Classical Guitar FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

The final section of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Classical Guitar’ series is here.  Classical Guitar FAQ’s is designed to give you answers to all the common questions. Finally, remember to sign up for 4 Feature Friday

Classical Guitar FAQ's

Choosing An Instrument

What’s the difference between a classical and a flamenco guitar?

Flamenco guitars are traditionally made with cypress backs and sides, along with a spruce top. In recent years, however, “flamenco negras” which feature rosewood for their backs and sides became more popular. The flamenco guitar is known for being light, fast, and percussive, with low sustain. Classical guitars, on the other hand, tend to be a bit heavier, more solidly built, and have a characteristic high sustain, which makes them perfect for their genre of music. 

What should I look for in a classical guitar?

Classical guitars are basically acoustic guitars, but they tend to be more expensive than typical acoustics you will find in a store. The most reputable brands, for instance, can be a bit out of reach for the average consumer in terms of pricing. So when looking for a beginner instrument, find something that plays and plays well, and is durable enough to last you a while. When your skills eventually improve, then you can upgrade to something better. 

Should I buy a used guitar?

If budget is a bit of an issue, why not? Used guitars can be as good as brand new ones, provided they’ve been cared for very extensively by their previous owners. When it comes to classical guitars, in fact, buying used is often a good avenue for beginners because you can get something pretty high end for much less than what you would have paid for it if it were brand new. Used guitars can actually be more durable than brand new ones too, because the wood, glue, and everything else on its body has had time to solidify and strengthen! 

Maintenance

Why is my guitar going out of tune in higher frets?

A lot of reasons can cause this. There are three main ones: 

  • Bad strings can, over time, lose their durability and not hold as much tension with constant playing and tuning.
  • Poor fret placement means that if the fret is not set up properly, you technically can’t play high notes like they’re supposed to be played (i.e. this guy’s high C is different from your high C). 
  • Incorrect compensation refers to an inaccurately positioned saddle which doesn’t allow the strings to be as stiff as they can be in order to produce a good sound. 
How do you clean a classical guitar’s fretboard?

You can use something as simple as a toothpick or a needle to clear away the built-up dirt in the nooks and crannies of the fretboard, specifically at the bottom of the frets. Remember to not use something too hard, however, as you might scratch the delicate ebony or rosewood. As with every other guitar, you can also clean the fretboard with a soft, clean cloth after every performance. When wiping your guitar down, do it gently as well so you won’t damage the finish. There are some really good guitar cleaning kits that are well worth the investment.

How do I take care of a classical guitar?

Take care of it as you would any other stringed instrument. Keep it away from temperature and humidity extremes, because the wood will react violently to it and eventually weaken over time. Always store it in the case or gig bag when not in use. Avoid tight spaces when storing it so as to not bump the body to anything that might cause physical damage. When changing the strings, also check other things like the fretboard, tuning pegs, and bridge for any signs of wear and tear. 

Technique

How can I improve my guitar technique?

The fastest way to get better at classical guitar is refining your overall tone. And this will always, always come from your fingers in an acoustic instrument such as this. In fact, finger tone tends to be a very personal thing in the classical guitar community: consider it as your version of an artist’s signature whenever you play music out of your instrument. As long as you get your tone right, you will have something that will separate you from other guitarists out there. We’ve written a guide all about classical guitar technique here.

What’s the correct action for a classical guitar?

Try to achieve at least 0.1” (3mm) on the low E string and 0.2” (4mm) at the high E string. You can measure the action at the 12th fret, by looking from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string. You should also measure the action at the nut starting from the third fret, so the string is stretched between the second fret and the nut. All in all, try to find an action that you feel would best fit your playstyle and overall preference. 

General Classical Guitar FAQs

What separates a classical guitar from a typical acoustic guitar?

The classical guitar features a rather unique string setup. While it does feature six strings much like the common acoustic guitar, its top three strings are made of nylon wrapped in brass wire, and its bottom three strings are pure nylon. There are also no cutouts which allow easier access to higher frets. The classical guitar is also played with fingerpicking techniques and never with picks. And there are absolutely no electronics included of any kind. The sound strictly comes from the resonance in the guitar body.

What are the advantages of different tension strings?

When choosing between different tension strings, remember that it all depends on your personal playing style, as well as the guitar itself. If you go for a completely handmade guitar, for one, it’s likely not going to be strong enough for a particular tension of strings. But the rule of thumb is simple: high tension strings are louder and tend to buzz less while allowing for more dynamic range, while lower tension strings are quite rarely used on modern instruments. 

Classical Guitar FAQ's
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