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Old 02-11-2010, 11:19 AM
PicksNStrings PicksNStrings is offline
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Default Classical Guitar - Volume?

Is it possible to get good volume from an unplugged Classical Guitar?




Those that play both Steel String and Nylon String guitars, what can the nylon not do as well?
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:47 AM
Brent Hutto Brent Hutto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PicksNStrings View Post
Is it possible to get good volume from an unplugged Classical Guitar?
Oh yes. Guys were playing classic guitar concerts to 100+ people for a century before anyone invented pickups and PA systems. But they have really, really good guitars and really good technique. Actually, on steel or nylon strings if you want a room full of people to hear you acoustically you either need a) really good right-hand technique or b) a pick.

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Those that play both Steel String and Nylon String guitars, what can the nylon not do as well?
Short answer? Sustain. Second short answer? Treble overtones.

The acoustical power from a classical guitar is predominantly in the bass and lower midrange. There is tons of excess treble and overtone volume (relative to the bass) in most steel-string guitars. So it's hard to get a warm, robust and detailed (fundamental) tone from steel and hard to get bright, ringing treble or "cut" from nylon.

Think of a classical guitar as more similar to an archtop than a flattop steel-string guitar and you've got a big part of the difference in real-world application.

Overall I'd say if you compare a really good steel-string, unplugged fingerstyle player (let's say Howard Emerson) to a really good nylon-string, unplugged classical player and have them play in the same venue you'd find the steel strings are a bit louder sounding overall but it will be by "cutting" more whereas the nylon string will have a richer but not as in-your-face sound. Modern double-top and lattice-braced classical instruments can narrow that difference somewhat...except for the steel-string guys can also get double-top and lattice-braced guitars.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:05 PM
garywj garywj is offline
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Yes, my loudest guitar (unplugged) is a 1979 Ramirez 1a. My wife noticed that if that guitar is in a room you can hear it respond to sounds. If you talk near it you can hear the echo from the guitar. None of my other guitars do that. I do not know if all 1a's are like that, but I imagine there any many high-end classicals that are louder - and I'm sure louder than my 1a. My second loudest guitar is a Martin, so that speaks well of the Ramirez.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:10 PM
ewalling ewalling is offline
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Yes, my Orpheus Valley Fiesta classical is a very loud guitar, too.

P.S. Just seen the second part of your question! What does a classical do less well than a steel string? Difficult to say really... I would think that it's more a case that we might prefer to play certain pieces on a steel string and others on a classical. But this is up to the person; as Stefan Grossman says, for him, ragtime is a style best played on a steel string, but he adds that Davey Graham and Duck Baker both played excellent ragtime on classicals! On a classical, however, there are certain physical issues - the 2" nut width makes it more difficult to get the thumb round to play chords, which takes some adjustment when you're used to doing that.

Last edited by ewalling; 02-11-2010 at 02:19 PM.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:38 PM
Dogsnax Dogsnax is offline
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In recent years there's been a trend towards lattice-braced classical guitars for additional volume. A good number of classical guitar purists feel lattice-bracing results in a midrange heavy guitar. Loud vs. tone....the debate continues in classical circles.
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:10 PM
wcap wcap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hutto View Post

The acoustical power from a classical guitar is predominantly in the bass and lower midrange. There is tons of excess treble and overtone volume (relative to the bass) in most steel-string guitars. So it's hard to get a warm, robust and detailed (fundamental) tone from steel and hard to get bright, ringing treble or "cut" from nylon.
This is why I, after playing a classical guitar exclusively for almost 4 years, found many steel string guitars lacking when I was doing serious shopping for a steel string this past summer. On many steel string guitars I really miss the bass and the warmth that I want/expect from a guitar. For this reason, I find myself really drawn to some of the better dreadnaughts, and to jumbos and such for fingerstyle. Many of the "fingerstyle guitars" don't give me the bass or the dynamic range I'm wanting and expecting for really expressive playing.

A good classical, played well, can have really nice, strong treble though too. At its best, the treble can be strong and lovely, and bell-like, with a richness to the tone that I find lacking in many steel string guitars.

Regarding volume: My Burguet classical is quite a loud guitar, and very very responsive. It is much louder than my Martin 000-15 (which admittedly is not a loud guitar), and approaches the volume of my cedar/rosewood Goodall concert jumbo (which is a very loud guitar, with a strong voice similar to a good dreadnaught). This Burguet is also light as a feather compared to the other instruments. The top appears to be incredibly thin - I'm almost scared holding it when I look at how thin the top is. But the sound is wonderful.

Last edited by wcap; 02-11-2010 at 03:18 PM.
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:41 PM
Brent Hutto Brent Hutto is offline
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wcap,

I have a more-or-less L-00 style steel-string guitar. It happens to be almost exactly the dimensions of my classical guitar except for a little more taper in depth from heel to endpin and of course that distinctive L-style small upper bout. It is one of the more classical-guitar-like steel-strings I've played in regards to tonal balance. Still nowhere near the warmth and timbre of nylon strings of course but definitely tending in that direction, although actually quite lacking in the bottom octave compared to my particular classical.

It has the advantage of being way more comfy (to me) than dreds and jumbos although both of those body styles excel in that bottom octave where mine falls off a bit.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:59 PM
Kabalan Kabalan is offline
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you have to listen Julian Bream in a concert hall, playing a Romanillos guitar!
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Old 02-11-2010, 06:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PicksNStrings View Post
Is it possible to get good volume from an unplugged Classical Guitar?
Hi PnS…
I don't know what you mean by good volume. You particular planned use will determine whether any guitar is loud enough for the application. If it's just for playing for you own pleasure, classical guitars are loud enough.

I led music today for a group of 35 people (mostly men) who were singing loudly in a small gym (hard floor, walls, 20 foot ceiling). I doubt any classical I've ever heard or played would have sufficed. My Olson Dreadnaught sailed through it...

I know my OM would not have been able to pull it off (35 men singing loudly put up quite a lot of sound), nor probably my mini-Jumbo.

All that to say...
You cannot manufacture projection and good volume by just playing cleaner or louder - there are inherent characteristics of all guitars which exploit or limit volume and projection.

There are also room dynamics which enhance or dampen projection and volume.

I attended a concert of 250 people with two superb classical guitar players with no amplification a couple months ago - and deliberately sat in the front row. Glad I did...

The audience was quiet and respectful, and despite the fact both had handbuilt classicals (one was a Hauser), and impeccable technique...the sound in the auditorium was anemic and underpowered. It sounded great from 20 feet away...some in the back left at intermission because they could not hear.

The auditorium is one used for many acoustic performances in our community (choirs, orchestras, bands, ensembles etc). It is not conducive to a non-amplified classical guitar.

A player at our monthly guitar society meeting owns two classical guitars, a small bodied spruce topped and a larger body cedar topped guitar, and the cedar topped instrument is superior in both tone, and volume over the smaller one.

I don't see that it would be any different from an acoustic guitar in that a person really needs to go and play classical guitars in person to know how they will sound/project.

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Old 02-11-2010, 10:11 PM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Reminds me of a story about Segovia's response to complaints that audience members in large venues couldn't hear very well and the suggestion he use some form of amplification.
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Old 02-12-2010, 12:16 AM
David Hilyard David Hilyard is offline
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I think attack is pretty important in the volume of any guitar. If you play with flesh, no nail and little force, it'll be quieter, no matter what guitar you play. If you play with a Wegan flat pick and heavy strokes, it'll be as loud as it'll get on that guitar.

The loudest acoustic guitars I've played, using my normal technique of thumbpick and acrylic nails, have been double top classical guitars. My small body Hauser style classical rivals my big body steel string baritone in volume and projection. It's in the build and in the playing technique.

Andres Segovia on a Hauser in a concert hall will be quieter than Paco de Lucia on a Devoe in the same hall.

It's been my experience that classical guitars can be every bit as loud as steel string guitars.
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Old 02-12-2010, 04:22 AM
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the Loriente classical I just sold was definitely louder than my Goodall CJ
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Old 02-12-2010, 08:50 AM
franchelB franchelB is offline
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i think my Takamine CD132SC gets pretty loud...depending on my playing technique.
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:27 AM
Aaron Smith Aaron Smith is offline
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From a theoretical standpoint, you can get more volume out of a steel-stringed dreadnaught than a concert classical. There's an element of basic physics that can't be overcome- the steel string has more moving mass, thus more energy.
From a practical standpoint, my opinion is that the difference is not that great. A nylon stringed instrument can be built much more lightly, so that more of the string energy is converted into sound. Classical players tend to have more refined picking technique, and can squeeze more volume out of the instrument. And the purity of tone with nylon strings makes the apparent volume greater, because there's less overtones for the fundamental to compete with.
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Old 02-12-2010, 02:08 PM
wcap wcap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post

All that to say...
You cannot manufacture projection and good volume by just playing cleaner or louder - there are inherent characteristics of all guitars which exploit or limit volume and projection.
Certainly each instrument has its physical limits to what it is capable of, and, say, your Olson dreadnaught, not to mention many other dreadnaughts, will probably be louder than most any classical guitar, and maybe by a wide margin.

But good right hand technique, including good nails, makes a world of difference, especially on classical guitars. I mean, a really tremendous difference. Tone is certainly affected, but volume is too. And its not just a matter of how hard you pluck the strings, but how you do so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post

I don't see that it would be any different from an acoustic guitar in that a person really needs to go and play classical guitars in person to know how they will sound/project.

Absolutely. One needs to try out as many guitars as possible and play them as much as possible regardless of the type of guitar.

There is a difference though. Good right hand technique is important to get the best sound out of any guitar, but it is much more important with a classical guitar. So it is harder, in my opinion, to get a good feel for the capabilities of classical guitars when guitar shopping unless you have been playing a classical guitar quite a bit and have developed decent technique. Without good technique classical guitars tend to sound weak, thumpy, and uninspiring in my opinion. But with good technique the same instrument can really sing. I don't see quite the same level of contrast in sound as a function of technique with steel string guitars.

Last edited by wcap; 02-12-2010 at 02:20 PM.
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