Best Classical Guitar
Here is our selection of the best classical guitars, covering both boutique instruments built by small scale luthiers (as opposed to small scale classical guitars) and readily available mass produced guitars.
This page is sponsored by Sweetwater so you can click through to get the full specifications, the latest price, and purchase any of the Classical Guitars stocked by Sweetwater that we have recommended.
Professional classical guitarists almost exclusively play handmade "boutique" instruments that are designed and built by small scale guitar makers. This way quality is ensured and it gives them a say on the build or material used, but it comes with a hefty price tag and a long wait time that not everyone can afford. We have selected the most influential, iconic, and widely used guitars from among these elite bunch for you to feast your eyes and ears on.
Since many don't have access to the the kind of luthiers mentioned above, our list also includes the best among the mass production classical guitars in the market today. They can serve as great starting points to narrow down your choices if you are looking to procure a classical guitar. If nothing else, you can also use this list as a quick talking point if you want something to argue about with another guitarist, that's always fun!
Regular Classical Guitars
These easily accessible mass produced classical guitars that will give you more than your money's worth, covering both traditional builds and modern ones for those that want to crossover into the classical guitar realm for a change of sonic scenery.
At just over one grand, the Cordoba C10S is a standout classical guitar, featuring all-solid wood construction and impressive build quality that can easily be mistaken for a handbuilt traditional instrument. It features a solid European Spruce top supported by Spanish-style fan bracing, a feature that is normally found on instruments that cost twice or even more. The back and sides are crafted from solid East Indian Rosewood, another premium tonewood that gives this classical a bit more clarity and brightness than the usual cedar top & mahogany configuration. Completing its top-notch features are the solid African mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, and rosewood bridge. Designed to play like a traditional classical guitar, it has a scale length of 25.6" and nutwidth of 2". Truly a great bang per buck classical guitar for those looking for a workhorse instrument with traditional build and cosmetics.Manufacturer: Cordoba | Retail Price: $1059.99 | Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Official video demo of the Cordoba Luthier Series C10:
For steel-string and electric guitarists who want to dive into the classical guitar territory, Yamaha designed the NTX1200R just for you. It combines traditional features of the classical guitar (25.56" scale length) with modern comfort (1.89" nut width), playability (14th fret neck joint) and built-in electronics, resulting in an acoustic-electric nylon string guitar that you can play both on your couch or on stage. The guitar's build utilizes traditional materials, having a solid spruce top paired with rosewood for the back and sides. Cosmetics, body shape and the soundhole style however strays away from the familiar, featuring an elegant cutaway and premium looking sound hole rosette. Finally, since this one is built by Yamaha, you can be sure that it will last you a long long time. Manufacturer: Yamaha | Retail Price: $999.99 | Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Watch the Yamaha NTX1200R in action:
The Takamine P3FCN is a modern take on the classical guitar, retaining traditional tone while implementing modern electronics, comfortable neck profile and body shape. This guitar features a solid cedar top with scalloped X bracing, solid sapele back and sapele sides. The body's distinct cutaway shape follows Takamine's modern FXC design, which helps improve acoustic projection and tone. As expected from the company that popularized the acoustic-electric guitar, this classical instrument sounds great when plugged in, thanks to Takamine's CT4B preamp system. Scale length is 25.563" while nutwidth is 1.870", allowing for modern playability. If you're looking for a workhorse classical guitar that plays close to an acoustic-electric, you should check out the Takamine P3FCN. Manufacturer: Takamine | Retail Price: $1249.99 | Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Watch the Takamine P3FCN demo:
Martin 000C Nylon
While more popular for their steel-string acoustics, Martin knows their way around nylon guitars just as well. The 000C Nylon is part of their endeavor to expand into the classical guitar territory, built to serve as an intermediate instrument for steel-stringed players that want to add the mellow sound of a classical guitar into their repertoire. It has specs that fall in between steel-stringed and nylon string specs to make transition more comfortable including the cutaway body, 1-7/8" nut width and long scale length of 26.44". It sports the familiar combination of solid Sitka spruce top and solid sapele back and sides, giving this guitar an intermediary tone that matches its playability. If you are looking for a crossover classical guitar that has big brand backing, then you're all set for the Martin 000C Nylon. Manufacturer: C.F. Martin & Co. | Retail Price: $1599 | Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Check out the Martin 000C Nylon in action:
One of the most popular and best selling classical guitars for many years now, the Yamaha C40 continues to be the ultimate beginners' classical guitar. Be it for formal music lessons or for simply learning guitar at home, this classical guitar is up for the job, and has become the student guitar of many players today - myself included! For its price, it sports true to form specs and materials, like the 2" nut width, 25.56" scale length along with the combination of spruce and meranti wood for the body. This allows students and beginners to develop correct classical posture and finger techniques. The tone department of this guitar is no slouch either, because it has projects a hefty, resonant and clear tone. Finally, the Yamaha C40 is meant to handle years of use, after decades of abuse, my own C40 is still a playable and great sounding instrument. The Yamaha C40 is the best classical guitar for budget conscious players and for serious students of the classical guitar discipline. Manufacturer: Yamaha | Retail Price: $139.99 | Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Official video demo of the Yamaha C40:
Boutique Classical Guitars
These are the classical guitars built by master luthiers for the privileged few. Don't be surprised to see these guitars priced way over what you'd normally expect, and you should have enough patience to go through the long wait list of these popular guitar builders. Still, the price and wait time is more than justified once you get to play these truly special instruments.
Greg Smallman and Sons
Greg Smallman's work, popularized by guitarist extraordinaire John Williams, is recognized the world over for its innovative and unique design. His guitars feature an arched and carved back which is thicker than traditional designs. The most unique feature of his guitars is its innovative lattice framework - made of balsa wood and carbon fiber. This gives Smallman guitars more pronounced tone and louder sound. Another notable feature is its unique and comfortable armrest. The Smallman is our top pick from among the best classical guitars - a perfect melding of traditional and modern design. Manufacturer: Greg Smallman Price Range: $10K up.
Matthias Dammann pioneered the "double top" design which gives classical guitar players added volume while retaining traditional tone. The sandwich top features ultra thin soundboards with a hollow space in between, and utilizes a polymer called Nomex for the spacers. This allowed the top to move more providing a boost in volume, which became sought after by guitarists who play on venues that use no amplification. Big name classical guitarists like David Russell and Manuel Barrueco are just some of the few that are impressed with this guitar.
Manufacturer: Matthias Dammann Price Range: $10K up.
Manuel Barrueco playing Danza de los Los Vecinos on his Matthias Dammann guitar:
Antonio de Torres
If you are looking for the best classical guitar and you have all the money in the world, then you won't go wrong if you go to the source - Antonio de Torres. He is revered as the guy responsible for the design of modern classical guitars. Torres' guitars exemplify clarity and balanced tone and his design influenced the way the world made guitars. Up to now, his guitars still stand as the template by which many luthiers build their designs upon. Of the 400 guitars that Antonio de Torres made, only 90 are currently known to survive, which is why every existing guitar is revered by scholars, collectors and musicians.
Manufacturer: Antonio de Torres Price Range: $70K up.
Here is Stefano Grondona with a 1887 Antonio de Torres SE 107 playing F. Schubert's Minuetto:
Daniel Friederich guitars are known for amazing aesthetics and traditional but powerful tone. His guitars have an elegant and graceful body shape matched with a distinctive headstock design that makes them easily recognizable. Many classical guitar masters use Friederich guitars as their main instruments and they helped build the brand's popularity and consequently raised the demand and price. If you are looking for traditional design and tone with modern quality - then this is the ultimate classical guitar choice. Friederich has closed his wait list but he does send one instrument per year to Guitarsalon.
Manufacturer: Daniel Friederich Price Range: $10K up.
Daniel Friederich guitar in the hands of Marc Teicholz playing his arrangements of classical pieces:
The Jose Ramirez name is synonymous to Spanish Classical and Flamenco - they are the C.F. Martin & Co of Classical guitars, producing guitars for all price points, while retaining their master level workshop in Spain. Now in its fifth generation, the family business continues to provide quality and affordable guitars. The Jose Ramirez 125 Años is a limited edition model that commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Ramirez guitar making company. It features all solid tonewood body. This is the top classical guitar you can get at a relatively affordable price.
Manufacturer: Jose Ramirez Price Range: $2.4K up.
Ivan Chavarria on a Ramirez '125 Anos guitar:
Manuel Rodriguez is another famous family of classical guitar makers in southern Spain. The Rodriguez design is somewhat sleeker and slimmer, known for its larger body. Their design is mainly influenced by Antonio de Torres and they continue in this traditional design method up to this day. The Manuel Rodriguez FC is one of their affordable models that feature solid tone woods - solid cedar top matched with solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Workmanship is also topnotch for its price, and it closely rivals the Ramirez for the title best mass produced classical guitars.
Manufacturer: Manuel Rodriguez Price Range: $1.7K up.
Here we can see a vintage 1955 Manuel Rodriguez in the hands of Grisha:
These guitars are our top choices. Should you have any suggestions that you think others should check out, do let us know through the comments section at the bottom of the page.
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