Classical vs. Acoustic Guitar

Choosing Classical vs Acoustic Guitars

When it comes to these two types of guitar, many people don’t know which way to go. Some even think that classical and acoustic are two names for the same thing. This is far from the truth. Here, we will try to explain the main differences between the two types and help you choose the type which is right for your needs.

What are the main differences?

Purpose

The first major difference between these guitars, as their names tell us, is their musical purpose. Classical guitars are predominantly used for playing classical pieces, and acoustic, or folk guitars, are used for all kinds of acoustic music, from Celtic and country, to modern folk and pop. It is true that you can play classical music on an acoustic and pop music on a classical, but they are simply not particularly designed for those musical genres.

Shape of the neck

Classical guitars tend to have a wider neck than acoustic ones, which makes chord playing much easier on acoustic guitars. In that sense, acoustic guitars are similar to electric ones. Classical guitars are much harder in that way, especially if you’re a beginner. It can be especially difficult to make a transition from acoustic to classical, because you’re not used to the wider neck.

Scratch plate

This is a piece of guitar equipment that acoustic guitars have, but classical ones don’t. It is a patch of plastic right below the lowest string, used to protect the body from the pick strokes (while playing, it often happens that guitarists unintentionally hit the body too hard, which in time damages the surface). Classical guitars are meant to be played without a pick, so they don’t need the scratch plate. Some guitarist may place a scratch plate on a classical if they want to, but it is not originally there.

Strings

Acoustic guitars use metal strings, and classical guitars use nylon strings. This creates a major difference in their sound, because of the material of the strings. Be sure not to use the wrong type of strings for your guitar, because it may cause permanent damage. If you use metal strings on a classical, the tension will pull the neck up and ruin the shape of the body. If you put nylon strings on an acoustic, the sound produced will be too thin for proper playing, and the tuning may even not hold for long.

Sound

The two types wouldn’t be that different if there wasn’t for the difference in the sound they produce. Whereas the classical produces a softer, gentle sound, the acoustic resonates with a sharper, mentally sound, because of its strings. To a novice, it wouldn’t pose much of a difference, but to an experienced player – it’s all the difference out there. A blues solo isn’t what it’s supposed to be on a classical guitar, just as a flamenco piece doesn’t produce the desired effect on an acoustic guitar. Simply put, the two types are on the opposite poles of the guitar world.

What are the pros and cons of playing each type?

When it comes to classical vs. acoustic guitar, there is no winner. Each type has its own benefits, because they are essentially different. Basically, it all comes down to the style you want to play in. classical is more suited for genres such as jazz, flamenco, etc., but acoustic will lead you into blues, country, pop-rock…

Acoustic guitars are easier to play because of their narrow necks, but their metal strings sometimes put too much stress on the fingertips, causing pain, or even blisters. Classical guitars are easier on the fingers for that matter, because of nylon strings, but their sound is less suited for popular music, and their range is limited, in a way.

Know that, when it comes to choosing a guitar, there is no such thing as the right or wrong choice. You start on a classical, and then move on to acoustic, which many people do; but you can also to the other way around, if you find the classical guitar more appealing. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable playing your instrument, and enjoy every second with it.