CLASSICAL VS. ACOUSTIC GUITARS –
WHICH IS RIGHT FOR ME?
NYLON STRING GUITARS VS. STEEL STRING ACOUSTIC
So you’ve decided to start playing the guitar! First of all, congratulations, you’re about to embark on a rewarding musical journey that will undoubtedly change your life for the better – yes, guitar is that good! The journey begins by deciding what type of guitar you want to start with though, a tough decision! Of course, you can start with any type of guitar, whether electric, acoustic or classical, and once you’ve learned the basics you can swap between all of them at your own pace, but today we’re going to be talking about the most common starting points for guitarists; acoustic and classical guitars. But which one is right for you?
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.
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. Quite often classical guitars will not have the fret markers (dots or inlays) along the fingerboard either.
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 clear up one thing – 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.
Posted by Lee Glynn