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The 15 differences and similarities between classical and acoustic guitar

As in most things, the case here is not what’s better, it’s what’s more appropriate for your personal needs.

If you are a beginner guitar player, you have come to the right place, as we will be sure to cover all the basics. Even if you’re a seasoned veteran, we believe you can find value in this article. We are sure you will learn some precious info you have missed out on until now!

classical vs acoustic guitar comparison

Here’re the differences between classical and acoustic guitar:

1. Shape and build

The most obvious difference you can observe is the difference in shape and build of these two types of guitars. Classical guitars are usually bigger with their own distinct build features. The body of the classical guitar usually has round shoulders and a somewhat smaller tail end of the body.

As far as acoustic guitars go, the situation is somewhat more complicated. The main reason for that is that there are numerous types of acoustic guitar models produced by different manufacturers. Roughly speaking, acoustic guitars have more squared shoulders and the tail end of the body tends to be somewhat larger.

2. Neck size

The neck of the classical guitar is usually much wider than the neck of the acoustic guitar. In regards to that aspect, classical guitar is harder to tame. On the other hand, the acoustic guitar neck is smaller and more accessible.

3. Fretboard

The fretboard of the classical guitar has a flat radius. This feature makes a more comfortable playing experience in some aspects. Namely, playing single notes or smaller batches of notes at the same time can be much easier.

On the other hand, the neck of the acoustic guitar has a rounder radius, making playing chords lower on the neck somewhat easier.

4. Types of bridge

The bridge of a classical guitar is basically a tie block that is used to wrap the strings around it. The strings are tied in a knot in order to ensure a snug fit and keep everything in place. The bridge of an acoustic guitar uses string pegs to pressure fit the strings into place.

5. Strings used

On a classical guitar you’ll find strings made out of nylon. Looks-wise, the first three strings are much clearer in color than the strings of an acoustic guitar. Besides that, the strings feel much softer to the touch. Sound-wise, the nylon strings sound warmer and mellower.

The synonymous term for the acoustic guitar is the “steel-string acoustic guitar”. Hence, the logical conclusion (you don’t say, right?) is that the acoustic guitar uses steel strings.

Steel strings are not as soft and buttery, as nylon strings usually are. They are much sturdier, therefore a bit less comfortable for playing. Steel strings have been known to take a toll on a new guitarist’s fingers. Sound-wise, the steel strings sound shimmery and bright.

6. Fret markers

Classical guitars usually have no fret markers on the fretboard at all. If they have them, they are usually placed at the edges of the fretboard.

Acoustic guitars have fret markers placed on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, and sometimes 15th fret. The markers are usually placed on the fretboard surface and the fretboard edges.

7. Playability

As with most other things in life, both of these types of guitars are in some aspects more playable, while being less playable in some other aspects.

Classical guitars usually feature nylon strings that are softer to the touch than steel strings. This makes them a bit more gentle on the fingers. On the other hand, the neck of the classical guitar is wider, therefore requiring more strain on your fretting hand.

Acoustic guitars are equipped with steel strings, which are definitely harder strings to fret. This means that bending the strings tends to be somewhat easier with steel strings, as opposed to nylon ones. Also, the neck is smaller; therefore it is much more comfortable to get your hand around.

8. Playing approach and technique

The first standout difference would be the posture. Whenever you see a classical guitarist you are sure to spot a formally trained posture that accompanies their approach to the instrument.

Besides that, the classical guitar is usually finger-picked. Acoustic guitars are usually played with a plectrum but can be also finger-picked.

As far as the fretting hand goes, more often than not you’ll see the classical guitar player with their thumbs strictly placed in the middle of the back of the neck. The acoustic guitar playing technique does not require that level of a formal approach, thus the thumb may be placed however you would like it.

9. Sound

Sound-wise there is a real difference. The classical guitar sounds warmer. The buttery round sound of a classical guitar is what you most associate with some Spanish/Latino legendary guitar pieces.

The acoustic guitar is much cleaner, brash, and airy-sounding. The sound of the acoustic guitar is really widespread in the world of popular music. You can easily put on any popular ballad-y rock song of the last 50 years, and you are sure to find the sound of the beloved acoustic guitar somewhere.

10. Music genres

Now, this is a really ungrateful task. Of course, these two types of guitars are present in almost all genres of music known to man. Having said that, let’s stick with the genres they are typically most present at.

Classical guitars, unsurprisingly, can usually be found in classical guitar music. Besides that, you can find them in any kind of Spanish, or Latino type of music.

On the other hand, acoustic guitars are to be found in pop music, rock music, and country music as well.

Here’re the similarities between classical and acoustic guitar:

1. Tuning

All differences aside, some things are in common between these two types of guitars. Namely, the standard tuning for both guitars is E-A-D-G-B-E.

2. Number of strings

Both guitars have six strings that are placed in the exact same order as with the other type of guitar.

3. Both guitars are actually acoustic

Now, this may be a really confusing point. But nevertheless, it is very true. Both of these types of guitars are indeed acoustic in the sense that they project the loud sound acoustically. That is the sound hole in the body is in charge of sound amplification.

4. Hardware

Now, don’t get us wrong, these two types of guitars do have different sorts of bridges, and different sorts of tuning pegs. So, when we say that these have the same type of hardware – that is exactly what we mean!

Namely, all the same types of hardware items are present in both guitars. The difference can be in the design, but they all serve the same function as the same hardware item of its counterpart.

5. Construction and build

Both types of guitars consist of the same constituent elements such as guitar body, neck, headstock, fretboard, etc.


All in all, the acoustic and classical guitars are the same instrument, but they do offer several differences.

If you are a beginner trying to pick your axe of choice, make sure to do so according to your sensibilities. Try them out, or reference your favorite songs and choose the guitar that is most prominently featured in the music that you like.

If you are a seasoned pro, we hope you have gathered some info you didn’t know previously.

Whoever you are, pick up that guitar and jam away!