The Differences Between the Acoustic and Classical Guitar
Acoustic guitars make a completely different sound than classical guitars, and if you’ve ever wondered why this is so, it’s not that complicated. There are several differences between these two types of guitars, but the main difference is the type of strings used. Acoustic guitars generally use strings made out of some type of steel or metal, whereas classical guitars are played with nylon strings. The two types of strings make completely different sounds, but there are different types of both nylon and steel guitar strings. There are also some other differences in these two types of guitars.
The Body of the Guitar
If you look at the body of either a classical or acoustic guitar, you’ll notice some similarities. First of all, they both have six strings tuned EADGBE, tuning pegs, and a sound hole, even though some of these features may work a little differently. Here are a few of the most significant differences between the two guitars:
- Shape: Most acoustic guitars are made in a dreadnought shape in a standard parlor size. This means they are usually smaller than a classical guitar, even though some are actually larger.
- Neck: Classical guitars usually have necks that are wider than acoustic guitars. This is partly because acoustic guitarists strum or fingerpick the guitar and the smaller neck widths make that a lot easier.
- Bridge: Classical guitars usually have a classic wrap-around bridge, as well as strings that are tied in a knot across the bridge so that they stay in place. Acoustic guitars usually have pegs that hold their strings in place.
The strings on a classical guitar look similar to a ukulele, even though you can find these guitars with ball-end classical strings instead. For certain types of performances, installing the strings in this manner is preferred.
The Strings Used in the Guitar
Of course, the main difference between a classical guitar and an acoustic guitar is the type of strings used. Acoustic guitars use steel strings, while classical guitars use nylon strings. In general, nylon strings are thicker and allow for a softer and mellower sound. If you’re just starting to play the acoustic guitar, you might want nylon strings because they are easier on the fingers, but once you learn what you’re doing, you’ll be switching to steel strings because they have a much better sound.
The treble strings (G, B, high E) are usually made out of nylon monofilament, and the bass strings (E, A, D) are usually a silver-plated copper that has been wrapped around a nylon multifilament core. Nylon strings are softer than steel strings and are great for beginners, but you don’t get the same sound as you do when you use steel strings. Plus, the sound you get from nylon strings is rarely heard in modern music.
That being said, classical guitars with nylon strings make the sound that is perfect for Flamenco, Spanish, or classical music. Steel strings have a crisp sound and are thinner, while nylon strings have a mellower sound and are thicker.
Other Differences You’ll Notice
In addition to the strings used, the overall size, and the differences in the neck and bridge, there are other differences between a classical and acoustic guitar as well. For instance, while both guitars have tuning pegs, the material the pegs are made from is a bit different. The tuning pegs on a classical guitar are made out of metal and plastic, while pegs on acoustic guitars are made purely out of metal.
When it comes to learning chords, there are differences as well. Acoustic guitars have strings that are more evenly spaced and a fretboard that has a natural curve in it, making it a little easier to learn the chords. This isn’t to say that learning chords on a classical guitar is difficult, but the feel of the chords isn’t always a natural feel when you’re learning to play this type of guitar.
Another thing to keep in mind, if you’re trying to decide which type of guitar you should learn to play, is that nylon strings are easier for beginners but also make it more difficult to build up calluses on your fingertips, which you’ll need to do to make guitar-playing easier on you. While steel strings may be harder to learn on, they build up calluses quicker and prepare you to keep playing the acoustic guitar from that point forward.
Conclusion – Differences Between the Acoustic and Classical Guitar
There are numerous differences between the classical guitar and the acoustic guitar, but because of the strings used for each, you get a completely different sound depending on which one you choose. Even if you’ve never played guitar before, it’s recommended that you pick up and hold both types of guitars to determine which one feels more comfortable in your hands. Sometimes, this is the only way to know for sure that you’ve made the right choice in the end.
Of course, if you’re interested in playing a particular type of music, the decision might already be made for you. While classical guitar is used for Flamenco, Spanish, and classical music, acoustic guitars are used for rock, pop, and even country music. If you think you can’t be a lead guitarist while playing the acoustic guitar, think again. While not super common, there are numerous artists in the field who play a mean guitar while using an acoustic one.
Last but not least, your budget has to be considered when you go to buy a guitar. This is an area where the adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies. If you’re a beginner, don’t buy a $30 guitar because it simply won’t last. Plan to spend $100 or more so that you get a high-quality, well-made guitar that will last. Go ahead and invest in private lessons because teaching yourself the guitar won’t take you as far.
Whether you choose a classical or acoustic guitar, you have to consider its purchase to be an investment. In other words, don’t skimp on the guitar or lessons and you’ll likely end up playing for a much longer period of time.
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