CLASSICAL GUITAR GUIDE
When searching for a classical guitar (also known as Spanish guitars and nylon-stringed guitars), the last thing you want to do is buy a “lemon” that underperforms. You want a great sounding classical that’ll last you for years to come.
In the next several sections we’re going to go over a few quality classical guitars that perform time and time again. We won’t dive into the ultra high-end classical models that can easily cross the four-figure mark -- I’d recommend shopping for those in person.
What we’ll do instead is make some classical guitar recommendations and look at guitars in the middle of the pricing curve known for their quality and performance (like the Cordoba C7, Yamaha C40, or Yamaha NTX700). These are the best classical guitars for the money.
After reading through this buyer’s guide, you’ll have a much better idea about what classical guitar makes most sense to invest in. You’ll know which models are the best in this “middle of the curve” price range, and how they all perform when compared to high-end classical models.
What is the best classical guitar?
For beginners, this would be the Cordoba C7 or Yamaha C40. If you’re a beginner on a budget, the Cordoba C5 is a solid choice. For more experienced classical guitarists, we’d turn our attention to the Yamaha NTX700 and the Antonio Giuliani CL-6.
What about a list? Where can I see all of the good ones?
Even though we've narrowed down our recommendations to the top four (see above), here are 4 additional classical guitars that also perform incredibly well:
Top 8 Classical Guitars (Click to Expand)
Don't buy until you've considered all the options...
Now that you know their names, let’s go over why these particular models should be on your radar.
We’ll pick them all apart (the top classical guitars listed above), look at their pros and cons, and give you some ideas about whether or not that classical you’ve been thinking of snagging is the best choice...
Essentially, we'll take a close look at the best classical guitars for both beginners and more advanced guitarists.
The Best Classical (Nylon String) Guitars for Beginners
When you’re a beginner just picking up the classical guitar you have to make a choice between buying a lower quality “starter” guitar now and upgrading later, or getting a nice high-quality classical guitar right away that’ll stick with you for years to come.
The guitars listed below are high quality, nicer classical guitars proven to perform well and last longer than a cheaper starter guitar would.
If your budget is under $500 and you want a solid classical guitar to start out with, look no further than the Cordoba.
There’s the C5, which comes with its back and sides made of Mahogany and the top made of solid Canadian cedar wood. This is a full-size classical guitar with a great action and top-notch quality sound. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better classical guitar than this for the money.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the higher-end C7. Its back and sides are made of Rosewood and you have your choice of either Canadian cedar or European spruce for the top. I personally recommend the cedar (it has a warmer, rounder tone when compared to spruce), but they both work extremely well for classical music.
Spruce is a great choice if you find yourself playing a lot of guitar body percussion, due to its stiffness. Not only that but having your C7’s top made of spruce will let it withstand a lot more abuse than cedar, making it the perfect choice for body percussion and flamenco.
Even though one of the biggest selling points of the C5/C7 is their incredible price point, they’re overall very comfortable to play and have a great neck shape.
Canadian Cedar Cordoba C5
Cedar Cordoba C7
Spruce Cordoba C7
The C40 classical guitar from Yamaha is an absolute steal for beginners and younger classical guitar learners.
Thanks to Yamaha, we have high-quality sound delivered at a great price point - what more could we ask for?
The C40 is a full-size guitar with a Spruce top and Indonesian Mahogany back and sides. Its bridge and fretboard are made of Rosewood, giving it that nice, polished, genuine classical guitar look.
Compared to most guitars in this price range, it's rare to find a full-size classical guitar that sounds as good as the C40 and doesn’t break the bank.
Most of the classical guitars we found in this same price range were 3/4 size rather than full-size. Now that’s a bargain.
When it comes to playability, the Yamaha C40 has a low action making it great for beginners. If you want to quickly learn how to play some barre chords without any fret buzz or without any pesky strings getting accidentally muted, a low action like this is going to help you tremendously.
It’s true that you learn faster on a higher-quality instrument. Whether you’re learning in a Classical Guitar Class, Flamenco Guitar Class, or just on your own through some online guitar lessons, don’t limit yourself right off the bat by choosing a sub-par guitar.
This guitar is worth the investment.
The Best Nylon-Stringed Classical Guitars for Experienced Guitarists
If you’re a more experienced classical guitarist, you can easily go with the same Cordoba C7 and the Yamaha C40 that we recommended to beginners earlier in this article and still get an incredible sound.
But if you want to step it up a notch and become the proud owner of a nicer, high-quality classical guitar, here are a few to consider.
If you’re looking to buy quality that lasts long-term, look no further than the NTX700.
It has a Solid Spruce top with its back, sides, and neck made of Nato wood. Nato wood isn’t the only option, however. There are two more variations you can pick for the back and sides: Flamed Maple or Rosewood.
The unique thing about this guitar is the fact that it comes with Yamaha’s ART 2-way pickup system and a control panel built right into the guitar body.
The control panel features a three-band EQ system, pickup volume adjustment, master volume, and a tuner setting. (Side note: On the subject of tuning, check out our 12-string guitar tuning guide).
It’s worth mentioning this is a Jumbo-size guitar, meaning it runs larger than your typical full-size model. Some may find playing a jumbo guitar uncomfortable, particularly if it’s too large to hold comfortably.
If you’re looking for power, volume,and rich tonal quality, the larger NTX body makes this possible.
Overall, with regards to tone, you’ll find a blended and well-balanced frequency range with a lot of width.
It’s true that the NTX700 isn’t as refined as some of the higher-end jumbo models out there, but for its body shape, price point, and build quality, it delivers when it comes to tonal clarity and power.
This classical NTX from Yamaha is a great investment if you’re looking for quality, a balanced frequency range, and power/volume.
If you want a guitar that sounds and plays like a thousand dollar guitar, the Antonio Giuliani CL-6 won’t let you down.
Letting out a full, warm, projected tone on every note you play, this is a gorgeous guitar with its rosewood back and sides, detailed central rosette, and quality brown finish.
What we found most impressive about Antonio Giuliani guitars is the fact that they’re all hand-crafted using methods developed by traditional Spanish luthiers.
While most guitars in the same price range as the CL-6 use regular laminate wood for their tops, this guitar’s top is constructed from solid cedar wood. That’s a pretty big deal.
By using high-quality cedar for the CL-6’s top, the wood gives this guitar a particularly rich tonal quality that’s difficult to find at this price point.
But… that’s not all!
The Giuliani CL-6 is built with dual-action truss rods, letting you easily switch between heavy, medium, and light tension strings.
Since dual-action truss rods are easily adjustable, you won’t have to wait as long for this guitar to “acclimate” to a new climate in case you decide to move/travel to another region where humidity (or the lack of humidity) can potentially damage your classical guitar. Speaking of travel, check out our travel guitar recommendations.
The beauty of these dual-action rods is that while regular compression rods require adjustments on a seasonal basis, these don’t!
Its projection, tonal quality, and dynamics are hard to beat. At this price point, it’s simply a steal.
Related Questions: Classical Guitar Q&A
How much does a classical guitar cost?
Beginner classical guitars can be bought for $100 - $250. Intermediate classicals with slightly higher tonal quality, dynamics, and construction will run between $250 to $550. And on the high-end, a handcrafted vintage classical with history can easily hit 4-digits with prices of $1,000 and up.
What are the best classical guitar strings?
Classical guitars use either nylon or gut strings with lower tension, producing that soft, classical tone we all love and cherish. The best classical guitar strings, based on popular opinion, reliability, and tone, are the EJ45 Alto Horn Mute set from D’Addario (Amazon).
These strings are affordable, made in the USA, and come in four varying tensions.
How high should the action be on a classical guitar?
The string height, or action, of a classical guitar directly affects its sound and playability. The lower the guitar action height, the easier it is to play. Based on most guitar manufacturers and players, the ideal action height is ~4mm for the low E string, and ~3mm for the high E string.
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