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There’s a reason that classical guitars are a popular choice for new students of guitar, and the reason may not be what you think. Strip away the “classical” designation from this instrument and what you’re left with is a guitar with wide, comfortable fret and string spacing, easy-to-play nylon strings that are soft to the touch, and a body shape that’s built to naturally amplify your playing. With a tone that’s probably closer to that of a harp than of its steel-string acoustic and electric guitars—or electric guitars under $500—this traditional style of guitar has found its sweet spot in popular modern music thanks to the likes of Sting, Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, and more. If you’re looking for easy playing, portability, and a warm, unique tone that you simply can’t get anywhere else, a classical guitar is a must-have—whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro.
Related: Best guitar tuners
The best classical guitars: Our oicjks
Best overall: Cordoba 6 C5-CE CD Classical Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Nylon String Guitar
The C5-CE from Santa Monica-based Cordoba guitars is a no-compromises instrument that sports some specific design choices to offer a bump in playability, versatility, and comfort. Unlike traditional classical bodies, the cedar and mahogany C5-CE has a soft cutaway at the 12th fret, allowing players to take advantage of the full range of the neck. The included Fishman Isys+ internal pickup comes with an on-board tuner and its controls sit discreetly against the body, allowing amplified performance without using a microphone. It’s also available with a gig bag, making this ideal for gigging musicians on the go.
Best effects: Yamaha CG-TA Nylon String TransAcoustic Guitar
For a classical guitar that does it all and uses some cutting-edge technology to get it done, the CG-TA from Yamaha is a fantastic option. This acoustic-electric guitar has onboard reverb and chorus effects that are actually generated inside the guitar cavity itself using an actuator that vibrates when you play. This itself is remarkable because you don’t need to be plugged in to hear the effects—they come right out of the guitar itself. Its stripped-down control panel consists of three small knobs, which minimizes the loss of acoustic resonance from drilled-out holes. Yamaha leaves no detail unaddressed with this one, and this guitar would be a huge asset to any songwriter or creative player.
Best for beginners: Yamaha CGS102A Half-Size Classical Guitar
Longstanding instrument manufacturer Yamaha offers up their CGS model, a spruce-top classical guitar that’s perfect for beginners or players who need a travel guitar. While it’s available in a standard full size, the CGS also comes in ¾ and ½ scale varieties which opens up a myriad of other uses where a full-size guitar might not be ideal. You don’t need to be a kid to get your hands on a small-scale version—add one to your collection and use it as a backup axe. It’s got that signature classical guitar ease of playability with looks to match all within a budget—a great sounding and solidly built guitar from an industry veteran.
Budget pick: J&Z Beginner Classical Acoustic Guitar
If you’re just starting out and need a low-commitment bundle that comes with everything you need, look no further than this classical guitar bundle from J&Z. It’s got all the trimmings—including a tuner, a capo, guitar picks, a gig bag, a guitar strap and a cleaning cloth—all centered around a basswood-top and maple-neck classical guitar. J&Z have taken the guesswork out of accessorizing by providing some key essentials for guitar ownership, and this is a great way for a beginner to test the waters before moving on to their first sold-out show. By default, this bundle comes with a ¾ size guitar, but it’s also available in full size.