To play a classical guitar piece requires a high level of musicianship and technical proficiency and is definitely not boring. Listening to and playing guitar in one of its best creative forms, is well worth it.
Although it’s called a classical guitar, that doesn’t limit playing only classical music. You can play a broad range of styles including Classical, Latin as well as pop and rock. At the end of this post are some examples of music that you can play with classical guitar.
One of our students, currently finishing his grade 4, performed a classical guitar solo at our End of Term concert. A great guitarist in the making.
The difference between classical and acoustic guitar
There is often confusion surrounding the differences between classical and acoustic (steel strung) guitars. The word “acoustic” essentially refers to the sound that is produced within the guitar body without the use of an amplifier.
What is the difference between classical an acoustic then? Here are some distinguishing factors
Size and weight:
Classical or nylon guitars are much lighter and generally smaller than acoustic guitars. Classical guitars are also made in smaller sizes like 1/2 & 3/4 size which makes them ideal for younger beginners.
The classical guitar is built with a wider neck on the full size instruments which allows for the more complex finger & hand positions sometimes required for classical playing. On the plus side, the smaller guitars have a neck width very similar to a steel strung acoustic or electric guitar. That means if a younger students starts on a classical they can transition to a different type of guitar smoothly. So classical guitars represent a low cost and sensible entry point into guitar playing of any sort.
Where the acoustic guitar has a truss rod in the neck, the classical guitar doesn’t. The truss rod allows you to alter the set of the neck relative to the body – e.g. to straighten unwanted curves which make it hard to play. So classical guitars need to made to high standards so that they last the test of time.
Where the classical guitar uses only nylon strings, a modern acoustic guitar is designed to be used with steel strings. For this reason many people refer to the acoustic guitar as a steel string guitar. Nylon guitars are light and built with woods to strengthen the resonance of the instrument. Nylon strings are easier to press down than steel strings so are more suited to beginners softer fingers which always a help at the start!
The classical guitar has a softer, more mellow tone due to the nylon strings compared to the louder, more resonant tone of the steel strung acoustic guitar.
Types of classical guitars
If you are considering playing classical guitar, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to choose a starter nylon guitar. Although there are many brands, there are some great sounding nylon strung guitars that are very affordable. You will probably find yourself comparing the budget classical guitars with the more expensive models.
With regards to the action of the guitar (the distance between the frets and strings), there is not much difference. The differences you find are in the tone (the richness, mellowness and clarity of the notes produced). Naturally, there are differences in the quality of the neck, frets and overall craftsmanship of the guitar and the type of woods used as well as the construction methods.
A good beginner classical guitar to start with is the Jose Ferrer model which is available in ½, ¾ and full size.