What is the difference between folk guitar vs acoustic guitar? There are a number of differences between a folk and an acoustic guitar ranging from the design, build, playing style, and sound quality. Perhaps their most notable difference is that folk guitars produce softer sounds while acoustic guitars are a bit brighter and more vibrant.
Guitars come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Some are solid, while others are hollow. Some have broad necks, while others are narrow. However, perhaps the two most popular guitars, aside from electrics, are folk guitars and acoustic guitars.
If you’re planning to purchase a guitar soon, you might be wondering which of these two is your best option. Well, the decision would solely depend on you. However, it’s best if you can make an informed decision.
That’s why we’re here to talk to you about the differences between folk and an acoustic guitar and how it affects your experience.
What’s a Folk Guitar?
A folk guitar, otherwise known as a classical guitar, uses nylon strings instead of steel. This is another reason why this type of guitar is also called a nylon string guitar. It’s one of the earliest forms of the six-stringed guitar and has been around since the 18th century.
It features a hollow body and a wide neck. The headstock also has two shafts where the strings are connected to the pegs. It doesn’t have a pickguard, and the bridge does not use pegs to pin the strings down. Instead, the strings are tied directly to the bridge, with the tension tightening them.
What’s an Acoustic Guitar?
An acoustic guitar looks very similar to a folk guitar, except for a few defining features. It uses steel strings, earning them the name steel-string guitar. These strings are often made out of either aluminum, bronze, or phosphor.
Acoustic guitars feature a hollow body as well, but the neck is narrower. Additionally, the headstock is solid, with short metal rods protruding to the surface, holding the strings and connecting them to the pegs.
Most acoustic guitars use pegs to pin down the ball-end of the string to the bridge. On the other hand, there are also acoustic guitars that have six narrow holes for the strings to run through. The holes are small enough to prevent the ball-end of the string from sliding into the bridge and out to the other side.
Folk vs. Acoustic Guitar
So, the question remains, which among the two types of guitars best suits you? Knowing about their differences should help you pick the right one.
The first major difference we should talk about is their sizes. Although there are folk guitars that are rather large, most of them are smaller when compared to acoustic guitars. On the other hand, acoustic guitars have a wider range of sizes. If you’re looking for a guitar that is the appropriate size for your arms and body, you’d have better chances of finding an acoustic one.
Neck & Playing Style
Another major difference between the two is the size of the neck. As we’ve mentioned, folk guitars have wider necks than acoustic guitars. This is heavily influenced by the way each of them is played.
Most acoustic guitars are used to play songs and chords. That’s why the neck is narrower to allow you to stretch your fingers easily and reach wider scales. Strumming is the most common playing style in acoustic guitars. This is also why you’d often see pickguards on their bodies to prevent your guitar pick from scratching the surface of the wood.
On the other hand, folk guitars are often used to play fast musical pieces. The neck is wider to prevent your fingers from tangling while you fret the strings and switch to various notes rapidly. Most classical guitars are played using the fingerstyle technique. This is why they don’t have pickguards.
Here’s one tip we deemed we must share with you. The nylon strings on a folk guitar are rather soft. Strumming them with a guitar pick will cause gradual wear and tear, eventually causing them to snap.
If you’re not a huge fan of tuning your guitar, it’s best if you stick to acoustic ones. These stay in tune longer than folk guitars. They might go out of tune if you’ve recently just replaced the strings. Nonetheless, after a couple of adjustments, they become more stable and would require less frequent tuning.
On the other hand, folk guitars are less stable when it comes to maintaining their standard tune. That’s because of the nature of their strings. Nylon strings, aside from being soft, are rather sensitive. Temperature and humidity can cause them to loosen up or overstretch, affecting their tension on the bridge, which then affects their tuning stability.
We can’t say that there’s a superior tone and melody between these two types of guitars. It’s a matter of personal preference. If you enjoy low and soft sounds, the folk guitar will provide you with them. If you prefer bright and vibrant sounds, the steel strings of an acoustic guitar are your best option.
It’s not very often that you have to restring your guitar. Some guitarists only replace the strings if they snap. However, the best practice to maintain the best sound quality is to replace the strings every three or four months. The question now is, which one is easier to restring?
We’ll go out on a limb here and say that acoustic guitars provide a more convenient experience when it comes to restringing. You just have to pull the peg up, remove the string, place the new one, and pin the ball-end down using the peg.
On the other hand, efficiently restringing a folk guitar is a skill that develops over time. Sometimes, improperly tying the string in a knot to the bridge will cause the string to slide over. It might take you a few tries before you get the hang of it.
In the battle between folk vs. acoustic guitar, there’s no clear winner. That’s because, just like the music we listen to, we all have different tastes. If you really love the sound and feel of the nylon strings, we’re certain that the few inconveniences from the folk guitar wouldn’t bother you.
On the other hand, if you prefer vibrant sounds and a convenient overall guitar experience, the acoustic guitar is your best bet.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.