Classical and acoustic guitars are non-electric instruments that often look similar. However, there is a vast difference between both types.
Many of them often stumble upon which guitar type to choose, especially the beginners.
Today, we take up this classical guitar vs. acoustic guitar debate to clarify the differences between the duo. Also, we will emphasize certain characteristic features that will help the readers and the guitarists analyze which guitar is best for them.
Here is everything you need to know about classical and acoustic guitars.
First, let us try to understand about each type and its similarities.
What Is a Classical Guitar?
A classical guitar is a type of guitar that uses nylon strings for playing music.
What Is an Acoustic Guitar?
An acoustic guitar is one that has steel strings. Hence, it is also called a steel-string guitar.
Are there any similarities between these instruments? Let us try to find them below.
What Are The Similarities Between Classical and Acoustic Guitars?
Before we discuss the differences between classical and acoustic guitars, let us learn about their similarities.
|Features||Classical guitar||Acoustic guitar|
|Strings||A classical guitar has six strings.||An acoustic guitar also has six strings.|
|Soundhole||A classical guitar has a soundhole.||An acoustic guitar also has a soundhole.|
|Frets||A classical guitar has frets.||An acoustic guitar also has frets.|
|Tuning Pegs||A classical guitar has tuning pegs.||An acoustic guitar also has tuning pegs.|
|Body||A classical guitar has a round body.||An acoustic guitar also has a round body.|
What Are The Differences Between Classical and Acoustic Guitars?
Here is a table depicting the distinguishing characteristics between a classical guitar and an acoustic guitar.
Feature Classic Guitar Acoustic Guitar
Strings Material A classical guitar has nylon strings. The strings of an acoustic guitar are of steel material.
Sound From The Strings A classical guitar produces a softer or mellower sound. An acoustic guitar produces bright and resonating sound.
Neck Size Classical guitars have wider necks than the acoustic models Acoustic guitars have a smaller neck
Truss Rod In Neck A classical guitar does not have a truss rod. An acoustic guitar has a truss rod through its neck.
Fretboard Wider Fretboard than the acoustic guitars The fretboards of acoustic guitars are less wide.
Body Shape Smaller than acoustic guitars Larger than classical guitars
Bridge Classical guitar has a wrap-around bridge An acoustic guitar has pegs to securely hold the strings in place
Tuning Pegs A classical guitar has tuning pegs made of plastic and metal materials. An acoustic model has the entire tuning peg made of metal only.
Cutaways Less classical models come with cutaways. Most acoustic guitars come with cutaways.
Bracing The classical guitars have lighter bracing in comparison to the acoustic. The acoustic models have solid bracing.
Styles Of Music Played The classical models are most suitable for playing many styles like Latin music, Brazilian music, pop, folk, etc. The Acoustic guitar is ideal for playing the music of almost all genres. It could be rock, soft rock, metal, blues, etc.
Price Classical guitars are less cheaper than the acoustic models Acoustic guitars are comparatively a little pricier than the classical guitars
Let us discuss in detail about each distinguishing feature and also have a look at other significant features.
Material Of Strings
Let us start with the strings. The materials used for strings in both classical and acoustic guitars are different.
While classical guitars have strings made of nylon material, the acoustic models have steel strings.
If we consider the treble strings in the classical guitars, i.e., the G, B, and high E strings, they consist of nylon monofilament core material. Whereas the bass strings, i.e., E, A, and D, are usually made of nylon multifilament core material.
Coming to the acoustic guitars, you can find the strings in different materials like nickel, bronze, etc.
When compared to the steel strings, the nylon strings give a softer feel when you touch them.
The acoustic guitar strings may feel sharper on the fingers of the player.
Sound From The Strings
Because the nylon strings are very thicker, the classical guitars produce a softer or mellower sounding.
In contrast to the above, the steel strings of the acoustic guitars are thinner. Hence, they produce bright and resonating sounds.
The next distinguishing feature is the neck size of the guitars. The classical guitars have a wider neck than their acoustic cousins. They also have a large spacing between each string on the neck. These guitars usually come with a neck width of two inches and above, i.e., approximately 50mm.
When it comes to the acoustic models, they have a smaller neck. And hence, they have smaller spacing, as well, between each string. The neck width of acoustic guitars comes in 1.69 or 1.72 inches. It would come to about 43 or 44 mm.
We all know that acoustic guitar is exclusively for strumming. Hence, a neck with a smaller width and short string spacing makes it easier for guitarists to play.
Acoustic guitars with 12 strings are also available. However, these models have wider necks for accommodating extra strings on them.
Common Styles Played
Let us talk about the styles of music played on these guitars. The classical models are most suitable for playing many styles like Latin music, Brazilian music, pop, folk, etc.
The Acoustic guitar is ideal for playing the music of almost all genres. It could be rock, soft rock, metal, blues, etc.
The fretboard is yet another distinguishing feature between classical and acoustic guitars. A classical guitar has a wider fretboard when compared to an acoustic model. Also, it has wider spacing between the strings. Because of this, the guitarists may find it easier and comfortable to play. However, when it comes to playing larger cords, it can be harder because of these larger gaps. Similarly, people with smaller fingers will also find it difficult. Most classical guitars do not have fret markers along the fingerboard as an acoustic does.
The fretboard of an acoustic guitar is less wide in comparison to the acoustic guitar.
A truss rod is something that an acoustic guitar has, and a classical model does not. This truss rod is nothing but a steel rod that runs through the neck. This is necessary for acoustic guitars because the steel strings place some additional tension on the neck. You can adjust this rod as and when needed.
However, a classical guitar does not need any truss rod because the nylon strings do not add any tension.
Where the neck Joins at the body
You should also consider the point where the neck of the guitar joins the body. If we take the classical guitars, most of the necks join the bodies at the 12th fret.
Whereas in the acoustic guitars, the body and the neck join at the 14th fret. However, there are models from acoustic whose neck joins at the 12th fret of the body. The 12-fret acoustic guitars are the traditional variants.
Attaching the Strings to the Bridge
Let us consider the bridge and how they attach the strings to them. In classical guitars, they use a classic wrap-around bridge to tie the strings around it in a knot. This helps in securing the strings on the bridge and is similar to the ukulele.
Coming to the acoustic guitars, they have pegs on the bridge to securely hold the strings in place.
The mechanism of tuning pegs is entirely different for both types.
A classical guitar has tuning pegs made of plastic and metal materials.
An acoustic model has the entire tuning peg made of metal only.
Comparatively, classical guitars are smaller than their acoustic cousins.
The acoustic guitars are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are smaller than the classical models. However, if you consider an average acoustic guitar, it is larger than the classical one.
The body shape of both guitars is very different.
Comparatively, the acoustic guitars have a dreadnought shape, which is larger than the classical guitars. These have cutaways that allow you to access the higher frets. This is something you rarely find in classical models.
The bracing is yet another crucial factor one needs to consider when analyzing the significant features between acoustic and classical guitars.
Let us start with the classical variants. These guitars have lighter bracing in comparison to the acoustic.
Whereas, the acoustic models have solid bracing. This helps in keeping the device sturdy with the tension of the strings. Additionally, it also allows better projection and resonance when playing the music on the strings.
Let us talk about the machine heads in the classical guitars. It is an open mechanism where you can slot the headstock.
Even the acoustic guitars have a similar open mechanism for their machine heads. The only difference is that the machinery lies hidden, and you can seldom slot the headstock.
Coming to the cutaways, you find very few classical guitars with cutaways. However, it is a very uncommon scenario.
Most acoustic guitars come with cutaways in comparison to the classical models.
The timbre or sound you get from the guitars is entirely dependent on the strings and shape of the guitar. Hence, it is a crucial factor to consider before choosing between these guitars.
You cannot play all styles of music on a classical guitar alone. There are specific genres like the Gypsy Kings-style music, Flamenco or Spanish guitar, Bossa Nova, etc. Classical guitars are ideal for such genres.
When it comes to acoustic guitars, we all know that they are the best for strumming and chordal work. You can use acoustic guitars for genres like folk, pop music, and country music.
Different Types Of Tonewoods Used
Let us move on to the tonewoods used in both classical and acoustic guitars. They use different types of tonewoods for building the guitars. These different woods not only make the instruments look different but also sound different. The most common type of wood you find in both guitars is crossover tone wood.
Below are the most common tonewoods you find in the classical guitars:
Classical Guitar Tonewood – Top
- Spruce (They use different varieties of spruce. But the most popular one is the Engelmann spruce)
Classical Guitar Tonewood – Back and Sides
Below are the most common tonewood options available for acoustic guitars:
Acoustic Guitar Tonewood – Top
- Spruce (Sitka, Engelmann, and Adirondack are the most common varieties used in Spruce)
Acoustic Guitar Tonewood – Back and Sides
Let us talk about price, the most crucial and determining factor for choosing.
Classical guitars are comparatively cheaper than acoustic guitars. Hence, many beginners use the classical models first to embark on their musical journey. They will further progress to the acoustic models.
Is Acoustic Guitar Hard to Play?
We all know that acoustic guitars are a little larger in size than the classical guitar. Moreover, their body shape is also different from the latter. When it comes to playing an acoustic guitar, they may be a little difficult.
Comparatively, classical guitars are much easier to play. Hence, beginners typically choose these models to learn the guitar first as it is not hard as learning the acoustic.
Let us say, you have started your guitar lessons on your new acoustic guitar. Since it is a little difficult to learn, you may feel the same and eventually end up demotivated. This will result in bringing your practice to a halt immediately after you started.
Most guitarists start with the classical models and then progress to the acoustic.
Once you get a hang of playing, you will enjoy an acoustic guitar for sure. What many people describe as an acoustic model is, it is a guitar with a soul. When you get into the swing of things like learning guitars, playing an acoustic is as easy as it can be.
Most people do not use picks or thumb picks for playing acoustic guitar. They do it with their fingertips.
Which Guitar Is Best For Beginners?
Even before you start with your guitar classes, you need to decide for yourself what style and type of music that you want to play. Once you have clarity on the same, you can choose the right one depending on the choice of your music.
Let us say you love pop music, or rock or country music. If you want to play any of these, then the acoustic guitars are undoubtedly the best bet. However, you need to be aware that your fingers may likely have to go through a bit of pain initially when learning. If you are willing for this, you can consider the acoustic guitar as the perfect choice.
If you are more into genres like the Latin styles or the general folk style, a classical guitar is the best option. As mentioned in this article, the nylon strings of the classical model will be softer on your fingers. You will find it easier to learn on these guitars. People with short fingers may find it a little difficult because of the wider neck and also the wider string spacing.
If you are someone who wants to play just a classical guitar, then the only option you have is nothing but a classical guitar.
If it is a child or a person with small hands learning the guitar, it is advisable to prefer a smaller student guitar with nylon strings. The advantage of using this is that it has a thinner neck. That said, it is very easy to hold, and you will not have trouble playing them. The name given to these guitars is 3/4 size guitars or student guitars.
Are you planning to take your guitar lessons? We suggest you to ask your teacher which guitar they would prefer for you to learn on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can convert an acoustic guitar into an electric guitar through multiple ways including the use of pedals, power chords, microphones, and electromagnetic pickups.
No, you do not need an amplifier for a classical guitar. It has a hollow body that resonates sound, eliminating the need for an amplifier.
No, you don’t. You can unplug the acoustic-electric guitar and play it like a normal acoustic guitar. The hollow design of the acoustic guitar will help the sound to resonate.
A classical guitar produces a soft, melodious, and resonating sound. While it can be used to play different genres, the most popular genres played using classical guitars are classical, flamenco, and bossa nova music.
Classical guitars have nylon strings that are soft making them easier to play compared to other guitars. They are ideal for beginners and produce a soft resonating sound.
I hope this article answered all your questions related to classical and acoustic guitars. When it comes to choosing the best guitar for a beginner, I think you already have the answer. With all the necessary information provided, you must now be able to make a wise decision on what to choose and why to choose. Let us know what type of guitar would you like to learn by posting your answers in the comments.
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