Classical guitar is one of the oldest styles of music played commonly today. To say it’s beautiful is to understate its exceptional character, melody, and range of sound–but if you already play classical guitar, we don’t have to tell you that!
If you’re shopping for the best classical guitar, there’s a lot you need to know about how to select a guitar, and below you can find our buyer’s guide to help you through the process. To make it even easier and simpler, we include our top choices for the best classical guitar, whether you’re a beginner player or advanced.
How to Choose a Classical Guitar
Whether you’re purchasing a new or vintage guitar, spending $100 or $1500, or looking for an inexpensive practice guitar or the best classical guitar money can buy, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Pay Attention to the Fit
Everybody has a different body size and shape, and every guitar is shaped differently; it’s important that your guitar matches you! A guitar that’s too large will make playing difficult–if your hands are small, if you are just beginning, or if you are petite, look into guitars that can come in ¾ or ½ sizes or look at crossover guitars that have smaller nuts.
This will make your playing experience significantly better, which will only help your skill increase!
2. Sound is Personal
Nobody can choose a guitar for you; you need to hear how it sounds to decide if it’s the best classical guitar for you! You might be considering a several thousand dollar handmade instrument, but if it’s not a sound that you, personally, love, it’s not worth the investment!
3. Look for Quality
When you’re choosing a new instrument, here are two places to check for quality: first, make sure the guitar’s neck is straight. This is particularly important in an older instrument, as the tension of the strings can, over time, cause the neck to bend towards the body. You don’t want this!
Also, make sure you understand if the guitar’s top is laminate wood or solid wood. Laminate is less expensive and holds up better in unfavorable weather, but solid wood makes a much better sound that will get better with age. Neither is good or bad, but both impact sound and price, so shop carefully.
How We Chose Our Ratings
A classical guitar is nothing less than an investment, but it can also enhance your quality of life tenfold–but only if you’ve chosen well. That’s why we’ve made every effort in this guide to provide you with the most honest and accurate information possible. We dug through customer testimonials, scoured reviews, and listened to the experts to find guitars that will make you confident about your purchase.
Best Classical Guitars for Beginners
- Body Depth: 98mm (3.9") at upper bout, 99mm (3.9") at lower bout
- Body Width and Length: 285mm (11.2") at upper bout, 370mm (14.6") at lower bout
- Gold tuners with Pearl buttons
The Cordoba C1 is one of our favorites for beginners, and the reasons are long and varied. To begin, it comes with a padded gig bag. It has a rich, traditional tone, and comes in ¼, ½, and ¾ sizes, which makes it ideal for young children or very petite adults.
The C1 also comes with an unusual feature for classical guitars–a truss rod. A truss rod is often found in acoustic guitars, but rarely in classical guitars. It’s a rod that runs the length of the neck and is threaded with a nut on one end so that the player can adjust it. Essentially, it works against the tension caused by the strings, which can make playing more comfortable for beginners.
Yamaha is another great classical guitar maker, but this C1’s neck is a little thinner than its comparable Yamaha counterpart, making it a better choice–at least in our opinion!
Cordoba is known for making high-quality instruments, and it doesn’t disappoint here. Its beautiful high-gloss finish matches a lovely wood-inlaid mosaic rosette, and it’s easily one of the better quality instruments designed to be well-handled by beginners.
The bottom line: even advanced players wouldn’t be shy about being seen with this Cordoba guitar; it’s an all-around win for us!
- Nato Back & Sides
- Solid Cedar Top
- Rosewood Fingerboard
This Yamaha is another great piece for beginners that you might even find in the hands of an advanced player. Musicians can choose either a solid Spruce top or a solid Cedar top.
This Yamaha comes in a clean matte finish with white pearloid peg tuners and chrome hardware, so it looks exactly how you’d expect a classical guitar to look. Plus, you’ll get a rosewood fretboard and bridge alongside a nato neck, sides, and back.
The CG122MC has an open tone and lots of “bold tone balanced from lows to highs” which pairs beautifully with its open tone. It gets a little extra punch thanks to a just-there emphasis on the mid-range.
The bottom line: this Yamaha CG122MC easily looks and sounds like it should cost a lot more–but it doesn’t.
Cordoba C5 Classical Guitar Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
- Solid Canadian cedar top
- Mahogany back and sides
- 52mm nut width
We’re big fans of Cordoba when it comes to producing great instruments that are well built. While the Cordoba C1 we’ve already reviewed, the Iberia C5 Classical is about twice that. It will be out of reach for some beginners, but we include it here because it has a solid top–and if you can pay the extra for the solid top, you should.
The other two guitars we’ve already reviewed (the Cordoba C1 and the Yamaha CG122MC) are both laminate tops. Laminate has a ton of benefits–it’s strong, it’s cheap, and it won’t be very susceptible to weather conditions (hello campfire playing!).
However, because laminate doesn’t move much, it won’t reproduce the same kind of resonance as a solid wood top, since it’s the top that creates most of the guitar’s sound. Plus, a wood top, over time, will mellow even more, and you’ll get a richer sound as the guitar ages, which won’t happen with a laminate guitar.
Again, the laminate tops we’ve already mentioned are terrific guitars, but if you feel confident you’ll be playing this style of music for the long-haul, this is the best classical guitar for you since it will age nicely as you grow in your abilities. In other words, it will take you a long, long time to outgrow this instrument.
The C5’s sound is beautiful; Cordoba has built a ton of lightness into the instrument, and it shows. It does, however, have a satin finish. This type of lighter finish adds to the movability and lightness of the guitar, but it is harder to keep clean. Otherwise, this guitar creates beautifully-toned individual notes while also having the chops to carry long, sustained chords.
The bottom line: this is our top pick for beginners if you can afford the extra cost for the solid top. It’s easy to play and sounds beautiful–you’ll want to keep it around even when you’ve passed the beginner stage.
Best Crossover Classical Guitars
- Solid Cedar Top
- Two-Chambered Silver Leaf Body
- Custom Godin Dual Source System
Crossover guitars are classical guitars with cutaways and necks that are more narrow. They also usually are electrified (with electric pickups and a preamp), though not always. The people who tend to enjoy crossovers are those who find classical guitars uncomfortably large or who play both classical and acoustic or electric guitar and simply want a good transition instrument.
Whatever the reason you’re interested in a crossover, one of our favorites is the Godin Multiac Encore Nylon. It’s got 12 frets and a nearly flat fingerboard, while the nut is less than two inches, making it supremely easy to play.
You’ll find all the electric controls–eight mini sound ports and five slider controls–and if you perform with a full band frequently, these will come in handy. The Encore shines in these situations, especially when you know you’ll be competing with lots of other instruments.
The bottom line: the Encore won’t satisfy traditionalists, but crossover fans will love it.
- Solid European spruce top with cypress back and sides
- Signature Gipsy Kings flamenco model
- Fishman Presys Blend electronics with onboard tuner
Yes, Cordoba is a city in Spain. No, Cordoba guitars are not made in Spain. While this is sad, it’s to our advantage, because we get this gorgeous crossover at a much, much affordable price. It’s got a solid spruce top that lends it a rich, vibrant sound that you’ll revel in whether you’re playing flamenco or classical. You’ll get a slightly more traditionally sized nut (about two inches) than some other crossovers, but you’ll still get a flat fingerboard.
Our one piece of criticism is on the output–some reviewers point out that the fret tops can be rough. However, the entire construction of the Studio is done with a very light touch. Plus, it has a dual-action truss rod. As we’ve already explained, these aren’t found on traditional classical guitars, but they make the Studio much more accessible to all but the most advanced guitarists.
The bottom line: the Studio from Cordoba is a beautifully made crossover that makes for the best classical guitar in its price range.
Best Classical Guitars for Advanced Players
- Suitable: Beginner, Youth, Adult, Who wants to pay more to get a real classical guitar for long practice
- Features: Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, Okoume neck, Santos fingerboard & bridge, Well selected and handcraft
- Sound: Warm, Elegant, and wide range expression, make your ears fall in love with it
Classical guitar has many different expressions–some guitars are better suited for concert halls, some are for latin or bossa nova, and some are for the vibrant and colorful music of flamenco. The ADM JCS633-39 is one such guitar. Made with beautiful red maple wood with dark binding, the ADM JCS633-39 is loud and plays well on the upper register–perfect for the rhythmical dance that pairs so often with castanets.
It’s solid spruce with an ebony body that doesn’t use any glue at the neck joint; instead, the ADM JCS633-39 uses a joint carefully constructed from mahogany (it’s called a Spanish heel). Flamenco is a highly advanced guitar technique, and the ADM, with its rosewood details and lack of golpeadores, is an advanced guitar.
While it might also suit somebody crossing over from classical guitar to flamenco, it’s not for the beginning classical guitar player.
The bottom line: this stunning guitar is perfect for bossa nova, latin, and especially flamenco–but not for beginners to classical guitar.
- Highly affordable dreadnought acoustic-electric cutaway that is great for beginners
- Laminate spruce top and basswood back and sides produce great tone
- Nato, C-shaped neck with hardwood fingerboard offers great playability
Historians are undecided on whether or not classical guitar as we know it was inherently European or originated from the Middle East or elsewhere–what is unequivocal, however, is that flamenco is of Spanish origin. The Fender FA-125CE is crafted in Spain, itself, and if you want the real deal, look no further.
You might be familiar with this guitar maker since its acoustic and electric guitars have graced this likes of Sergio Vallin, Jackson Browne, and Stevie Wonder, but the FA-125CE is purely classical, with no electrical components to get in the way.
It’s a beautiful instrument–the soft grain of the German spruce top comes through to gorgeous effect, and there’s a unique and stunning arrow mosaic motif that reminds one of Spain. Indian rosewood stripes the back and the Spanish heel, while the whole thing is finished in a light gloss.
Even the machine heads are beautiful; they’re gold-plated, bringing out a glow in the Indian rosewood headstock that’s completed with a decidedly Hispanic flourish.
And if you think the Fender FA-125CE is beautiful, wait till you hear it! There’s not much we could say against it–we believe it’s better than the Admira F4. Frankly, the only reason we have it here in second place is the price and the fact that this guitar will need a seasoned player to guide the instrument to its full potential.
The bottom line: the FA-125CE might be the most expensive instrument on the list–but it’s worth every penny for the advanced player due to its craftsmanship and playability.