It’s difficult not to love guitar music, whether it’s played on the usual acoustic guitars you might see and hear during a rock, country or bluegrass concert, or on a classical guitar, from which you might hear Bach or a bit of flamenco music.
If you have a sharp ear, you might be able to detect which type of guitar it is. But if you’re more visual, the way to tell a classical guitar from an acoustic guitar is pretty easy.
Classical guitars have:
- Open headstock with tuning pegs that are perpendicular to the fretboard.
- Smaller, ‘hour-glass’-shaped bodies.
- A ‘notch’-based string-changing system.
- Nylon strings.
- A wider neck.
Acoustic guitars have:
- Closed headstock with tuning pegs that are parallel to the fretboard.
- Larger, ‘pear-shaped’ bodies (as a rule).
- Peg-based string-changing system.
- Steel strings.
- Narrower neck.
- Fret markers.
- Pick/Plectrum guard.
1) Cordoba C3M
- Highly Rated
- All Level
- Great Sound
- Comfortable playing
Today, we’ll be reviewing 21 best classical guitars, so if you are in the market for a classical guitar, you’ve come to the right place at the right time. So block off some time in your planner to closely peruse this review, which should help you make your decision.
1) Cordoba C3M Classical Guitar
Here we return to the Cordoba company’s line of guitars in their Iberia series, most of which are quite affordable for many, from half-size student models to the full-size models for taller students or professionals.
The C3M is no different. This is a full-size model with a 52mm nut width, and like all Cordoba guitars, it comes with a truss rod that allows for adjusting the relief of the strings, so you can adjust how far above the fretboard the strings are.
The C3M comes with Savarez Cristal Corum high-tension strings, but you can always change them out for something different if you prefer. Aesthetics-wise, the guitar has a matte finish (the “M” in the model name), but it really has no bearing on the way the guitar sounds.All the same, you’ll want to protect your guitar from nicks, cuts and other damage.
This guitar does not come with a case, or humidifier block, so you’ll need to make sure and put both in your online cart when checking out.All in all, this is a good guitar for any beginner who wants a solid instrument, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money up front.
2) Cordoba C5 Acoustic Nylon String Classical Guitar with Gig Bag
Both the C7 and C5 guitars are part of the Cordoba “Iberia” series, but the main differences between the two are that the C5 is a cedar-top, and you can purchase the C5 with or without a gig bag. Whereas you get the gig bag with the C7, whether you need/want one, or not.
This said, the gig bag itself looks like it is top quality, with properly cushioned straps so you can wear it on your back if you need to, making it a great option for carrying it across town or campus. The only thing is, the listing says the guitar is lightweight, but at 16 lbs, some people would not say this is “light.” At least not compared with some of the more inexpensive models in this review list. After all, the back and sides of this instrument are made of mahogany, which is a hard wood. This makes the guitar more durable, but not easy for some to lift.
Some people have had unhappy experiences with the C5, the cause of which we are wholly unsure. By and large, however, the reviews are positive, so it’s wise to keep the larger picture in mind when comparing.
3) Yamaha C40 Full Size Nylon-String Classical Guitar
Want to study classical guitar as a summer hobby, or need a replacement guitar for a previous model you’ve owned, but don’t want to (or can’t) spend a lot of money? You’ll want to have a look at Yamaha’s C40 full-size classical guitar. Here are the main features of the guitar:
- Spruce top with mahogany back and sides, nato wood neck, rosewood fretboard, and melamine gloss finish.
- Designed for beginners, but with an eye towards both quality and affordability.
- This guitar is light: shipping weight is only 4.8 lbs!
- The guitar may be full-size, but it’s only 24” long, which makes for a good guitar for both kids and teens, as well as adults of shorter stature.
One reviewer mentioned that anyone wanting to purchase the C40 will need to change the strings to get the best sound out of this model. Another reviewer uses the C40 as their main guitar for composing, and it works quite well for the job. So, overall, if you feel the need to be cost-conscious at this point in time, but want a quality instrument, the C40 should be on your list of models for proper comparison shopping.
4) Yamaha GC22 Handcrafted Classical Guitar Cedar
Yamaha is known for solid craftsmanship with their musical instruments, and concerning the classical guitar, their Grand Concert series (the “GC” in the model name) is no exception. You’ll want to search YouTube to get a good idea of the sound, even how they make the guitars themselves, which is usually fascinating to the passionate musician.
As with any cedar-top, you’re going to get an overall warmer sound than you will with a spruce. Keep in mind also that if you don’t like the factory-supplied strings, try different sets till you find some that give you the sound you want.
Other aspects to consider are the strings and bridge. One other reviewer said the saddle was too high, but it’s easily lowered. Ask a guitar tech for help if necessary. This is a good model to have if you’re in a climate with specific seasonal changes in humidity, as it’s not overly sensitive to extremes. It’s still a good idea, however, to purchase a humidifier block, for the purpose of regular care.
There’s not much information about the case except that it’s semi-hard, so it could be said that it’s just a bit better than a gig bag in protection.
5) Cordoba C12 CD Acoustic Nylon String Modern Classical Guitar
One important thing about caring for a guitar is keeping the wood supple and moist, and quite often, you have to purchase a separate humidifier block with any guitar. Not this guitar, though. The Cordoba C12 comes with its own humidifier block right in the case. You just have to make sure you keep it moist every week. It is now ranked first on the best classical guitar list.
Other important aspects and features of this guitar are:
- High action. If you’ve played classical guitar before and you prefer low action, this might not work well for you.
- Cedar top. This means a deeper, warmer sound than a spruce top. This is for you if you want to play around with recording different guitars.
- Hard-shell case. Gig bags are nice, but for a guitar this beautiful, you just might want the protection of a hard shell.
- Mother-of-pearl rosette inlay. If you’ve had acoustic guitars with mother-of-pearl accents, you’ll appreciate the beauty of the mother-of-pearl inlay around the sound hole. This particular rosette pattern is inspired by the 1920’s Domingo Esteso design, which will be a treat for those who love specific historic details like this. Even if history isn’t your concern, the mother-of-pearl colors enhance the pattern.
6) Cordoba 45MR CD/MR Acoustic Nylon String Classical Guitar
Part of their Espana series, the Cordoba 45MR is handsome, handmade in Spain, and brings all the character of Spanish guitar music to the player, starting with the idea of using the guitars of the 1880s and 1890s as a model for the appearance and sound. Nylon-string guitars themselves came from Spain, so this is perfect for the player who wants as much connection to tradition and authenticity as possible.
Cordoba guitars receive consistently good reviews elsewhere, and this model is no exception. Here’s what you’ll get out of purchasing the 45MR:
- Humicase Protege hard shell case. This alone is worth the investment.
- Solid wood = solid sound. Warmth of a cedar top with the contrast of a mahogany back and ebony fretboard. Change the strings if you wish for a slightly different sound.
- Comfortable playing. Keep in mind that it can be challenging to purchase a guitar online if you’ve never played guitar at all before. Go to a local shop where the sales staff can guide you, so you can get the best fit.
This guitar is clearly for you if you’re just as passionate about authenticity and tradition as you are about music yourself.
7) Cordoba C7 SP Acoustic Nylon String Classical Guitar
The first two Cordobas we’ve featured have been cedar-top guitars. Now we come to the C7, which is available in both spruce and cedar (see item 7). If you hadn’t noticed by now, the “SP” or “CD” abbreviations in the Cordoba listings indicate the wood that the front of the guitar is made from, so that should help you in the future when looking for a particular guitar with a particular sound, just with the factory-supplied strings alone.
The C7’s back, fretboard and bridge are all rosewood, which makes for a stunning color contrast with the spruce. The strings are Savarez Cristal Corum, in high tension (500CJ), but according to one professional guitarist, the action is very easy no matter the tension, so a beginner should have no problems starting out on this model. Even someone who’s played a good while but simply wants something they can “jam” on whilst out on a recreational road trip, or play on a small-gig basis, will love the Cordoba C7 spruce-top.
Ultimately, the C7 is up your alley if you’re seeking something for just teaching with. Or perhaps you’re searching for an on-the-road inspiration medium, but you still want something that sounds top-dollar.
The reason we have so many Cordoba guitars listed is that they are a “class act” company with guitars that will last you years beyond the date of the initial purchase. They may not have been around as long as the Ramirez group, but they have produced a solid, respectable body of work that is worth every penny.
The Cordoba C7 spruce-top has a natural finish, complete with rosewood back, sides, fretboard and bridge, and the traditional looking inlay that Cordoba is known for. Plus, there are the Savarez Cristal Corum high-tension strings that come with it, which give the guitar its clear, clean sound. Of course, you might want to change to another set of nylon strings, should you wish it, depending on the sound you truly want.
Many of the Cordobas, such as the C7, come with a gig bag or case, which makes it easier to keep your guitar in great condition, especially if you purchase a humidifier block. If you head over to the Amazon listing for this guitar, you might see that the reviews are the same for this guitar as they are for another Cordoba instrument, so there really isn’t much extra information, unfortunately.
8) Cordoba Fusion 12 Rose Acoustic Electric Nylon String Classical Guitar
This is a unique twist in the Cordoba guitar “story,” as it were. Cordoba is known for its high-quality Spanish guitars, but as you know, Spanish guitar necks are wider, and can be challenging for anyone who’s more accustomed to the narrower neck of a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar.
The good people at Cordoba, therefore, sought to make a Spanish-style guitar with the traditional sound of a Spanish guitar, but the slimmer body and slightly narrower neck of a steel-string. They also added in a Fishman-Presys module for switching the guitar from an acoustic sound to an electric (including a built-in tuner), hence the “Fusion” in the model name.
All this plus availability in cutaway and non-cutaway body style, not to mention the guitar’s stunning appearance in all-over Indian rosewood. The guitar also comes with a gig bag, so you don’t have to spend extra on that. Just don’t forget your humidifier block.
So if you’ve been playing steel-string acoustic/electric hybrids all this time, but love the sound of a nylon-string Spanish guitar, and want to work this beauty into your sound repertoire, the Cordoba Fusion will no doubt go on your “short list” of Spanish guitars to try.
9) Kremona Artist Series Sofia Classical Guitar
Most other guitars so far have been in the 10-18 pound range as far as weight, but if you’re looking for a superior sound without a lot of extra poundage to carry around, the 8-lb Kremona might be one to look at.
The Kremona “Sofia” model is handmade in Bulgaria as well with a fantastic support staff to answer any questions, so if you have concerns about items made in China, you can lay those concerns aside. The top is cedar, with an authentic bone nut and saddle, and solid African sapele back and sides complete the look for a very pleasing appearance and sound.
The body and neck are also slimmer than other Spanish guitar models, as well, so if you’re used to a steel-string, but gearing up to try a classical guitar, the Kremona Sofia is one to put on your list to try. The strings are Royal Classic Sonata strings, made in Spain, so add this to the guitar body’s manufacturing origins, and you will have a sound that is worthy of a professional, but affordable for just about everyone.
All these factors together make for a fantastic potential choice for any serious guitarist of any caliber, at any budget point.
10) Cordoba C7 CD Acoustic Nylon String Classical Guitar
This is a review for the Cordoba C7 cedar-top, which, as we mentioned in item 4, is a “sister” instrument to the spruce-top C7 from the same company. The cedar-top C7 has the same craftsmanship, same strings, etc as the spruce, except that you get the warmer tones with the cedar-top, as opposed to the brightness of spruce.
Just so you know, you can record music with a cedar-top, but there will be some adjusting that has to be done to the sound mix to get the cedar-top to come through the way you want it to, even if you change the strings. So if you’re looking to lay down tracks, and already have a spruce-top, stick with the spruce.
Something we didn’t mention before is that the Amazon page for this item mentions that the C7 is available in acoustic/electric form, in both the cedar and spruce. However, in parentheses, they have the words “C7-CE, cedar-top only.”
Just to clarify: the C7-CE model is a different guitar entirely. It comes in a kit with a lot of other accessories than just a gig bag. This is not, however, an item we are reviewing in the entirety of this list.
11) Cordoba GK Studio Negra Left-Handed [Gipsy Kings Signature Model] Acoustic Electric Nylon String Flamenco Guitar
If a love of flamenco and salsa music sung by the Gipsy Kings brought you to the best classical guitar, then you are going to want to read this review. The Cordoba company, as you can now see, has quite the reputation for quality guitars, and their GK Studio Negra left-handed model—a Gipsy Kings signature instrument—could easily be the right one for you (no pun intended).
This particular model is a cutaway acoustic-electric hybrid with European spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. The electric system is from Fishman-Presys with an onboard tuner. The GK comes with Savarez Cristal Corum high tension strings, and thanks to the low-relief neck, the action itself is easy to handle, making the guitar easier to play. The GK Studio Negra has a deeper, bassier sound than the usual sharp brightness of a “blanca” guitar. Watch the video on the Amazon listing to really get a good idea of what you’ll experience playing this instrument.
The Cordoba GK acoustic-electric hybrid comes with a gig bag, so you don’t have to make that an extra purchase, but as with any other guitar that’s not part of a kit, remember to purchase a humidifier block.
Unfortunately we could not find any "Left-handed" model video for this guitar. Take a look at the "Right-handed" instead.
12) IMusic 39" Inch Full Size Gloss Natural Classical Guitar Starter Kit Beginner Package
People who want to purchase a guitar but don’t want to make extra accessory purchases like a tuner, extra strings, etc, will find it convenient to purchase a kit. The I-Music 39” guitar starter kit can be among the kits you look at for comparison. Here’s what’s included:
- Spruce top guitar with linden back and sides and maple neck, fingerboard and bridge
- Nylon gig bag
- Plastic tuner
- Three picks
- Extra strings
Just so readers know: the Amazon listing says the guitar is ambidextrous. Most guitars are right or left-handed, so it’s seldom you’ll see a guitar listed as “ambidextrous.”
It’s likely you haven’t heard of the I-Music company too often. Considering their competition seems to have more publicity, it’s understandable. They’re relatively new compared to other companies, but this does not necessarily mean they skimp on quality or innovation.
This kit from I-Music is at an affordable cost for most, and would be a good starter set for anyone at any age wanting to start up a new hobby. The only thing missing from this kit is the humidifier block, which any brick-and-mortar salesperson will tell you is essential for proper guitar care.
13) Jose Ramirez R1CWE Classical Guitar with Cutaway and Pickup
If you’re still a beginner at classical guitar, it’s likely you’ve never heard of the Jose Ramirez legacy of Spanish guitars. It began with the original Jose Ramirez in the late 1800s and continues over 100 years later with Amalia, the daughter of Jose Ramirez IV, who took over the workshop in recent years.
With a five-generation pedigree, you can’t go wrong with taking a look at the R1CWE. This series was started in 1991 by Ramirez IV, and like all other Ramirez guitars, this model was handmade in Spain, and inspected and certified by the company workshop. The main specs for this guitar include:
- Cedar top, African mahogany sides and back.
- Fishman Prefix Pro-Blend pick up system.
- Cutaway design.
- Ships with a TKL hard case with the Jose Ramirez logo on the top.
If you search for videos of someone playing this guitar, you’ll find that the sound is crisp and clean, with the usual associated warmth that a cedar-top provides.
Sadly, there aren’t many other reviews for this guitar, as this item seems to be discontinued, even at the Ramirez workshop site. There are other websites from which you can get this guitar, but the instrument will most likely be used.
14) Yamaha C40 GigMaker Classical Acoustic Guitar Package
Looking for an all-in-one guitar purchase that has just about all you need? The Yamaha C40 Gigmaker kit just might be for you. This is one of the great guitar suitable for beginners.
It comes with:
- One full-size guitar made of spruce (top) and Indonesian mahogany (sides and back), with a 19-fret Javanese rosewood fingerboard.
- Digital tuner.
- DVD (for getting started on learning specific songs)Padded gig bag
The one thing the kit does not have is the all-important humidifier block, so you’ll need to buy one if you don’t have one already.
One thing we should mention is that while the listed dealer says “Yamaha,” and this listing mentions a “limited lifetime warranty,” this information is misleading. For one thing, according to the reviewer who first mentioned this issue, the guitar kit itself is not shipped by Yamaha, but by a music instrument supplier in New Jersey.
Secondly, Yamaha does not warranty Internet sales. They only put warranties on original instruments sold by licensed Yamaha dealers, and the company in NJ that the reviewer mentioned is not a licensed Yamaha dealer.
15) 39" Inch Full Size Black Student Beginner Classical Nylon String Guitar & DirectlyCheap(TM) Translucent Blue Medium Guitar Pick (PRO-S Series)
Finding a best classical guitar for a beginning student, whether it’s for a child, teenager, or for yourself, can be a challenging proposition when you have a tight budget.
The full-size guitar in black by DirectlyCheap should therefore be on your list for consideration. Made out of linden, basswood and catalpa with a particularly ornate inlay around the sound hole, this model has a really lovely sound for the price. Just keep in mind that, like other guitar shipments, when you receive the guitar, you will have to “set up” the neck. If you need help with this, a guitar tech will assist.
Two reviewers over at Amazon have mentioned the bridge coming away from the guitar, but this is a fairly rare occurrence, The listing also mentions the guitar shipping with a pick, but three or four Amazon reviews mentioned the absence of the pick.
On the other hand, classical guitars are usually played without a pick, so it’s up to you whether to purchase this particular model or not, based on the potential of a missing item from the shipment. All this said, the guitar is a good choice for a tight budget, so keep this listing in mind.
16) Yamaha CG122MCH Solid Cedar Top Classical Guitar
Need a full-size guitar but need a lighter weight instrument? Try the Yamaha CG122MCH model. It ships at a modest weight of 5.5 lbs, so you won’t have to feel like you need large muscles to bring the box into the house, let alone hold the guitar itself.
But for all its light weight, this classical guitar shows off a stunning cedar top and rosewood fretboard. The inlay is just as elegant, and to keep the guitar’s profile looking good, the neck has a 3-ply construction style to prevent warping. The guitar has a matte finish, which gives it an “old-school” appearance, and the matte finish is great for photo sessions: no glare.
If you’re not familiar with cedar-tops, they will provide a warmer, richer tone than a spruce-top. Many artists favor spruce for best recording sound levels, but this doesn’t mean you can’t ever record with cedar. It will simply require a different recording set-up.
This may be a lower-end guitar for some, but many people who have purchased it say that the tone is just as good as, if not better than, a guitar at a higher price, and the action is low, which is great for beginners.
17) Yamaha CGS104A Full-Size Classical Guitar – Natural
This is another of Yamaha’s many budget-friendly classical guitars. Like a majority of guitars at this price level, the CGS104A is a spruce-top. There is only one picture on the Amazon listing, and that’s of the front of the guitar. So there’s no way of knowing what the manufacturer means by “meranti” wood, unless you did a Google search.
Also, the manufacturer neglects to mention what is meant by a “natural” finish, unless they mean there is no “finish” at all on the front. If this is the case, they need to say so, instead of leaving the buyer wondering.
This specific review is for the full-size guitar, which is 40”, so if you read all the reviews on Amazon, many of them are for the ½ and ¾ size. If you’re an adult with smaller hands, purchasing the smaller sizes may be a better bet than trying to wrestle with a full-size instrument. Size doesn’t necessarily have to do with this guitar model’s tone, which many reviewers say is quite good for the price.
Unlike some of the other guitar listings we’ve mentioned on this list, you will need to purchase a case or gig bag, among other accessories.
18) Yamaha C40II BL Classical Guitar Limited Edition Black
You might have read our review about the C40 GigMaker kit from Yamaha earlier on. This is a similar guitar, but it’s the C40II, and the black color makes it a limited edition instrument. The inlay is less “traditional” looking. Instead of an ornate “rosette” style, the inlay is a stripe pattern all the way around the sound hole, making the guitar look somewhat “jazzy,” to use a more descriptive term. So if this is the look you prefer, read on for more details.
Though the guitar is black, the wood for the top is spruce, with meranti back and sides, and a rosewood fretboard and bridge. This is a full-size guitar (52mm nut), though there is a 7/8” size available. The only thing is, with the 7/8” size you won’t be able to get the black color. The one thing in common between the two is the gloss finish, as well as the types of wood used.
If you look carefully, you’ll see that the Amazon reviews for this guitar are essentially the same as those for the GigMaker model, so if you’re looking to learn anything new beyond the product description, you’re likely to be a bit disappointed.
19) Cordoba Dolce 7/8 Size Acoustic Nylon String Classical Guitar
The interesting difference between the 7/8” size and the full size, is in how big the nut is. The 7/8” is only 2 mm smaller than the full-size nut, which is 52 mm. This may not seem like much but sometimes, 2 mm can mean the difference between being able to reach a string, and having to stretch one’s hand too much, causing pain.
The Dolce is a cedar-top, with mahogany back and sides, and the usual set of Savarez Cristal Corum high-tension strings. At 9 lbs and 38” this is a slightly shorter and lighter-weight guitar, which will be more appropriate for a smaller person. This guitar does not come with a gig bag or other accessories, so if you choose this guitar, prepare to make a list of what your instructor of choice says you need.
You might be wondering: “Why the glossy finish?” Having a gloss finish can mean the difference between your guitar cracking—or not--in extreme temperature changes.Of course, like all Cordobas, there is a truss rod with which you can change the string relief, so you’re not having to press the strings down so hard, making it easier for beginners to learn.
20) Jose Ramirez 4NCWE Classical Guitar with Cutaway and Pickup
We don’t have many cutaway styles or Jose Ramirez guitars in our review list, but this is one of them, and it just happens to be a “hybrid,” or a classical guitar with an electronic pickup. Handcrafted in Spain, the 4NCWE model is a cedar-top with Indian rosewood on the back and sides. Like the other Ramirez guitars we have listed, this comes with a hard-shell case, so you won’t have to worry about the guitar being broken in transit.
Weight-wise, this guitar falls somewhere in the mid-range at 11 lbs, which is good, considering the rosewood and cedar are solid.The electronic part comes from Fishman and is a Prefix Pro pickup system. It requires a 9V battery, but that’s included, in case you don’t happen to have one on hand when your guitar arrives.
There are only two Amazon reviews for this instrument, as it is at a higher price point than other guitars, but the reviews are very positive. The rich tone of the cedar as well as the ability to take this classical guitar into the world of electrical pickups makes this a fabulous option for the musician looking to upgrade to a more professional-sounding instrument.
21) Jose Ramirez 3NAE Classical Guitar
Finally, we come to our very last review: the Jose Ramirez 3NAE classical guitar. Originally designed by Jose Ramirez III in 1986, followed by a design revival by Amalia Ramirez in 2008, this guitar has improved decoration and reconstruction.
Specific characteristics include:
- Spruce top with Indian rosewood back and sides
- Handcrafted in Spain
- Comes with hard shell case
According to the Amazon page for this guitar, the item weight is 18 lbs, but that’s likely due to the inclusion of the case. There are no other reviews of this instrument, but just keep in mind that with a spruce top guitar, you’re going to have higher, clearer treble sounds than with a cedar top. Also, compared to higher-priced guitars from the Ramirez workshop, this particular model—considered an “entry” model—is a bit more affordable, which was Amalia Ramirez’s aim in reviving the 3N series.
However, given this particular model’s price point, this might be more appropriate for a musician who is looking at their first professional gigging instrument, rather than a “rank beginner,” who might give up the guitar after a short while. However, the beautiful sound just might inspire the beginner to practice more often.
Conclusion of the best classical guitar
Yes, there were a lot of guitars to consider in this list, and no doubt you’ll want to spend some time looking at each instrument. Take into consideration the following when you’re comparison shopping:
- For whom are you purchasing the guitar?
- How old is the person? How tall/big?
- Are they looking to remain a hobbyist, or are they aiming to be a professional musician?
- What is your actual budget?
- Will a “kit” be easier than trying to remember every accessory?
1) Cordoba C3M
- Highly Rated
- All Level
- Great Sound
- Comfortable playing
Here is a summary of the best classical guitar brands we reviewed, based on general price range, just to help your overall decision making, or perhaps to get input from the musician him/herself.
Yamaha/I-Music/DirectlyCheap: These tend to be student models, and therefore easier on the wallet, in case the student decides the guitar is not for them.
Cordoba: These tend to be more mid-range, for the musician who’s truly looking to get serious with their craft. There are, however, guitars at much higher price points than what was mentioned overall.
Jose Ramirez: These tend to be at higher price points than the Cordobas, and definitely for the serious gigging musician who wants to truly go world-class.