Classical vs acoustic guitar is a choice that confuses many aspiring young guitar players. The differences aren’t as clear cut as those between acoustic and electric guitar; for instance, so many beginners struggle to know which one is best for them.
In this article, I’ll lay out what the differences are, what it’s like to learn each one, take a quick look at the different models you can buy and finally help you decide which one you should learn to play.
Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar
Many people mistakenly think that classical guitar and acoustic guitar are the same instruments. However, this could not be further from the truth.
The confusion comes from the fact that they are both acoustic instruments. This means that they share the same body shape and general look.
But in just the same way that having four wheels, doors, and an engine doesn’t make all cars the same, a similar look and design don’t make all guitars the same.
A classical guitar will likely feel a bit easier to play than an acoustic.
The strings aren’t as hard to push down, and they are designed to be played with the fingers rather than a plectrum.
Many beginners find playing with a plectrum a little challenging as their hands aren’t yet used to the gripping technique used to hold a plectrum.
However, beginners are perfectly used to using their hands, so this feels more natural.
However, where the acoustic guitar loses out to the classical guitar in playability, it often catches up by being a guitar that young students grow into.
Not just musically but also physically.
As mentioned above, the acoustic guitar has a bigger body which can be problematic for young students.
However, once those young students have had their teenage growth spurt, the steel-string acoustic guitar that once felt bulky and cumbersome will now feel just like the classical guitar did all those years ago.
Small, comfortable and manageable when it’s played.
There are a few key differences in body shape between a classical nylon-stringed guitar and a normal steel-stringed acoustic guitar. For one, classical nylon-stringed guitars tend to have a wider body than steel-stringed acoustics.
This is because the strings on a classical guitar are placed further apart, which requires a wider bridge and fretboard. Additionally, the soundboard on a classical guitar is typically thinner than on a steel-stringed guitar.
This allows the instrument to produce a softer, more delicate sound. Finally, classical guitars often have flowing curves and intricate inlays, while steel-stringed acoustics tend to be more simple in design.
These differences in body shape and design give each type of guitar its own unique sound and feel.
When it comes to acoustic guitar strings, there are two main types: nylon and steel. Each has its own unique set of characteristics that can affect the sound of the guitar. Nylon strings are typically softer and have a mellower sound. They’re also easier on the fingers, making them a good choice for beginners.
Steel strings are brighter sounding and have more projection. They’re also thinner, which can make them easier to break. Because of this, they’re usually reserved for more advanced players.
Ultimately, the choice between nylon and steel strings is a matter of personal preference. Different players will prefer different sounds, so it’s important to experiment with both types to see which one you like best.
The nylon strings of a classical guitar have a much more mellow quality to them. They do sound warm and full, but they aren’t very piercing.
They also provide something of a satisfying “snap” sound when played.
Whilst it’s helpful to describe in words, it’s often best to hear the sound for yourself.
Take a listen to classical guitar maestro Andres Segovia in this YouTube clip and see if you can hear the sound qualities I’m describing coming from his guitar.
Can you hear how mellow the nylon strings make the sound?
Can you hear the “snap” quality that comes from playing with fingers and nails?
By contrast, the acoustic guitar (sometimes known as a “steel string acoustic” because the strings are made from steel) sounds much more twangy, piercing and aggressive.
Listen to this YouTube clip of acoustic guitar legend Tommy Emmanuele to see if you can hear these sound qualities.
You can really hear the twang of the steel strings and how they have an almost growl-like quality to them.
You may also notice that steel-string acoustic guitars sound more resonant and project their sound with more strength and clarity than classical guitars do.
This is because they have a larger body, and part of that larger body is having a larger soundbox.
This means there’s more mass of the guitar to vibrate and a bigger space for it to vibrate in. This
is what gives the acoustic guitar such great resonance.
Similarities between acoustic and classical guitar
When most people think of guitars, they picture either acoustic guitars or electric guitars. However, there is another type of guitar that is often overlooked: the classical guitar. Classical guitars are very similar to acoustic guitars in many ways.
For example, both types of guitar have six strings and are played with a pick. However, there are also some important differences between the two.
For instance, classical guitars generally have a wider neck than acoustic guitars, which makes them better suited for finger-picking. In addition, classical guitars typically have nylon strings, while acoustic guitars have steel strings.
As a result, classical guitars have a softer, more mellow sound than their acoustic counterparts.
Despite these differences, classical and acoustic guitars share many common features, and both can be used to create beautiful music.
Differences between acoustic and classical guitar
An analogy I like to make is between different types of knives and their respective uses.
Let’s start with something like a steak knife. Its job is pretty obvious. It’s used to cut steaks and cooked meats.
However, can you imagine trying to carve a whole Christmas turkey with just a small steak knife?
No. It’s far too small and not at all suitable for the job.
You’d need a carving knife that has been purposefully designed for a job such as carving the turkey.
A similar dynamic exists between classical and acoustic guitars.
Sound difference between acoustic and classical guitar
Acoustic and classical guitars may look similar, but they actually have a few very important differences. For one thing, acoustic guitars typically have a steel string, while classical guitars have nylon strings.
This gives acoustic guitars a brighter, more twangy sound, while classical guitars have a softer, mellower sound. In addition, acoustic guitars generally have a smaller body than classical guitars, which gives them a warmer sound.
Finally, the two types of guitars are played differently: classical guitarists use a lot of finger-picking techniques, while acoustic guitarists tend to strum more chords. All of these factors combine to create two very distinct sounds.
Which is the best choice between acoustic or classical for the genre of music you want to play
To help you figure out which type of guitar is the best choice for you and the kind of music you want to play, let’s look next at the various pros and cons of playing and learning each instrument.
Classical guitar pros
Classical guitar has been gaining popularity in recent years as a solo instrument. Its popularity is due largely to the fact that it is relatively easy to learn how to play, and it is a very versatile instrument.
Classical guitar can be used for a wide range of genres, from classical and Spanish music to jazz and pop. It is also a very portable instrument, so it is easy to take with you wherever you go. If you are thinking about learning how to play classical guitar, here are some of the pros that you can look forward to:
1. You will be able to play a wide range of genres.
2. It is a very portable instrument.
3. Classical guitars are relatively affordable.
4. It is a relatively easy instrument to learn how to play.
Classical guitar cons
There are a few cons to playing classical guitar, the most noteworthy being the amount of time it takes to learn. Many guitarists give up because they don’t see results fast enough. Classical guitar is an intricate and delicate style that takes years of practice to master. The other big con is the cost of classical guitars.
They are typically made with higher quality materials than regular guitars, and as a result, they can be quite expensive. If you’re not careful, you could easily spend more on your instrument than you ever would have made in music lessons!
Lastly, classical guitars can be fairly fragile and require extra care when Tuning and handling. With all that said, I would still highly recommend learning classical guitar to any passionate music lover. The rewards definitely outweigh the drawbacks!
Acoustic guitar pros
There are many reasons to learn how to play acoustic guitar. For one, it is a widely popular instrument that is used in all genres of music. As a result, learning acoustic guitar can help you to appreciate a wider range of music.
In addition, acoustic guitar is relatively easy to learn how to play, and it can be a great way to relax and de-stress. Moreover, playing acoustic guitar can be a great way to meet new people and make friends.
Finally, learning how to play acoustic guitar can be a great way to boost your self-confidence. Whether you are looking to improve your musical skills or simply want to find a new hobby, learning acoustic guitar is sure to offer plenty of rewards.
Acoustic guitar cons
Learning acoustic guitar has some cons. First, it can be more expensive than other kinds of guitars. Second, it can be harder to find a guitar that’s the right size for you. Third, you might have to put more effort into learning how to play acoustic guitar because it doesn’t have as many features as other kinds of guitars.
Fourth, you might not be able to play as loud as you want with an acoustic guitar. Finally, you might not be able to play all the songs you want to play with an acoustic guitar. These are all things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about learning acoustic guitar.
Benefits of learning acoustic
Learning to play acoustic guitar has many benefits. For one, it’s a great way to relax and unwind. Strumming chords and picking out melodies can be very therapeutic, and it’s a skill you can enjoy for your entire life.
Acoustic guitar is also a versatile instrument that can be used in a variety of genres, from folk to rock to country. In addition, acoustic guitar is relatively easy to learn when compared to other instruments like piano or violin.
And once you’ve learned the basics, you can start playing along with your favorite songs right away. So if you’re looking for a fun and rewarding hobby, learning acoustic guitar is a great choice.
Benefits of learning classical
There are many benefits to learning classical guitar. For one, classical guitar can help improve your dexterity and coordination. In addition, it can also help to develop a strong sense of rhythm. Additionally, classical guitar can be soothing and relaxing, providing a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
And finally, learning classical guitar can be a great way to meet new people and make new friends. So if you’re looking for a new hobby that offers numerous benefits, look no further than classical guitar!
Which of these guitars you end up learning is ultimately your choice. The best thing to do is try both, get your feet wet, so to speak, and then judge on your own experience.
And if you really can’t decide then just trust your gut and go with the option you enjoy the most.
Music is meant to be fun after all!
Best For Beginners – Classical Guitar Package
Best For Beginners
Designed for beginners
Value for money: 8.5/10
More features: Comes with accessories
- Only good for beginners
Best Accessory – Polytune Clip
Best For All Levels
Designed for all guitars
Value for money: 9.3/10
More features: Bright and clear display
- Very accurate and easy to use
- Easy to lose
Best Acoustic Guitar – Martin Smith
Best For Beginners
Designed for beginners
Value for money: 7.5/10
More features: Comes with accessories
- Build quality is not as good as other models