Nylon string guitars often are classical or flamenco types. Both music styles can be played on both guitars but there are a few distinctions between the two instruments.

Note: you can either watch the video or read the text lesson.

1. Let’s talk about the classical nylon string guitars…

Or preferably, their different size and characteristics. This one is a full size classical guitar (also called 4/4 size):

Galina Vale

Galina Vale

It’s the most common size used by a lot of classical guitar players from amateurs to professional.

There are smaller bodies than that, often destined to younger people.

The quarter (1/4) size is really small and can be used by very young kids – usually from 3 to 5 or 6 years old. There’s the half size which is a little bigger and more adapted for 5 to 8 year old children. And… The three-quarter size. Which would be from 8 to 11 but it’s also played by some adults, as you’ll find out that it’s easier to press the strings on it.

Now… As you can see, the guitar above doesn’t have any cutaway. Most classical guitars are designed like this. It’s the Spanish guitar style. So… Why no cutaway? Well, it’s rare to use the upper frets for classical music, it happens, but usually, we stay on the first twelve frets.

Talking about that, it’s hard to notice but the body is starting at the 12th fret. It’s common for classical guitars. Some of them have their body starting at the 14th fret, but they’re not used quite often.

It’s possible to have a piezo pickup integrated on a classical guitar body. But if you want to amplify it, you’d rather do it with mics in front of it to reproduce the sound of the guitar with better accuracy.

The classical guitar above has 6 strings. This is standard for classical types. Some of them have more, like the twelve-string guitar. It’s actually 6 courses of two strings brought together.

Nilda Urquiza

Nilda Urquiza – This is the classical guitar position

The treble strings on a classical guitar are made of nylon. The bass strings, are also made of nylon but only at the core. Copper or silver plated bronze is wound around the nylon thread and that will give you a metallic sound. The treble strings sound is softer and clearer.

The full size classical guitar is smaller than a dreadnought. It’s also lighter. And more fragile. So it’s important to put only classical guitar strings on it. Otherwise, you can damage the guitar due to the tension exerted by the strings.

So you can play everything with this type of guitar. But I would personally recommend it for folk, flamenco and especially classical music.

2. Talking about flamenco…

You can also decide to play on a flamenco guitar. It’s quite similar to the classical type with a few differences. The main one, is the tap plate or golpeador integrated – but not always – to the body below or above the strings. Basically, its role is to protect from the constant drumming on it.

Spanish Flamenco Guitar

Flamenco Guitar – Notice the tap plate below the strings
Photo credit: Jaime Mas

The body is also a bit lighter and thinner, as the drumming needs to be bright.

So, if you play flamenco, this is the ultimate guitar for you.

3. But…

You can also decide to play on a classical guitar if you want to play different styles. If you are into classical music, the choice is very clear. Alternatively, folk and other styles can be played on either nylon or steel-string guitars. That depends on the sound you really seek.

In any case, if nylon strings are not your thing, you can still go for the following instruments:

The choice is yours my friend. I’m sure you’ll make it wisely.