#1
Hey Guys,

A bit about myself before I delve into the issue. I’ve played the guitar for nearly a year now, learning from the internet and books on an acoustic guitar*. Though I can play chords, I mainly do so with friends and I do have quite some fun doing so. And while I do prefer fingerstyle songs on my guitar mainly learnt via tutorials of Gareth Evans (a fantastic youtuber you should definitely check out) I do have a lot of fun playing chord-based songs too.

*For all intents and purposes I’m going to refer to steel stringed guitars as being acoustic guitars and nylon stringed guitars as being the classical variant.

But here’s the problem. Although I do enjoy emulating the style of guitarists such as Gareth Evans who employs an acoustic guitar. I have been considering picking up a new classical guitar instead of an acoustic one. My current guitar is cheaply made model that I got before I fully committed myself to learning the guitar and I have been planning to purchase a better model. From what I understand however, classical guitars are much more suitable for fingerstyle than acoustics yet many prominent youtubers seem to prefer them in fingerstyle. Which leads me to wonder why they would prefer the acoustic guitar over the classical guitar and makes me second guess my decision.

What I would like is some advice from you guys in my quandary is to shed some light on the issue. From what I understand, fingerstyle can be played either classically or acoustically and while I do know it’s ultimately up to my choice in the type of sound I like, I want to also know whether switching to classical might actually be a bad decision for any reason whatsoever as I don’t want to regret spending money on a guitar that doesn’t match my style.

So I guess to sum up, I’m trying to ask:
- Can songs (like the ones played by Gareth Evans which are mainly played on an acoustic) be played on a classical guitar just like an acoustic guitar?
- Are there any problems that affect the playing of chord-based songs on a classical guitar? (By problems I don’t mean the difference in sound but rather aspects of the classical guitar that may make the experience undesirable)
- Why do some people use an acoustic guitar for fingerstyle songs rather than a classical guitar and is it a good idea to do so or does it just have to do with preference in sound?

I really hope I’m making some sense, because I’m really finding it hard to articulate my problem. Thanks for reading 
#2
I have recently started playing mostly nylon-string. I've been doing fingerstyle jazz chord-melody for a couple of years.
I play using classical technique, a combination of flesh and nails, and a steel-string guitar is just too hard on the nails. I don't like fingerpicks and I don't want to use artificial nails.
So, the nylon-string is a logical choice.
However... I don't get along with a standard classical. I don't care for the wide, flat fretboard... Especially not with the complex chord-forms I'm using. My old fingers just won't reach. So, I bought a crossover.

Specifically a "Manuel Rodriguez" acoustic-electric nylon-string with the narrower, radiused neck, 14 frets clear of the body, all that stuff. So far, a good experience. I have no trouble fingering chords and the instrument sounds good and looks good.

If you listen to a bunch of folks playing nylon-stringed instruments at a high level, you'll realize that there are few if any limitations....It's just whether you like the sound or not.
If you're going to play steel strings fingerstyle a lot... You are going to need to do something for your fingers. Fingerpicks, artificial nails, or disregarding nails alltogether and using bare flesh....Some prefer this. I don't care for the tone, myself.
#3
Hi Dermerald. I've been following Gareth as well. Fun stuff in his videos and a great player.

I play fingerstyle as well. I have several guitars, including a nice classical (Cordoba C-5), but I greatly prefer playing on my steel string instruments. I much prefer the sharper sound of steel strings to the mellow tone of nylon. I also greatly prefer the narrower fingerboard to that of the nylon instrument. The tradeoff is that the steel stringed axes have a tendency to wreak havoc on my fingernails. When my nails have to be clipped, or need time to recover, I'll play my nylon guitar (but lately I've been just strumming or playing with a pick when the nails need to recover). That being said a nylon guitar can sound amazing in the right hands (but not mine). I make my Cordoba sound like a ukelele (not intentionally).

I think one of the reasons for new guys starting on nylon stringed instruments is merely temporary. Until one's fingertip's toughen the nylon instruments are much easier, but after the fingertips toughen up there is no need.
#4
Thanks for the response guys.

@Bikewer Manuel Rodriguez guitarsm never heard of them prior to you bringing them up but I did a quick google search and I found a few links that I think might have led me to what you're talking about so thanks for the exposure Although I don't like the idea of buying a guitar online without getting the chance to play it first, however I quickly came to learn of the huge and diverse world of crossover guitars :0 I'll be sure to see if my guitar shops stock up on those >

@Tobusrex Thanks for the advice dude. Glad to meet another Gareth Evans fan. I find what you say about the nails to be rather insightful. Didn't really consider that at all so I guess that it might be important to consider whether I like the sound of fingerpicks on a steel string too so I found that really very helpful. Out of curiosity did you learn to play the classical guitar by yourself or witha teacher? Because I heard and read theres a bit more rigidity with how you play that its best to learn with a teacher.(which of course is true for either I guess).

Of course this leads to another question if you guys see this, is a crossover guitar played like a classical guitar or acoustic guitar? I couldnt find anything online on this really.
#5
It's all a matter of preference the way I see it. I prefer Steel to Nylon because of the tone, and volume. My big dread steel has a much fuller sound than my friends classical sized nylon, but you might not be looking for that big sound. I also prefer steel because I don't play a lot of classical, so that's a consideration too
My suggestion, go down to your local GC and play on the instruments till you find one you like. The materials don't matter as much as your artistic preference does
#6
Most fingerstyle players prefer a slightly wider nut/string spacing like 1 3/4 -1 11/16 as opposed to the 1 9/16 which is norm for most steel string acoustics. Classical guitars usually have 2" nut. Seagull is one brand that has 1 3/4 on most of their guitars, I think Recording King does as well. Just something to consider. Another thing may be the top wood. I think cedar may have a little more volume than spruce.
#7
@dermerald: I'm self taught. Except for Mel Bay, haha. I'm not a classical guitar player per se, I'm just a fingerstyle player who bought the classical guitar when I made my first abortive attempt at fingerstyle about 15+ years ago. It did help me get back into playing and wasn't too hard on my fingertips/nails. That Cordoba is a sweet sounding instrument.

I don't use fingerpicks, just my nails. I'm lucky in that my fingernails grow quickly, but they are thin. If I'm not too aggressive I can pick for a few weeks without having to take "fingerstyle time off".
#8
I love nylon stringed classical guitars. Wider fretboard, easier to finger and I just love the softness of the tones when fingerpicking.

They aren't good for strumming with a pick, though...but strumming with your hand only - much better.
#9
I sort of "fell into" the Rodriguez guitar.. I went to the Taylor Road Show to check that out and played the only nylon-string they brought along. Expensive instrument, about 1500 bucks, and I didn't care for the tone.

So I went back into the acoustic room to see what they had (GC) and about ALL they had was the two new "Flamenco Nuevo" models on the wall. So I played 'em both and was impressed.
There were a lot more that I wanted to look at, but literally none of the local shops had any. No demand, I expect.
Models are available from Yamaha, Takamine, Cordoba, and others.
I was really tempted by the Godin models.....But you are tied to an amp and they are a bit pricey. However, they sound very good indeed. I was just at a club where the guitarist was playing one and it was very impressive.
#10
Quote by dermerald
. . . .So I guess to sum up, I’m trying to ask:
- Can songs (like the ones played by Gareth Evans which are mainly played on an acoustic) be played on a classical guitar just like an acoustic guitar?
- Are there any problems that affect the playing of chord-based songs on a classical guitar? (By problems I don’t mean the difference in sound but rather aspects of the classical guitar that may make the experience undesirable)
- Why do some people use an acoustic guitar for fingerstyle songs rather than a classical guitar and is it a good idea to do so or does it just have to do with preference in sound?

I really hope I’m making some sense, because I’m really finding it hard to articulate my problem. Thanks for reading 


Hello and welcome.

It all comes down to personal preference. I play finger style on all my guitars - from electric, through 6 and 12 string acoustics, to standard classical. I can switch between guitars with no effort even though the neck widths vary from 40mm (electric) to 52mm. It's just a matter of practise. I play some songs on steel strings, some on nylon and often mix them up - just as the fancy takes me. I play more on nylon than steel - my preference.

If I could only have two guitars I would probably go for one steel string acoustic and one standard classical, both with electronics.

Only you can choose.
Last edited by Garthman at Jan 2, 2016,
#11
^^^^ Yes, whatever works for you.

I also play fingerstyle exclusively - slide, fingerpicking, acoustic lap steel, electric lap steel, conventional electric (slide only), steel string and nylon string. My preferences depend mostly on my mood, and variety is the spice of life.
#12
Quote by hotrodney71
Most fingerstyle players prefer a slightly wider nut/string spacing like 1 3/4 -1 11/16 as opposed to the 1 9/16 which is norm for most steel string acoustics. Classical guitars usually have 2" nut. Seagull is one brand that has 1 3/4 on most of their guitars, I think Recording King does as well. Just something to consider.
You have right and wrong measurements, (or possibly terminology), combined. "Neck width" is the specification normally given, whereas "string spacing" is something else entirely.

When quoted as "neck width", 1 11/16" is the almost universal standard for steel string acoustics today. 12 string "neck width", has standardized (pretty much), to 1 7/8".

Here's the Seagull spec page: http://www.seagullguitars.com/specs.html Note that their most often used neck width" is still shy of 1 3/4" @ 1.72" as opposed to the 1.750 which would be an actual 1 3/4".

If we took a 12 string as an example, while the "neck width" is actually 1 7/8", the string spacing is a fair amount less. Then, with a twelve, should you measure string spacing overall, or center to center on the 2 outer pairs?

Here's the neck width equivalents for 1 11/16'. Decimal equals 1.6875". Metric equals 42.8625 mm. (usually rounded to 43mm).
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jan 4, 2016,
#13
Quote by dermerald


So I guess to sum up, I’m trying to ask:
- Can songs (like the ones played by Gareth Evans which are mainly played on an acoustic) be played on a classical guitar just like an acoustic guitar?
- Are there any problems that affect the playing of chord-based songs on a classical guitar? (By problems I don’t mean the difference in sound but rather aspects of the classical guitar that may make the experience undesirable)
- Why do some people use an acoustic guitar for fingerstyle songs rather than a classical guitar and is it a good idea to do so or does it just have to do with preference in sound?

I really hope I’m making some sense, because I’m really finding it hard to articulate my problem. Thanks for reading 


There is only one advantage the acoustic guitar has over a classical guitar - percussiveness. Check out Andy Mckee , Antoine Dufour etc. they use the acoustic guitar to its full potential. You can slap the fretboard of an open tuned acoustic guitar and it will provide a great tone. An acoustic guitar is like a jackhammer.

I personally much prefer classical guitar over acoustic for every other aspect.

Classical guitars :

1) Play better - the strings are nylon and you can pull off much more technical music - from Paganini to Paco de Lucia.

2) balance between bass and treble - the balance on a classical guitar is simply better - that's why that type of guitar is used for classical music - you get more control over the mix of bass and treble strings. Acoustic guitar kind of compresses all the notes together, whereas the notes can really breathe on a classical - you hear them very distinctly.

3) don't have annoying treble metallic tones - acoustic guitar strings squeak like crazy and have a real metallic tone to them, which I personally can't stand.

4) dynamics and tone - you get much more range of tones on a classical when you pick near the bridge or the neck - the effect is more pronounced. You also get more range in terms of volume.

5) nails - if you fingerpick on acoustic you're stuck gluing ping pong ball fragments, or going to a fake nail salon, and all kinds of other crazy work arounds to keep decent nails for playing. This is because the acoustic guitar strings are metallic and will grind your fingernails down. Nylon string guitars don't do this.

6) string spacing - this is probably the most important thing for fingerstyle playing - nylon string guitars have more room between the strings which makes it better suited for playing fingerstyle.
Last edited by reverb66 at Jan 4, 2016,
#14
Hmmm, there are some of us that would say that steel nylon are certainly different, but one is not necessarily better than the other. I like both. Taking your points:

1) I think it depends what you want to play, but on balance I would say you are right.

2) Note separation is better on nylon strings, but bass-treble balance is a matter of personal taste. You can get a lot more sustain on a steel string if you shop around.

3) That's personal taste again

4) A lot of inexpensive nylon strings are all clunk and no dynamics. This the main reason I haven't taken too much interest in them. I think it is easier to find a half decent steel string in this respect than a half decent nylon string. - There are, of course exceptions - I played a terrific sounding Cordoba a few days ago, but the neck angle was lousy by my standards.

5) Yes, one of the big pluses of nylon strings is indeed less nail wear, especially on back strokes.

6) The wider spacing on nylon strings is necessary because of greater string excursion, but some of us get used to the narrower spacing as well. - I fingerpick a Gibson electric with a 2" spacing.
#15
Quote by Captaincranky
You have right and wrong measurements, (or possibly terminology), combined. "Neck width" is the specification normally given, whereas "string spacing" is something else entirely.

When quoted as "neck width", 1 11/16" is the almost universal standard for steel string acoustics today. 12 string "neck width", has standardized (pretty much), to 1 7/8".

Here's the Seagull spec page: http://www.seagullguitars.com/specs.html Note that their most often used neck width" is still shy of 1 3/4" @ 1.72" as opposed to the 1.750 which would be an actual 1 3/4".

If we took a 12 string as an example, while the "neck width" is actually 1 7/8", the string spacing is a fair amount less. Then, with a twelve, should you measure string spacing overall, or center to center on the 2 outer pairs?

Here's the neck width equivalents for 1 11/16'. Decimal equals 1.6875". Metric equals 42.8625 mm. (usually rounded to 43mm).


You are correct. I was off on my 16th's. The small difference in width between my seagull and other guitars (that are 1 11/16) is very noticeable when playing. On the rare occurrence that I try fingerstyle, I much prefer that extra space. Does anyone fingerstyle on a 12 string?
#16
Quote by hotrodney71
Does anyone fingerstyle on a 12 string?


I used to, what eventually put me off was changing tunings. - Too much work. I tried a Taylor 150 recently, and thought it was very easy to play by 12-string standards.

Matons have a slightly wider neck, like Seagull, and I find them easy to play, but I think it is mostly what you get used to.
#17
Quote by hotrodney71
. . . . . Does anyone fingerstyle on a 12 string?


I do. But I've developed a different picking technique to the one I use on 6 string guitars.

On 6 strings, acoustic, classical and electric, I use the "classical" picking method - thumb for the basses, 1st, 2nd, 3rd fingers for the 3rd, 2nd 1st strings respectively. I keep my fingers just about perpendicular to the strings and my thumb at approx 45 degrees - playing with nails.

On 12ers, I hold both my thumb and fingers at around 45 degrees (in effect my hand is pointing forward towards the neck) and I use my fingertips so that I can brush across the pairs of strings. This method is actually the one used by lute players (and was used on renaissance and baroque guitars which also had twin string courses). You can find lots of vids of lutes being played on Youtube so you can see how it's done.

Here is a link to the lovely and talented Regina Albenez playing a baroque guitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfVZRevRKv8

PS. I also strum and (sort of) flatpick a 12er using my thumb. Very occasionally I use a pick on a 12er - my favourite being a Dunlop Nylon Big Stubby 2mm playing with the rounded edge not the point.
Last edited by Garthman at Jan 5, 2016,