the disparity of classical vs. acoustic guitar so that you’ll have a better idea of which is the right choice for you.

spanish Guitar

Classical vs. Acoustic Guitar

Although every guitar type is created differently, they all have similar fundamental parts: body, fretboard, hardware, headstock, neck, and strings. From the shape to the wood used, classical and acoustic guitars may look identical.

So let’s compare classical vs. acoustic guitar and how they can affect your learning.

  • Bracing

A steel-string acoustic guitar has solid bracing to keep the instrument sturdy with the strings’ tension and for better projection and resonance. On the contrary, a classical nylon string guitar features a lighter bracing.

  • Fingerboard

A classical instrument generally has a wide and flat fingerboard and string spacing. This makes them more comfortable to play, but people with small hands may struggle with playing it at first.

  • Headstock

Classical instruments still make use of slotted headstocks. Although acoustic guitar strings have this as a viable option, and some parlor, steel-string guitars do have slotted headstocks as well.

  • Joint

In most modern steel-string guitars, you’ll notice that their neck and body join at the 14th fret. However, if you see joint at the 12th fret, it’s an older, more traditional design found in classical guitars. While some acoustics are built this way (like parlor guitars), it’s a hallmark of the classical design.

  • Size

A classical guitar has a much smaller body compared to the more popular sizes of steel-string acoustic guitar. Although, an acoustic guitar parlor model can be similar in dimension and size to its classical ancestors.

  • Strings

Classical guitars have nylon strings used in classical music. On the other hand, acoustic guitars and all-electric ones have steel strings which are easier to play.

Once you place your fingers on the guitar strings, nylon feels gentle. However, steel strings give you the “locking feel.” Upon placing your fingers on acoustic guitar strings, you’ll feel the tension, and your muscles, in turn, will remember how each chord or note felt when playing.

This feel is diminished on a classical guitar, but nylon strings are easier on the fingers and give a more mellow sound.

  • Truss Rod

This is a steel rod that runs along the length of the guitar neck on steel-string instruments. These are important to neutralize the tension of the steel strings, and you can adjust them as needed. Since nylon strings put less stress on the neck, classical instruments often don’t have adjustable truss rods.

Classical Guitar
Benefits and Disadvantages

Normally, the type of music you’d want to learn to play will has the most bearing on which guitar to pick. Those guitarists inclined to play classical, flamenco, or Spanish music will opt for classical guitar. Those who fancy folk and country will see the acoustic guitar as their match.

As a beginner, you can become a great guitarist with whichever instrument. However, make sure to take these benefits and disadvantages into account to find the type that feels natural and pleasant to play.

Classical Guitar

Touching the nylon strings for the first time can deter you from trying the steel ones. They feel nice to the touch, mellow, and comfortable to play. And unlike before, when musical scores are hard to find, free classical guitar sheet music and tabs are now widely available.

The classical guitar also has a more lightweight body than both acoustic and electric guitars. One of the biggest reasons beginners go for classical instruments is that they’re more affordable than acoustics.

But why does classical guitar the hardest type to master? Firstly, nylon strings feel quite different from steel strings that you’ll feel like a complete beginner right from the start. Secondly, a classical guitar emits airy sounds, which makes mistakes more accentuated. But with the right guitar lessons and constant practice, your dedication will help you master the instrument.

Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is ideal for practicing the basics since you can easily hear if a note is wrong and correct your mistake. Larger-shaped acoustics are quite heavy, but this can help beginners rest their picking arm on the body while playing, which can prevent hand fatigue. Also, you can easily plug acoustic guitars into amplification devices during a performance.

The downsides of an acoustic guitar are its price and steel strings which can hurt your fingers as you’re trying to get used to the instrument. Steel strings are also harder to fret than nylon, but they have more resonance, and chord play is a bit easier.

Classical vs. Acoustic Guitars: What’s Your Pick?

Choosing between classical and acoustic all boils down to your preference and play style. Whichever type of guitar, as long as you’re hellbent on learning, you can become the acoustic or flamenco guitarist you aspire to be. The basics and techniques you learn along the way will help you work your way up in skills and complexity, whether it’s acoustic or classical.


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