Is classical guitar hard to learn? Compared with acoustic and electric guitars, a classical guitar is harder to learn especially for those who are just beginning to learn to play guitar. Part of the challenges of learning the classical guitar is its neck tension, which many beginners struggle with when fretting.
In a novice guitarist utopia:
We’d have unlimited access to live lessons, where we can soundly pick up professional tips. With this, regardless of guitar type or genre, we’d easily get feedback on our dents and cracks. Probably, we’ll have role models to mirror – and fore-vision on the reality of our ideals.
Unfortunately for many of us, the world is anything but a utopia.
One way or another, we’d have to make ends meet to comply with the situation – this requires asking the right questions to make better decisions.
Arguably, the biggest of these “decisions” for many beginners is choosing their first guitar (much like choosing your starter in any Pokémon game). And, truth be told, there are multitudes to consider in making this first call.
For now, we will be putting the classical guitar in the limelight – and we’ll be asking the right questions for you.
Classical Guitar May Take Longer to Learn
To jump straight to the point: unless you have an amazing teacher who’d spend ample time giving feedback, learning to play the classical guitar may require a bit more elbow grease.
First, it is important that we get a hold of what classical guitars are.
The nylon-string guitar, commonly known as the classical guitar, is said to be the forerunner of today’s acoustic and electric guitars. It features six strings, numerous frets, and a soundhole, much like other guitars. So, what distinguishes a classical guitar in terms of structure?
Of course, the strings. A no-brainer way to separate a classical guitar from the remainder of guitar types is via its strings. As mentioned earlier, classical guitars require nylon strings (unlike acoustic and electric guitars that use those made of metal). Aside from nylon, classical guitar strings can also be made of carbon-based materials. This gives it its signature warm and “natural” sound.
We can’t forget about the neck and the fret. Compared to other guitar types, a classical guitar’s neck tends to be shorter (which is something greatly carried through by tradition). Conversely, its fretboard is wider to make it easier to play complicated chords.
The romantic aesthetic. Classical guitars have rosettes (carved out, decorative design) surrounding the soundhole. They do not serve anything functional, but they do add ample personality to your guitar.
These unique structural features greatly impact the playability of classical guitars. But how exactly?
Because of their shorter and wider necks, neck tension (the stress and unease when trying to hold the neck with your fretting hand) is much greater in classical guitars. Basically, you’d need to have wider hands or longer fingers to compromise. In return, this makes learning chord progressions a hint more difficult.
However, in some sense, this very hurdle may also pose benefits to a guitar newbie. If you are used to performing complicated chord progression in a classical guitar’s wider fretboard, it would be much easier for you to perform the same feat in acoustic and electric guitars (which have slimmer necks and fretboards). In actuality, a lot of guitar traditionalists utilize this stepping stone mechanism of teaching to beginners.
Still, prices and budget may also pose as another confounder. Classical guitars are usually set in a price range similar to that of other guitars. At today’s time, it is easier to pick up more modern guitars that can “do” more.
So are classical guitars still worth your time? It depends upon multiple criteria but for us, it’s a yes. This is specifically true for beginners. It would take you more time to master, but it will surely have its dividends when you move forward.
Here’s an expert discussing the challenges of learning classical guitars, as well as the length of time it may take to learn:
Classical Versus Acoustic
In making any just comparison, we must look into every possible point of contrast with an open mind – especially considering that every guitarist’s story is unique.
According to the 2022 Guitar Sales Statistics, the demand for guitars retained its astronomical climb since 2020. Acoustic guitars are the most popular guitar type, amassing more than half of annual sales (52% to be exact!) – a large chunk of which were bought by first-timers.
Hence, it would be interesting to compare classical and acoustic guitars.
Structure. Again, acoustic guitars have comparatively slimmer fretboards. This makes hovering through chords much easier, especially for beginners. Wider fretboards (found in classical guitars) still have its edge – it makes it less likely that you’ll accidentally mute your strings.
Strings. Speaking of strings, a classical guitar’s nylon strings would easily get beginners gravitated to it – and it’s all for good reasons! Nylon offers less tensile stress and can be easier on your fingers compared to steel. Usually, when beginners start with acoustic guitars, they are more prone to finger stress (hence, why a lot of acoustic guitarists resort to using picks.
Classical Versus Electric
As mentioned in the same survey, electric guitars come to a second after acoustic guitars in terms of sales popularity. So it’s logical that we also make similar comparisons.
Strings. First, we must note that like acoustic guitars, electric guitar strings are also made of steel. However, an electric guitar’s string offers less tension and is easier to strum. Still, our good ol’ classical guitar takes the cake, as nylon offers the least resistance of the three.
Playability. Just as acoustic guitars, electric guitars have narrower necks. This makes complicated chord progressions easier for beginners. However, this also comes with a catch – the narrow fretboard makes it easier for you to accidentally mute your strings and much difficult to do fast scales.
Accessories. Of the three, classical guitars take the least additions to play. On the flip side, electric guitars take the most. This may pose as an advantage towards classical guitars as they provide you with convenience and mobility (and fewer wallet pains). However, this makes classical guitars less flexible (you’ll probably be stuck to its signature tone).
Regardless of what guitar you pick up, you’ll still hope for that single image of utopia. Yes, some guitars have their pros and cons, but all journeys towards proficiency would look pretty similar on a bigger picture. All would require intricacy, patience, and an ample amount of time.
After breaking everything down to its components, we can arguable conclude that classical guitars are the least beginner-friendly (compared to acoustic and electric ones) – but using it as a foundation does pose promising dividends.
In the end, there’s a reason why classical guitars lasted as long as they did; as they evolved through musical history. All we have to do is keep an open mind amid a world full of variety.
Joyce Ann graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies at New Era University. She especially enjoyed her journalism class and was nominated for Photojournalist of the Year. Joyce Anne loves music; she is a self-taught piano player. When she's not writing (or baking or watching documentaries), she's probably playing songs on the piano, mostly by ear.