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  #1  
Old 05-22-2012, 11:41 PM
Jamesguitar Jamesguitar is offline
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Default Advise please: classical vs folk

As I understand it, classical guitars and folk guitars are different in that the former are easier for "fingering" playing style.

I am planning to buy a guitar. I want to learn to play classical, fingering style. So, I have been looking at classical guitars.

I've got two questions here.

1) How else are the two kinds of guitars different? Say, in terms of sound, especially?

2) If I do take a folk guitar and learn to play classical on it, shall I end up messed up in any way?

I am new with guitar. Am I asking silly questions?
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  #2  
Old 05-22-2012, 11:59 PM
Brant0086 Brant0086 is offline
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A classical guitar is a nylon string guitar and a "folk" guitar is a steel string guitar. The difference in sound is astronomical. The folk guitar will be considerably more versatile, but the nylon string guitar is easier to fret (mash the strings down on the neck.) The steel string guitar will have a more full sound with plenty of high end, whereas the classical will be lean much more to a mid-range sound. In terms of sound, the folk is better, but you will have to deal with sore fingers.
As far as the sound being messed up playing classical music on a steel string, I don't see it as a problem. Both guitars are tuned the same and switching between one or the other is not a big task, once you have picked up some skills.
The choice is ultimately yours. I would go play around with both at a local store and decide for yourself. That would be my best advice. I will say this though....... once you start learning chords, the sound will probably be more gratifying coming out of the folk guitar, so that would be my suggestion if you just want my unimportant opinion.


Bryant
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  #3  
Old 05-23-2012, 03:32 AM
Odie1974 Odie1974 is offline
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I am a purist here - if you want to play strictly classical music, I would buy a classical guitar. That's what they were made for and in fact classical music benefits from shorter sustain and mellow sound of nylon strings. Plus it is easier to learn on classical as the string tension is far lower.

But of you want to play fingerstyle, i.e. Travis picking, arrangements of pop/rock tunes, etc - then I would consider a steel string guitar - the majority (though not all to be honest) of such tunes sound better (at least to my ears) on a steel string.
And plain strumming / cowboy chords work better on a steel string imo.

You need to be aware that both types have diffrent neck widths.
Classicals are usually 52mm wide, whereas steel strings are usually 1.75''. But sometimes (relatively rarely) you can get wider necks on steel strings as well - 1 13/16 and 1 7/8 which are generally better for fingerstyle.

You should also consider scale length - steel string guitars with shorter scale - 25'' and less are slightly easier to play. On classicals the scale length does not matter that much really.

Also - classicals have 12 frets to the body, whereas most steel strings have 14. 14 frets give you better reach to upper frets - useful if you want to play high up the neck.
There are also 12 fret steel strings which have somewhat sweeter sound than 14 fretters. And if you want good reach you can also look for a cutaway.

The best fingerstyle steel string for me would be:
short scale (<25 ''), 1 7/8 nut, 12 frets to the body, cutaway. With cedar top.
Unfortunately such guitars are not easy to find - you need to search classifieds section or order custom, or compromise.

I have both types and switch, depending on what music I want to play.

I would suggest you spend some time here on the forum, read as much as you can - there's a lot of knowledgeable and helpful people here and only then make a decision.
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Old 05-23-2012, 03:42 AM
kerbie kerbie is offline
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I agree with the very good advice you've already gotten. They are indeed quite different guitars. I learned on a classical years ago before switching to steel string. I would get a classical if that's the only type of music you want to play, but the steel if you want to play others. It is much more versatile.

The nylon strings of the classical are considerably easier on your fingers than steel... you can play them all day long. I would check out the classical neck before buying though. The wider nut width can make fingerstyle easier, but some of them are so wide that bar chords become quite difficult.

Both type of guitars are great for their own purposes. Just play a lot of them before deciding.
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Old 05-23-2012, 04:15 AM
Paikon Paikon is offline
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since you want to play classical music buy a classical guitar
you can play some easier classical stuff on a steel string guitar but since you are a beginner go with the classical
its easier to learn on it
..and go to a music school to learn it
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  #6  
Old 05-23-2012, 04:43 AM
vintage bass vintage bass is offline
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I would humbly recommend a Classical guitar for any beginner. After a year or so of dedicated practice, the transition to steel is a breeze. I tried learning on a couple of (really) cheap steel strings when I was a kid and the pain of the high action and rusty Black Diamond strings, not to mention horrible tone, was less than inspiring. I eventually saved up and bought a Gibson classical, (oddly enough, because I mistook Ian Andersons' slotted headstock 0-16NY for a classical and was inspired by his playing). This was the ticket for me as the painlessness, wider neck and inexpensively acquired decent tone, helped me to stick with it.
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Old 05-23-2012, 05:47 AM
RussMason RussMason is offline
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Default I have had both for a long time

If you consider that Willie Nelson plays a classical guitar, that breaks the myth that only classical music should be played on classical guitars.

I agree with those who think it's a good first guitar, but I would go a bit further. I would recommend a Cordoba Cadet 3/4 size guitar. It's obviously smaller, easier to hold and very easy to play.

I got one for my wife a couple of years ago and I find myself playing it all the time. It's just such a great little guitar, esp at under $300.00, including shipping, from Musician's Friend.

It's a great guitar to start on. After that, you can go anywhere.
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  #8  
Old 05-23-2012, 06:42 AM
Paikon Paikon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RussMason View Post

I would recommend a Cordoba Cadet 3/4 size guitar. It's obviously smaller, easier to hold and very easy to play.

I got one for my wife a couple of years ago and I find myself playing it all the time. It's just such a great little guitar, esp at under $300.00, including shipping, from Musician's Friend.
i disagree
small guitars are for children under 10-12 years old
children 12 to 120 years old should play on 4/4 guitars
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Old 05-23-2012, 06:57 AM
unimogbert unimogbert is offline
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Don't buy a Classical guitar with any idea that you might be able to put steel strings on it later if you prefer that sound. The guitar will warp and be unusable.

(I plead the ignorance of youth and promise not to do it again!)
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  #10  
Old 05-23-2012, 07:17 AM
mchalebk mchalebk is offline
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I would suggest a classical guitar as a first guitar only if you plan to play primarily classical music and it you only plan to play fingerstyle. Yes, it can be easier to play nylon strings. However, nylon strings just aren't as versatile. Unless a player has a very developed right hand technique, they sound terrible when played with a pick.

One other thing about nylon strings: they're always going out of tune. This can be discouraging for a beginner.
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  #11  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:04 AM
Odie1974 Odie1974 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mchalebk View Post
One other thing about nylon strings: they're always going out of tune. This can be discouraging for a beginner.
Here I have to disagree - good quality strings (Savarez, D'Addario, etc) on a good quality guitar (with good tuners) do not go out of tune that much. Certainly not always and not after every song And a beginner does not play very long songs anyways...

Yes, they tend to go out of tune when they are new, but after a break in period they stay in tune OK. And it's not advisable to stretch nylons manually as they are quite sensitive to that. It is better to allow them to break in by themselves.

And nylons last longer than steel...
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  #12  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:06 AM
bohemian bohemian is offline
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Willie Nelson does not play a classical guitar. Willie Nelson plays a Martin N-20 which is a nylon string "folk" guitar as was original intended and advertised by Martin.

I think we need to define a "folk" guitar and a "classical" guitar.

Classical guitars are indeed nylon strung. It is the dimensions and internal bracing that hair splittingly defines it as a classical. Most nylon strung guitars are classical, exception would be flamenco with a lighter buikld and lower action.. and the "folk" guitar.

Folk guitars gets a little tougher to define.. could be steel string , could be
nylon. Generally speaking, the "folk" guitars have smaller bodies.. classical sized and smaller. The dimensions can be different than classicals. Some have a narrower nut width, some have different scale lengths , most are braced differently than a classical and .. some can be steel strung.

Examoles of nylon folk guitars would be the Martin N-20, N-10 and any of their nylon strung guitars without a "C" in the model.

Examples of what some would call Martin steel string "folk" guitar would be
the New Yorker.

Aside from all that... steel and nylon have been used for "folk" music. Look at Peter Paul and Mary as an example. They used both.

"Folk" muisc can be and has been played on steel and nylon.

Classical is rarely played on steel strings, though has been done.

As a practical matter, I would use a classical guitar for "folk" and were I to have only one guitar, it would be a classical or flamenco. I have gone years with only a nylon strung guitar.

You can play anything on a classical guitar. If in doubt, get a classical.
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Old 05-23-2012, 08:11 AM
Paikon Paikon is offline
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.. and to add some versatility to a classical guitar sound there are soft steel strings and hybrid metallic strings for classical guitar from Thomastik-infeld
http://www.stringsbymail.com/store/c...c-s-series-87/
they both sound great!
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  #14  
Old 05-23-2012, 08:52 AM
Jamesguitar Jamesguitar is offline
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A big thankyou everybody!

I put up my post last night and went to bed. Now the first thing to do was to come to this forum. I am so grateful to read all your advices.

Thank you!
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  #15  
Old 05-23-2012, 09:02 AM
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devellis devellis is offline
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Many classical guitars out there are pretty weak instruments intended for beginners. Some of the problems ascribed to classical guitars as a category won't be true of decent classical guitars. They can be fairly loud. I'm strictly a steel-string guy and I prefer all of the characteristics that distinguish a steel-string flat-top from a classical guitar. But I know serious classical guitarists and they can get amazing sounds from their instruments that a steel string just couldn't produce in the same way. If your target is to become a classical player, then I'd get a classical guitar from the get-go. The neck profile is more conducive to good classical technique than the neck of a nylon-string folk guitar would be and the voicing will be more, well, classical (assuming it's a decent quality guitar). A classical is a more purpose-built instrument arguably but that should be irrelevant if your intention is to play classical music.

A modest instrument will get you started but the serious classical guitarists I've known are even more keenly attuned to tone than the good steel string guitarists I've known. They really want a specific sound from every note, and that involves a good deal more than just the correct pitch. They usually feel a need to upgrade to a high-quality guitar at the soonest possible time so that they can get all those nuances of tone. Steel string fingerstylists certainly care about tone, too, but it seems to take on a whole new dimension for the accomplished classical players.
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