The guitar is one of the most versatile instruments, with different versions generating a variety of sounds, tones and styles. The two main types of guitar available – Classical and Acoustic – both produce distinct sounds that lend themselves to different styles of music. Both have their own unique characteristics that all musicians should be aware of when deciding which type to play.
One essential difference between Classical and Acoustic guitars is the materials used to construct them. Classical guitars commonly have a wooden body with a spruce top, rosewood back and sides, a mahogany neck and an ebony fingerboard. The herringbone-style bracing under the soundboard gives these guitars their characteristic tone. Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, use a combination of woods including mahogany, spruce, rosewood and maple. While Classical guitars use synthetic materials for their strings, Acoustic guitars commonly use 80/20 bronze or steel strings.
Sound and Tone
Another major distinction between Classical and Acoustic guitars is the sound each produces. Classical guitars typically have a warmer, mellower sound due to their nylon strings and herringbone-style bracing. This makes them ideal for classical music and quieter, more emotive pieces. Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, have a brighter, louder sound due to their steel strings, which makes them better suited to more complex, robust pieces.
The construction materials and string type used on Classical and Acoustic guitars also have an impact on the width of the fingerboard. The wider fingerboard on Classical guitars makes it easier to play fingerstyle pieces, while Acoustic guitars have narrower fingerboards that are better suited to strumming and flatpicking.
The unique characteristics of Classical and Acoustic guitars mean they lend themselves to different playing techniques. Classical guitars are typically used for fingerstyle picking and strumming because of the wider fingerboard. The narrower fingerboard on Acoustic guitars, however, lends itself to more aggressive playing techniques such as flatpicking and bends.
Another important difference between Classical and Acoustic guitars is the height of the strings. Classical guitars usually have lower string action, which makes them easier to play and better suited to fingerstyle techniques. Acoustic guitars usually have higher string action, which gives them a brighter sound but also makes them more challenging to play.
Classical and Acoustic guitars also differ in their use of pickups. Classical guitars do not generally have pickups, as they are designed to be played acoustically. Acoustic guitars, however, often have built-in or separate pickups that can be used to amplify their sound.
Shape and Size
The physical characteristics of Classical and Acoustic guitars are also quite different. Classical guitars are smaller than Acoustic guitars, with a larger body shape and a longer neck. This makes them easier to play for those with smaller hands or less experience. Acoustic guitars have a larger body shape and smaller neck, which makes them better suited to more advanced players.
Another major difference between Classical and Acoustic guitars is their price. Classical guitars tend to be less expensive than Acoustic guitars, making them a more affordable option for beginners. Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, are more expensive but offer more features and a better sound.
The final difference between Classical and Acoustic guitars is their usage. Classical guitars are primarily used for classical and flamenco music, while Acoustic guitars are used for a wider range of genres including folk, bluegrass, pop and rock.
The two main types of guitar – Classical and Acoustic – differ in their construction materials, sound, tone, fingerboard width, string height and pickups, as well as their physical shape and size. Classical guitars tend to be easier to play and less expensive than Acoustic guitars, but the latter can be used for a greater variety of genres. Knowing the features of each guitar can help any musician decide which type will best suit their needs.