Classical Guitar Vs Acoustic Guitar – The Difference?

If you are like I once was, a layman when it comes to different types of acoustic and classical guitars, and someone who simply enjoys listening to good guitar playing, chances are that you have never pondered the dichotomy that is classical guitar vs acoustic guitar.

Are they just synonyms for one and the same thing? Is there a difference between acoustic and classical guitar?

If yes, what are those differences? Well in this article I was hoping to get into the thick of things regarding these guitars and solve the age old mystery of acoustic vs classical guitar once and for all.

Acoustic Guitars


Acoustic Guitar

Let’s start with the basics and try to describe what constitutes an acoustic guitar. An acoustic guitar is a guitar which doesn’t rely on electric amplifiers to produce sound (the opposite of an electric guitar).

An acoustic guitar utilizes the cavity within its body known as a sound box to help resonate the sound waves which a guitar player creates by plucking or strumming the strings.

Let’s take a look at an example of an acoustic guitar, for instance a Fender Squier. The guitar features a basswood top and the body of the guitar is shaped so that it appears quite wide, almost unwieldy but deceptively so.

Fender Squier Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Bundle

This technique of guitar body crafting is known as the ‘Dreadnought’. It was pioneered in the early 20th century by a US guitar manufacturing company called C.F. Martin & Company and has become the number one style for acoustic guitar body design.

Note also how this Fender Squier features steel strings, which is an important feature of this niche and one of the classical guitar vs acoustic guitar differences. Steel-stringed acoustic guitars contain deeper and larger sound boxes which allow them to generate a loud and clear sound.

Check this post out if you want to see the difference of steel strings and nylon strings.

Classical Guitars


Classical Guitar

Now let’s move on to classical guitars - A classical guitar is a guitar that is notably smaller than other acoustic guitars in not only the size of its body, which is visibly smaller than for example the Dreadnought type acoustic guitar, but also the length of its neck.

The neck of the classical guitar contains 12 frets clear of its body (a Dreadnought guitar, in contrast, has 14 frets clear of the body).

You should read this post to understand the Frets:

Let’s now observe an example of a classical guitar, e.g. a Yamaha C40. The first thing that draws my attention is the size of the guitar; compared to the Fender Squier it’s so tiny! This particular classical guitar contains a spruce body top and an Indonesian mahogany back and sides.

Yamaha C40 Full Size Nylon-String Classical Guitar

The use of these exotic and unusual types of wood lend the classical guitars their distinctive reddish hue.

The smaller size of the body accounts for a smaller sound box which in turn means that the sound that a classical guitar produces differs in comparison to other acoustic guitars, it is not as loud but more mellow and soft.

The top of the guitar body is arguably the most important part of the guitar in regards to sound quality, in the sense string vibration when the guitar is played is transferred onto the guitar top (also known as a soundboard, usually no more than 3 mm thick).

These vibrations are then further transferred into the sound box and resonated into sound, so the soundboard can be considered an intermediary transmitter of sound between the strings and the sound box.

As noted, one of the key differential factors in the classical guitar vs acoustic guitar debate are the strings.

On the classical guitar, strings used to be made from a material called catgut (various animal intestines but curiously enough not cat intestines). In 1948 this crude design was replaced by strings made of nylon.

What I found interesting is that the three treble strings (bottom strings) are made entirely out of nylon whereas the three bass strings (or top strings) include a thin nylon core encased in some type of thin metal casing, usually bronze or copper.


Classical Guitar Strings

The most important thing that can be said regarding classical guitars within the notion of acoustic vs classical guitars is that classical guitars are acoustic guitars. The term acoustic guitar encompasses classical guitars in its meaning of guitars that are played acoustically (without electricity).

Classical guitars are, therefore, part of the acoustic guitar family, but different than the rest of the members of this family.

Comparison Table of Classical Guitar Vs Acoustic Guitar

Classical Guitar

Acoustic Guitars

  • A part of acoustic guitar family
  • These features are refer to the rest one in acoustic guitar family
  • Nylon Strings
  • Steel Strings
  • Notably smaller
  • Bigger
  • Neck contains 12 frets
  • Neck contains 14 frets
  • Sound is more mellow and soft
  • Sound is loud and clear

So there you have it, folks. In the end, we learned that classical guitar vs acoustic guitar was a family matter, that both types of guitars have their own special and distinctive characteristics in relation to one another.

Such factors include the materials they are made of or the body size, but they still, nonetheless, fall into the same category of guitars that produce sound without the use of electricity. Hope you enjoyed the ride, make sure to check the site regularly for more guitar goodies!

Natalie Wilson

I've been an avid guitar fan for as long as I can remember and the day I embarked on my six-string journey at the young age of 5 truly defined the course of my entire life. I work as a professional musician, session guitarist, and guitar teacher, and would like to use this blog as a personal outlet to share my six-string knowledge with the world. Welcome to

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