Top 5 Best Classical Guitars in 2020 Reviews

classical guitar buying guideThe Classical guitar is probably the most familiar type of guitar for most people. This is mainly because it has been around for many years but, also, because it does not require a guitar amplifier. This means that you can play it anywhere; by the fire, in the living room, on the street. You can play a classical guitar anywhere you want! The guitar’s sound has definitely also been of great importance to its popularity.

Classical guitars on Amazon

The Classical guitar is also sometimes called a ‘classic guitar’. It gets its name because classical music on guitar is traditionally and, still to this day, generally played on a Classical guitar. As a beginner, it is often the classical guitar that you first learn to play on. One of the reasons for this is that you play classical music on this guitar and playing classical music requires that you have control over the main guitar techniques. Therefore, from the start of your studies, you will learn to play correctly, which makes life easier later on when you may switch to playing electric guitar or acoustic-electric guitar.

I personally started our playing Classical guitar and classical music. It also meant that I quickly learned difficult but very important techniques. You do not do this in the same way when playing the other types of guitars; at least, you are not aware of it in the same way. Today I play only on Acoustic-electric Guitars, but I am very glad that I started out with the Classical guitar. It expanded both my musical horizons and my technique.

Top 5 Best Classical Guitars

To make the choice of classical guitar easier, I have tested, reviewed and found some of the best guitars in the market. There should be a guitar for every budget and level. Common to them all is that the quality is great and the sound is really good.

Overall Winner: Best Classical Guitar Right Now

Best classical guitar for beginners

Best classical guitar for intermediate and advanced players

Best classical guitar under 500

Best classical guitar under 1000

Best classical guitar under 2000

Best classical guitar for jazz

What is a Classical guitar?

A Classical guitar is characterized by having a wide neck and nylon strings. In addition, the guitar also has a warm, dark, full-bodied and round sound as opposed to, for example, the acoustic-electric guitar, which has a more metallic sound.

The classic guitar roughly consists of the same parts as all other types of guitars. The sound is formed by the vibrations of the strings. Then the sound hole picks up the vibrations, which create a sound.

However, there is a big difference between what materials the guitar parts are made of. There is also a big difference in the size and shape of each part. For example, in some cases, a classical guitar has a neck that is almost twice as wide as an electric guitar.

The strings are also longer on a classical guitar. The length from the nut to the saddle is often 650 mm on a Classical guitar, while the length is only 644 mm in acoustic-electric guitar. And what does that mean for the sound? Well, that means the bass and the sustain are more powerful on a Classical guitar.

Last but not least, the guitar’s body is smaller and therefore easier to handle, unlike other guitars.

Important: Remember to not put steel strings on a Classical guitar. The high tension of the steel strings will destroy the guitar. Nylon strings have a tension between 35-40 kg, whereas the tension of the steel strings is between 70-90 kg.

Classical guitar history

Vihuela tabs from year 1554

Vihuela tabs from year 1554

We don’t really know much about the origin of the classical guitar. At least not much about what happened before the 16th century. The only thing we know is that the guitar, in some form or another, has been around for a long time. We know that the Hittites, as early as 1400BC, played on a string instrument that consisted of a long neck and a body.

We have to go all the way to the 16th century before we can safely talk about a definite classical guitar. In Spain, an instrument called the vihuela was invented. This instrument was mostly used by senior people, nobility, but there was also a similar instrument, the guiterra, which was used by the general population. In the mid-16th century, the two instruments had been become one. The instrument had 8 string and quickly became popular, not only in Spain but also abroad. This design of was the first to be called the classical guitar.

Before the guitar was invented, the lute was the most popular string instrument. But the Classical guitar was easier to play and so the guitar’s popularity rose greatly through the 18th and 19th centuries. In the beginning of the 19th century, the guitar was made with only 6 strings, and it started to shape itself into the instrument we know today.

The Classical guitar is, today, one of the most popular guitars. However, the instrument has tended to be considered less “cool” over the last 10 years, with some even considering the it to be ‘boring’. Personally, I think it’s a shame. For there is no doubt that this guitar has something unique about it. You cannot hide behind effects, distortion, pedals and other forms of “support”. By playing on a Classical guitar, you get the music in its most natural and beautiful form. That’s not saying that  you can’t be a good guitarist when playing electric guitar and acoustic-electric guitar, of course, but there is something particularly natural and unique about a classical guitar.

Guitar style periods

Throughout history, there have been a number of different style periods, each of which has characterized the music. For some periods music pieces / tunes have been very romantic, while in other periods they have been harsh and complex. I will briefly address the most important style periods:

  • The Renaissance: a period from the 14th to the 17th century where the guitar was actually used like it is today. The guitar had a retracted role and was used to accompany singers and music groups. The music was very complex, heavy and very reminiscent of the music played on the lute. The greatest guitarists of this period were Alonso Mudarra, Miguel de Fuenllana and Guillaume de Morlaye.
  • Baroque: a period from the 17th century to the 1750s. During this period, musicians began to experiment with music composition and how to play instruments with more advanced techniques. The music in the Baroque was more complex and more comprehensive in relation to the music of the Renaissance. One of the greatest guitarists that ever lived under the baroque. For Gaspar Sanz. Francesco Corbetta and Robert de Visée were also some important guitarists during this period.
  • Classical and romantic: a period from the 1780s to the 1850s. This period really left its mark and much of the music we know today is inspired by this period. Carl Maria von Weber and Niccolò Paganini are some of the most remarkable guitarists of the time.
  • Modern history: a period from the end of the 19th century until today. This period’s music is characterized by having genres without traditional tonal relationships; music that does not have a tonal center around a basic tone. Many composers during this period also try to involve the musician actively in the piece of music.

Different types of Classical guitars

Overall, we distinguish between two types of Classical guitars. It is important that you know the differences as you are faced with the choice of guitar. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Flamenco guitar

The Flamenco guitar has solely been designed and built to play flamenco music. When playing flamenco on guitar, you use a very special technique, one that takes a very long time to master. And This technique can be described as a form of ‘tapping’. You try to create some short and very loud sounds. A flamenco guitar therefore has a thinner top, which is often made in light woods (e.g. spruce). In addition to third, most people use cypress, maple and rosewood for the sides, backs and front of the body. These woods give the rough sound that characterizes flamenco music.

Flamenco guitars often have what are called ‘scratch plates’, which simply protect the guitar from the guitarist’s nails. Something else special about flamenco guitars is that the distance between the strings and the fretboard is not as large – a lower ‘action’. This is because you have to be able to play very fast and have easy access to the strings in this style of playing. However, due to the low distance, chords on a flamenco guitar will sound more scratchy/buzzy and a little less clear, simply because the strings hit the fretboard faster than a classical guitar.

If we have a guitar made specifically for flamenco, then the string holder/bridge will also be placed lower and more flat, as it makes it easier to use flamenco techniques.

Overall, it can be said that the flamenco guitar is lighter and specially designed to play flamenco music.

Classical guitar

The classical guitar (also called the classic guitar) is first and foremost distinguished from the flamenco guitar by being made from other types of wood. For example, the top of a Classical guitar is often made of cedar or spruce. And if we look at the guitar’s body, it is often of rosewood, as this type of wood is very close and durable. Therefore, rosewood gives a deep but high and resonant sound. The guitar’s neck is often made from cedar or mahogany and the neck is thicker than the flamenco guitar.

In terms of the height of the strings and the height of the bridge (which anchors the strings on the body of the guitar), it is actually quite the opposite of the flamenco guitar. A Classical guitar will have a greater distance between strings and fretboard (the ‘action’ is higher) – and a higher string holder. This gives it more clean and pure tones, with greater sustain. Moreover, you will not find scratch plates on a classical guitar as they dampen the sound of the guitar – they are not as necessary for the more classical style of playing, as they are with the more aggressive flamenco style of playing.

Classical guitar buying guide

The choice of guitar is a very important decision, as you will spend a lot of money on the instrument. But it is also an instrument that you may play for many year into the future.

Choosing a guitar is not easy; there are many different aspects and factors that may affect your decision. But it is not an impossible choice either. Read further and learn about which guitar is best for you.

First of all, you need to think about what type of guitar suits the kind of music you want to play. We distinguish here between the flamenco guitar and the classical guitar. If you’ve never played the guitar before, you’re probably best to go for a classical guitar to begin with.

If you had won the lottery, you probably wouldn’t mind spending 3,000 dollars on a guitar. The fact is, there are few who win the lottery, and few people can afford to spend 3,000 dollars on a guitar. We can start by thinking about what a manufacturer does to get a guitar down in price – for example from 3,000 dollars and down to 300 dollars. Think about whether you’re ok with the fact that your guitar may not be handmade and of the best quality. Overall, there are two types of guitar constructions. One is factory made and the other is handmade. The guitar for 3,000 dollars is often handmade, while the cheap guitar is factory-made. Factory production means that they are hand assembled, but by using assembly lines. The expensive guitar for 3,000 dollar has been made by hand throughout the process. E.g. the customer has chosen woods, designs and other materials. Then the instrument maker will cut the wood and construct a guitar that lives up to the customer’s desire. It’s piss expensive (sorry for the language!), but it can also be worth all the money.

The manufacturer can also make the guitar cheaper in other ways. The first thing a manufacturer will do to get the guitar down in price is to make the front of the body out of plywood instead of solidwood. The difference lies in that solidwood can vibrate, and the sound/sound is therefore better as time goes by. Plywood will never improve over time.

The sides and back of the body will also be items you are trying to save. The best wood species on the sides and the back are always rosewood. With the sides and the back functioning as a reflector, they are not the most important parts of the guitar.

It is most important to have a good front. So, if you can find money for it, buy a guitar with a front of solidwood, either of spruce or cedar. The sides and back of the body are not nearly as important.

Another item manufacturers save money on is the sound hole. On expensive guitars, much has been done to engrave fine designs. It has no bearing on the sound quality and therefore you can easily save money on this area.

One last element that can lower the price is the guitar’s head. E.g. The manufacturer can save a lot of money on using a tuning system/tuning pegs that are not as good quality.

Something very important that we haven’t talked about yet is that the guitar must be easy to play on. It is very important that you can hold the strings down with relative ease – especially with your weak fingers (the little finger). If the strings distance from the fretboard is too large, it will definitely give you problems.

Classical Guitar Brands

I will also briefly mention the manufacturers of classical guitars that I think are the best. My experience tells me that they always sell good quality guitars and you should not be afraid to buy their guitars:

  • A&L
  • Alhambra
  • Antonio Picado
  • Armin Hanika
  • Chateau
  • Francisco Esteve
  • Saez Marin
  • Santana
  • Sant Guitars
  • Yamaha

To conclude this section I will give you my recommendation. If you are a beginner, I always recommend buying a cheap guitar for a few hundred dollars, but the guitar must still be of good quality – otherwise you will easily get frustrated with how it feels to play and how it sounds and lose interest.

Keep in mind that you can always upgrade to a better guitar – and you certainly will, if you fall for the instrument 🙂

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