Best Classical Guitar

My pick for the best classical guitar is the Cordoba C12 because it offers solid wood construction, a raised fingerboard, and great projection.

This post contains affiliate links (learn more in my disclosure).

Whether you enjoy practicing Fernando Sor’s etudes or you strive to be the next Andrés Segovia, the best classical guitar should support your sound and technique. In other words, it shouldn’t make playing the instrument any harder. If the classical neck is uncomfortable or the frets are sharp at the edges, you won’t play your best. Similarly, if the dull sound makes you constantly try different strings to make it sound good, that’ll distract you from actually practicing.

My top pick out of the list below is the Cordoba C12, which I’ve played for many years, but I’ll cover nylon-string guitars that are more affordable, as well. 

(Sidenote: Do you want to keep getting better at classical guitar? Then try out tonebase — and use the code Segovia1893 for 30% off forever after a free trial. I used tonebase to help me get some tricky repertoire up to par and I think it’s the best online classical guitar course.)

Top Rated Classical Guitars

My top picks for the best classical guitars on the market right now are:

  • Cordoba C12
  • Cordoba C7
  • Alvarez Yairi CYM75
  • Alhambra 4-F
  • Ibanez GA3

Keep in mind this guide to the best classical guitars includes factory-level instruments from major guitar brands. Personally, I haven’t played any luthier-made guitars. Classical players rave about handmade instruments, and I’m sure the instruments are illustrious. But at this point, I’ve played entry-level guitars to professional factory-level guitars, so that’s what I’ll review here.

Below, you can compare my top picks at a glance:

GuitarTypeTop WoodBack & Sides WoodNeck WoodFingerboardScale LengthCheck Price
Cordoba C12ClassicalSolid Red CedarSolid Indian RosewoodMahoganyEbony650mmCheck Price at Amazon
Cordoba C7ClassicalSolid European SpruceLaminate Indian RosewoodMahoganyRosewood650mmCheck Price at Amazon
Alvarez Yairi CYM75ClassicalSolid Engelmann SpruceSolid Indian RosewoodMahoganyEbony650mmCheck Price at zZounds
Alhambra 4-FFlamencoSolid German SpruceSolid SycamoreSpanish CedarEbony650mmCheck Price at zZounds
Ibanez GA3ClassicalSpruceCatalpaMahoganyRosewood650mmCheck Price at zZounds

Best Classical Guitars

Next, I’ll cover my top picks for nylon string guitars in detail.

1. Cordoba C12 CD: Best Classical Guitar

Out of all the guitars on this list, the Cordoba C12 is my favorite. I’ve been practicing, recording, and performing on the Cordoba C12 since 2018. This is the cedar top model, while Cordoba also makes a spruce top model with “SP” in the name. In my opinion, it’s the best classical guitar for the money.

The Cordoba C12 is an excellent classical guitar for serious musicians. Its solid Canadian cedar top and Indian rosewood back and sides produce a rich, warm tone that’s ideal for classical repertoire. The C12’s handcrafted construction, which includes a Spanish heel neck joint and fan bracing, provides superior resonance and projection.

Some notable features of the Cordoba C12 include:
  • Solid Canadian cedar top for a warm, responsive sound
  • Indian rosewood back and sides for rich bass and brilliant trebles
  • Spanish heel neck joint for improved sustain and resonance
  • Fan bracing for optimal soundboard vibration
  • Ebony fingerboard for smooth playability
  • Savarez Cristal Corum strings for balanced tone
  • Lightweight polyfoam case included

Pros and Cons of the Cordoba C12:

ProsCons
Handcrafted with premium tonewoodsMore expensive than entry-level guitars
Superior resonance and projectionRequires humidity control to prevent cracks
Included case for protectionHeavier than some other classical guitars
Smooth playabilityWider neck may take adjustment for some

Compared to other classical guitars like the Yamaha CG122MCH or Kremona Sofia SC, the Cordoba C12 stands out for its combination of fine tonewoods, expert craftsmanship, and included accessories. While pricier than basic models, its solid cedar top and rosewood body deliver a noticeably richer, more expressive sound well-suited for advanced classical pieces and recording.

In summary, the Cordoba C12’s premium materials, refined construction, and superior sound make it an excellent choice for classical guitarists seeking a high-quality, responsive instrument. Its warm cedar top, rich rosewood back and sides, and resonant Spanish heel produce the full, nuanced tone needed to do justice to challenging classical works.

2. Cordoba C7: Best Affordable Classical Guitar

The Cordoba C7 is an excellent classical guitar that provides exceptional value for its price point.

This instrument has several standout features:
  • Solid Canadian cedar top for a warm, rich tone
  • Indian rosewood back and sides adding depth and resonance
  • Spanish fan bracing pattern optimized for responsiveness
  • Genuine bone nut and saddle for improved sustenance
  • Glossy PU finish offering elegant aesthetics and protection

Some key pros and cons of the Cordoba C7:

ProsCons
High-quality tonewoodsSlightly heavier than some models
Balanced, expressive soundSetup may need adjustment
Traditional Spanish constructionHigher action takes getting used to
Excellent craftsmanshipCase sold separately

The Cordoba C7 classical guitar features high-quality tonewoods, including a Canadian cedar top that contributes to its warm, rich sound. The instrument’s Spanish fan bracing pattern enhances its responsiveness and tonal projection. Additionally, the C7 boasts a genuine bone nut and saddle, which improve sustain and clarity. The guitar’s glossy PU finish not only provides an elegant appearance but also protects the wood from minor dings and scratches.

Compared to entry-level classical axes like the Yamaha C40II or Fender FC-100, the Cordoba C7 nylon-string provides a substantial upgrade in sound quality, playability, and overall experience. The combination of the Canadian cedar soundboard, Indian rosewood body, and Spanish-style build delivers a tone with greater warmth, sustain, and dynamic range.

While higher-end luthier-made instruments may offer additional refinement, the Cordoba C7 stands out as a well-rounded choice for advancing students and budget-conscious performers seeking a responsive, great-sounding classical guitar. Its solid-wood top, quality construction, and player-focused features make it a compelling option in its class.

3. Alvarez Yairi CYM75 Masterworks: High-End Classical Guitar

With its solid AA Western Red Cedar top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides, you’re getting an incredibly well-crafted instrument when you purchase the Alvarez Yairi CYM75 Masterworks Classical Acoustic Guitar.

Alvarez Yairi CYM75 from zZounds

Some key features of the CYM75:
  • Solid Canadian cedar top for warm, rich tone
  • Solid African mahogany back and sides for excellent projection
  • Ebony fingerboard and bridge for smooth action
  • Hand-inlaid wooden rosette and purfling for elegant aesthetics
  • Gotoh gold tuners for precise tuning stability
ProsCons
Exceptional tonal qualityHigher price point
Premium build materialsHeavier than some models
Expert Japanese craftsmanshipLimited availability
Elegant traditional aestheticsRequires humidity control

When compared to other classical guitars in its class, like the Cordoba C12 or Ramirez 125 Anos, the Alvarez Yairi CYM75 stands out for its combination of top-notch woods, expert craftsmanship, and superior sound. The solid cedar top and mahogany body work together to produce a warm, responsive tone with excellent sustain and clarity across the full range of the instrument. The precision fretwork on the ebony fingerboard ensures smooth playability, making it a joy to perform with.

In conclusion, the Alvarez Yairi CYM75 is a superb choice for the serious classical guitarist who seeks uncompromising tone, playability, and craftsmanship. Although it comes with a higher price tag than some other options, the quality of its woods, construction, and sound make it a worthwhile investment for those who demand the best from their instrument.

4. Alhambra 4-F: Best Spanish Guitar

I couldn’t resist putting a good flamenco guitar in this list. The Alhambra 4-F Conservatory Flamenco Guitar is made from noble woods and features a solid German spruce top, sycamore body, and ebony fingerboard. A few things make classical and flamenco guitars different. 

Alhambra 4-F from zZounds

The Alhambra 4F, a flamenco guitar model, is crafted with a solid European spruce top, cypress back and sides, an ebony fingerboard, a Spanish cedar neck, a rosewood bridge, golpeadores (tap plates), and traditional wooden friction tuning pegs. Alhambra, a renowned Spanish guitar manufacturer, has carefully selected these materials for their quality and tonal properties.

The Alhambra 4F boasts these impressive features:
  • Solid European spruce top for bright, responsive tone
  • Cypress back and sides for warm, balanced resonance
  • Ebony fingerboard for smooth playability
  • Spanish cedar neck for stability and comfort
  • Rosewood bridge for enhanced sustain
  • Golpeadores (tap plates) for percussive flamenco techniques
  • Traditional wooden friction tuning pegs for classic aesthetics
ProsCons
Authentic flamenco soundHigher price point compared to entry-level guitars
High-quality tonewoodsRequires regular maintenance
Handcrafted by skilled luthiersMay not suit other musical styles as well
Ideal for advanced techniquesWooden tuning pegs require more tuning adjustments

Compared to other flamenco guitars, the Alhambra 4F stands out for its superior craftsmanship and attention to detail. The combination of a solid European spruce soundboard and cypress back and sides creates a balanced, responsive tone that is perfect for the dynamic demands of flamenco music. While entry-level flamenco guitars may offer a lower price point, they often cannot match the Alhambra 4F’s quality of materials and construction.

In conclusion, the Alhambra 4F is a top-tier flamenco guitar that delivers exceptional sound, playability, and craftsmanship. Its carefully selected tonewoods, traditional construction, and flamenco-specific features make it an ideal choice for serious flamenco guitarists seeking an authentic, high-quality instrument.

5. Ibanez GA3: Best Budget Classical Guitar

Ibanez GA3 from zZounds

Ibanez isn’t all about metal and jazz guitars. You can find some affordable classical gems like the GA3. This guitar is so cheap (but reliable) that it’s the one you should buy if you’re not sure what to expect from a classical guitar.

Perhaps you play steel-string guitar and don’t want to invest much in classical playing. Or, maybe you just want to pluck some nice bossa nova chords every now and then. And if you’re an electric player looking to experiment in the classical guitar world, you might not want to put down a load of cash. If that sounds like you, then this is the nylon-strung guitar to check out.

The Ibanez GA3 is an excellent classical guitar that offers great value for its price.

This guitar features:
  • Spruce top for bright, articulate tone
  • Mahogany back and sides for warmth and sustain
  • Rosewood bridge and fretboard for smooth playability
  • Nylon strings for traditional classical sound
  • High gloss polyurethane finish for durability
ProsCons
Affordable priceNot made with all solid woods
Quality tonewoodsNo electronics for amplification
Smooth playabilityMade in China, not Spain
Traditional nylon string sound

The Ibanez GA3 uses quality tonewoods in its construction. The spruce top provides a bright, articulate sound while the mahogany back and sides add warmth and sustain. Rosewood, used for the bridge and fretboard, enables smooth fretting and playability.

Compared to more expensive classical guitars like those made by Cordoba or Alhambra, the GA3 represents an affordable option. While it doesn’t have the all-solid wood construction of pricier models, its laminate back and sides help keep costs down without overly sacrificing sound quality. The GA3 delivers the traditional nylon string tone that’s essential for classical repertoire.

For anyone looking to get started with classical guitar, the Ibanez GA3 makes an ideal choice. Its combination of quality woods, smooth playability, and wallet-friendly price make it one of the best values on the market today for a beginner or intermediate classical instrument.

Best Classical Guitars for Different Players

Now I’ll cover my picks for classical guitars in different situations.

Best Classical Guitar for Beginners

My pick for the best beginner classical guitar is the Yamaha C40. The Yamaha C40 is an excellent choice for beginners due to its affordability and high-quality construction, which ensures durability and a pleasant sound. Its comfortable neck and easy playability make it an ideal instrument for those just starting to learn classical guitar techniques.

Read more: Best Classical Guitar for Beginners

Best Cutaway Classical Guitar

The Cordoba C7-CE is an excellent cutaway classical guitar that delivers exceptional sound quality and playability. With its solid Canadian cedar top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and Fishman Presys Blend pickup system, this nylon-string instrument provides rich, warm tones suitable for a wide range of musical styles and settings, from intimate performances to larger venues.

Best Classical Guitar Under $1,000

If you have a budget of $1,000, I recommend the Alhambra 4-Z Conservatory classical guitar. The Alhambra 4-z is an excellent classical instrument for intermediate guitarists seeking a high-quality, handcrafted guitar at an affordable price point. It features a solid red cedar top and gorgeous ziricote back and sides, which produce a rich tone with excellent projection and sustain. The Alhambra 4-Z is a great choice for players looking to upgrade from a beginner guitar to a more advanced instrument without breaking the bank.

Read more: Best Classical Guitar Under $1000

Best Classical Guitars Under $500

If you’ve got $500 to work with, the Cordboa C5 is your best bet in my opinion. It features a solid Canadian cedar top and mahogany back and sides, providing a warm, rich tone that’s ideal for beginners and intermediate players alike. The C5’s smooth playability, combined with Cordoba’s attention to detail in craftsmanship, make it a standout instrument in its price range.

Read more: Best Classical Guitar Under $500

Best Classical Guitar With a Pickup

If you’re looking to amplify a traditional nylon sound, I recommend the Cordoba C5-CE. This nylon-string acoustic-electric instrument has a solid Canadian cedar top and mahogany back and sides, resulting in a warm, rich tone. The Fishman Presys II preamp system enables you to easily amplify your playing while preserving the guitar’s natural sound, making it perfect for live performances or recording sessions.

Read more: Best Classical Guitar With a Pickup

Best Crossover Nylon Electric Guitar

Now, if you want a thinline nylon guitar that feels more like an electric, I recommend the Godin Multiac Grand Concert. This guitar features a chambered mahogany body and cedar top, providing a warm, rich tone. The guitar’s electronics, including a custom preamp by LR Baggs, allow for a wide range of tonal options and accurate acoustic sound reproduction when amplified. It’s also thinner than an acoustic and comfortable to play for hours or gig with.

Read more: Best Nylon Electric Guitar

Best Classical Guitar Brand

If you want to shop from a reliable classical guitar brand, I don’t think you can go wrong with Cordoba for the price range.

Cordoba is a great classical guitar brand because of their commitment to craftsmanship, quality materials, and rich, authentic sound. Their luthiers (guitar makers) handcraft each instrument with meticulous attention to detail, selecting the finest tonewoods like solid European spruce tops and Indian rosewood backs and sides. This ensures Cordoba guitars have excellent resonance, projection, and a warm, balanced tone sought after by discerning guitarists.

Cordoba draws inspiration from the legendary Spanish luthier Antonio de Torres, who is considered the father of the modern classical guitar. By embracing traditional guitar-making techniques and designs, Cordoba guitars possess the soulful, expressive voice characteristic of classic Spanish instruments. Whether you are a beginner learning the basics or a seasoned performer playing advanced repertoire, a Cordoba guitar is a reliable and inspiring musical companion that will bring out the best in your playing.

Keep reading: Best Classical Guitar Brands

How To Buy a Classical Guitar

Let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a classical guitar.

Read more: How To Buy a Classical Guitar

1. Consider the Size

When buying a classical guitar, consider the size, materials, craftsmanship and sound quality. Classical guitars have several standard sizes including 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full-size, measured by the length of the instrument. Choose a size that fits your body comfortably.

2. Pay Attention to the Woods

Look for a guitar made with quality tonewoods like spruce for the soundboard, and rosewood, mahogany or maple for the back and sides. The wood should have a straight, even grain. Avoid guitars with visible cracks, warping or sloppy craftsmanship.

3. Shop From Reliable Brands

Stick to guitars made by reputable brands like Yamaha, Cordoba, Alvarez and Alhambra for consistent quality. Expect to spend at least $200-300 for a decent student model, and $500-1000 or more for an intermediate or professional-level instrument.

4. Test the guitar

Give the guitar a thorough test by playing it before buying. The sound should be warm, balanced and resonant, with good sustain. Avoid guitars that sound thin, buzzy or dead. The action (string height) should be low and easy to play without buzzing. If you can’t test the guitar, choose an online retailer with a good return policy.

5. Get a Guitar With a Good Setup

Getting a well-made guitar that’s set up properly makes learning classical guitar much more enjoyable. Take your time to find an instrument that motivates you to practice and fits your musical goals and budget. With some research and testing, you can find a great classical guitar to enjoy for years to come.

Best Classical Guitars: Conclusion

In conclusion, finding the ideal classical guitar is a personal journey. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, it’s crucial to find a guitar that resonates with your style and budget. My top pick is the Cordoba C12, but you might find the best option is something else.

Best Classical Guitar: FAQ

Below are a few frequently asked questions about finding the best classical guitar.

What is the difference between a classical guitar and an acoustic guitar?

Classical guitars have nylon strings, a wider neck, and a smaller body compared to acoustic guitars, which have steel strings and a narrower neck. Classical guitars are primarily used for playing classical, flamenco, and folk music, while acoustic guitars are more versatile and used across various genres.

What should I look for when choosing a classical guitar?

When selecting a classical guitar, consider the following factors: wood type and quality (top, back, and sides), construction (solid wood vs. laminate), neck and fingerboard comfort, sound projection and tonal balance, brand reputation and craftsmanship, and your budget and skill level.

How much should I spend on my first classical guitar?

For beginners, a decent entry-level classical guitar can cost between $150 to $500. As you advance, you may want to invest in a higher-quality instrument, which can range from $500 to several thousand dollars. It’s essential to find a balance between your budget and the guitar’s quality.

What are the best classical guitar brands?

Some reputable classical guitar brands include: Cordoba, Yamaha, Alhambra, Takamine, Alvarez, La Patrie, and Kremona.

Should I choose a solid wood or laminate guitar?

Solid wood guitars generally offer better sound quality and resonance, but they are more expensive and sensitive to environmental changes. Laminate guitars are more affordable and durable, making them a good choice for beginners or those on a budget. As you progress, you may want to upgrade to a solid wood guitar.

How do I know if a classical guitar is comfortable to play?

When trying out a classical guitar, pay attention to the neck width, shape, and action (string height). The guitar should feel comfortable in your hands, and you should be able to easily press the strings without excessive pressure. It’s crucial to choose a guitar that suits your hand size and playing style.

Can I use a classical guitar for other music genres?

While classical guitars are designed for classical, flamenco, and folk music, they can be used for other genres like pop, jazz, or bossa nova. However, keep in mind that the nylon strings and smaller body may not provide the same sound or volume as steel-string acoustic or electric guitars typically used in these genres.

What’s the best classical guitar for the money?

The Cordoba C12 is my pick for the best classical guitar for the money. It offers features like a raised fingerboard and all solid wood construction for a good price.

How do Ortega vs. Cordoba guitars compare?

Ortega guitars are known for their high-quality craftsmanship, versatile sound, and affordable prices, making them a popular choice among beginner and intermediate players. Cordoba guitars, on the other hand, are renowned for their exceptional build quality, rich tone, and authentic Spanish sound, which makes them a preferred choice for classical and flamenco guitarists.

What’s the best nylon string guitar for jazz?

I’d recommend a thinline nylon guitar like the Cordoba Stage or Godin Multiac. These instruments have good nylon string tone and allow you to play in a band without worrying about feedback issues.

What are the best classical guitar nylon strings?

My top recommendation is the D’Addario EJ45 set because they sound classic and are available everywhere for a good price. If you want a high-tension carbon set, try Savarez Corum Alliance 500AJ.