When many people think of an acoustic guitar they picture a steel string model. After all, these are generally the ones we see in popular music. The best nylon string guitars will give these instruments a run for their money though, and have a longer, more storied history than the steel string version.
Nylon String guitars are often referred to as classical guitars, which is not completely true. There are actually several styles of guitars that normally use nylon strings and we will examine each and the differences between them.
But first, we will look at the best nylon string guitars for the average musician and give you detailed reviews on each, including the pros and cons of each!
Best Nylon String Guitars – Classical Guitars
Our top pick for the best nylon string guitar is the Taylor Academy Series 12-N. This guitar is everything you’d expect from the Taylor name without a huge price tag to go with it. You can follow the link to read reviews or shop this guitar on Amazon, or read on for detailed reviews on all four of our top picks!
Kremona S65C GG Nylon String Guitar
The first thing you notice about the Kremona S65G is the special purple heart that was chosen for the fingerboard and bridge, instantly making this instrument stand out.
The body on this instrument is made from African mahogany while the top is a red cedar. Lastly a Balkan maple neck finishes the look.
For the price this instrument has a dynamic projection and bright sound. The cedar top with the mahogany body produces a great sound, and the look couldn’t be better.
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This instrument was also built with forest sustainability in mind, which explains the slightly odd pairing off tonal woods. This didn’t win our budget option for best budget nylon string guitar, but only because the Yamaha is cheaper. A phenomenal instrument that stands out in a crowd.
- Purple Heart Bridge and Fingerboard
- Solid Maple Neck
- Cedar Top paired with Mahogany Body
- Amazing Looking Instrument
- Way Better Instrument than Price Tag Suggests
- One customer reported shipping damage issues
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Taylor Academy Series Academy 12-N Nylon String Grand Concert Acoustic Guitar
It is hard to find a better nylon string guitar than the Taylor Academy Series. This Grand Concert guitar sounds like it would be huge, but it’s actually the smallest full scale guitar. This is a better size for many beginners than a full size nylon string guitar.
The neck is also slightly smaller than a 2″ wide classic guitar, measuring about 1 7/8th inch.
This guitar is built with a spruce body with a mahogany neck finished with a African Ebony fingerboard. The size, shape and material of this guitar gives it a very responsive sound.
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You would expect a Taylor guitar to be extremely high quality and playable. The Academy series is aimed at beginner and intermediate players and giving them great instrument options to support their development.
- Grand Concert Size
- Spruce Body
- Responsive Sound and Playability
- Taylor Quality Instrument
- Amazing Value
- Not Currently on Prime
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Cordoba Fusion 14 Maple Crossover Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Nylon String Guitar
The Cordoba Fusion is the only nylon string crossover guitar on our list. A crossover guitar is the perfect option for someone undecided between steel and classical guitars. It has the sound of a classical guitar with the construction and playability of a steel string.
This does have nylon strings, but the nut width is between the two, the fretboard is radiused and the body has a cutaway.
From a construction perspective this guitar has a spruce top, flamed maple body and a mahogany neck. This combination results in a sharpe high end and great resonance.
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This guitar also comes with on board electronics, giving you the option to plug it in. If we were in the market for a crossover guitar, you would have a hard time convincing us to go with anything but the Fusion series from Cordoba!
- Spruce Top with Maple Body
- Bright High End Sound
- Classical Nylon String Sound
- Cordoba Gig Bag
- Great Crossover Guitar Option
- Expensive for a first Guitar
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Yamaha CG122MCH Solid Cedar Top Classical Guitar
The Yamaha CG122MCH is our pick for best budget nylon string guitar. It is a true classical guitar with a price that is far below its quality.
The Red Cedar top is the same as you’ll find on many more expensive instruments, while the 3-ply laminate neck is strong and resists warping.
As a true beginner instrument, the CG122 has very low string action, which is much easier to learn with.
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Yamaha has been making nylon string guitars for decades, and much of the technology and quality they have learned during that time has been used to bring this great sound, budget friendly classical guitar option to you!
- Solid Cedar Top
- Classical Feel and Look
- Low String Action
- Extremely Affordable!
- 3 Ply Neck
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Best Flamenco Guitar
Flamenco guitars are a special subset of nylon string guitars we felt it important to cover. While both classical and flamenco guitars use nylon strings, they have some distinctive differences in construction, shape, and especially how they are played. We cover these differences in detail in our section on the different types of nylon string guitars!
Cordoba F7 Flamenco Acoustic Nylon String Guitar, Iberia Series
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The Cordoba F7 Flamenco guitar has the traditional Cypress back and sides you’d expect, giving it a traditional look and sound. The F7 is built with a slightly thinner body and a flat neck angle to give the guitar low action with a bright, snappy tone. As with any good Flamenco, a thin protective tap plate comes installed over the top of the guitar to protect the spruce top.
While this is advertised as a beginner instrument, it is a great place to start for those learning to play a Flamenco. This guitar suits itself to a very distinct style of play that will take even experienced classical or steel string guitar players time to learn. The Cordoba F7 is our pick to learn on!
For a more budget friendly option into the world of Flamenco Guitars, we recommend the Yamaha CG172SF!
How is a Classical Guitar Different from an Acoustic?
When talking about classical and acoustic guitars, many get confused and fail to notice the difference. While both guitars look very similar to each other, they have distinct differences.
The first, and biggest distinction are the strings. Classical guitars traditionally all use nylon strings, while the best acoustic guitars all use steel strings. While this does look slightly different, the nylon strings looking clear and the steel holds a silver color, the big difference is in the sound and tone projected from the two.
The size of the neck in classical guitars is different from the one in acoustic guitars. In classical guitars, the neck is more expansive, normally being 2in wide at the nut and there are larger spaces between strings. Acoustic guitars have smaller spaces between frets, and the strings are closer together.
The bridge between the two guitars is also a distinguishing factor. Classical guitars have a classic wrap-around bridge where strings are tied in a knot to be secured in place, while acoustic guitars have bridges with pegs to hold the down and in place.
Lastly, because of the extra tension that is causes by the steel strings in an acoustic guitar, the internal bracing is much stronger and in different patterns than that found in the best nylon string guitars.
Thankfully, the tuning on types of guitar is the same, so you won’t have to learn any new chord shapes!
The Different Types of Nylon String Guitars
Normally, when people speak of the best nylon string guitars they are talking about classical guitar, but that is not necessarily correct. Classical guitars are just one of four common styles of nylon string guitars!
Classical guitars are mainly used in classical music. The guitar has smooth, clear, and simple nylon strings that musicians all over the world enjoy. The guitar has a hollow-bodied wooden construction and a six-stringed design. The soundboard in classical guitars amplifies the plucked string’s sound when playing the guitar and vibrates through the whole body.
The main feature that makes classical guitars stand out is the material used to make the nylon. The strings are, therefore, strung at a lower tension than other guitars made of different materials. Due to the lower tension stringed, the guitar’s interior bracing can be lighter, and the neck of the guitar does not require being as stiff as steel string guitars.
We covered the specifics of classical guitars in greater depth in the section above looking at the differences between acoustic guitars and classical!
Flamenco guitars can almost be considered a subset of classical guitars, with distinctive differences that are necessary due to the style of music normally played on them.
Flamenco guitars normally have a spruce top, same as classical, but the sides and backs are made from cypress or sycamore to enhance the volume projected from them. These sides and top sheets are generally thinner on a Flamenco than those found on classical guitars. Lastly, Flamenco guitars have a thin sheet of plastic over the face of the guitar to protect from the constant tapping that happens in this style music.
The strings on Flamenco guitars are normally set to be low action and sit closer to the body of the instrument to help this. The neck is also normally either flat or at a negative relief.
Lastly, the sound of the two instruments. Classical guitars are meant to act as an “orchestra in a box” and have to cover a wide range of sounds and tones. Flamenco guitars are much sharper and more piecing, meant to cut through the sound of dancers stomping. This is a sharp burst of sound with a quick decay.
A crossover guitar is exactly what it sounds like, a mix between an acoustic steel string guitar and a classical nylon string instrument. On our list of the best nylon string guitars, we added the Cordoba Fusion 14 Maple Crossover Cutaway Nylon String Guitar as a great option for those interested.
The nut width on these instruments is somewhere between a standard classical guitar and an acoustic, while it has the radiused fretboard of a acoustic for playability, a cutaway to make the higher frets more accessible, with the nylon strings for the sound of a classical instrument.
This isn’t always a great instrument for beginners, since you are mashing up two styles of guitar. Crossovers are better for players of one style that want to start to dabble in the other style!
Spanish guitars are found almost everywhere in the world although they originated, as the name implies, in Spain. This instrument is the least consistent of all the nylon strings, with construction techniques, sound, and tonal characteristics varying greatly depending on the region where you find the instrument.
Nylon String Guitars Buying Guide
If nothing on our list really hit home and made you want to buy, we put together a list of many of the things we look for when shopping for the best nylon string guitars. You can use this guide to shop at your local guitar store or on other online retailers to find something that is both quality and peaks interest.
Tone wood is the wood used to make your nylon string guitar. Tone woods are important because they define the resonance and sound of your guitar. There are various tone wood choices in the market today, like cedar, mahogany, maple, and Sapele. Cedar produces a soft sound while mahogany has a defined strong sound.
Some types of guitars, like Flamenco, use specific types of wood, like cypress and sycamore that are not typical, but have specific qualities that make them attractive for play styles.
The best instruments will be made of a solid sheet of each material for each section of the body. Cheaper options will use laminated woods, meaning they have a thin sheet of the advertised wood and then multiple layers of cheaper, ‘filler’ woods laminated together to bring cost down. These can still sound pretty good although will not be as true of a sound as a solid piece of wood.
Lastly, composite materials or plastics should just be avoided. These allow guitar makers to drastically cut the cost of the instrument, but the quality and sound suffer greatly as well.
Acoustic vs. Acoustic-electric
Acoustic-electric guitars lie between electric guitars and regular acoustic guitars. Their pickup is similar to the one found in electric guitars and allows you to plug them in and play through an amp. If you want to record live performances and live sessions, you should go for acoustic-electric guitars.
Many beginning guitarists feel like they need to buy guitars from individual brands to play the guitar well. This is in no way true, you can play just as well on a cheap guitar as on a high-end Taylor. That being said, they sound you get from a name brand might be quite a bit nicer.
We tend to recommend and buy from manufacturers we know. Guitar brands. Brands that have been making instruments for decades and stand behind their instruments. That being said, these aren’t the only good instruments out there so you can look past brand if it checks the other boxes!
Price is a factor that buyers consider when buying almost everything. When buying guitars, the higher the price, the more likely the quality is higher. We have tried to make sure that all the instruments we found are good VALUES… meaning you are getting a lot of instrument for what you are spending!
The Final Note
There you have it, the best nylon string guitar is the Taylor Academy Series 12-N. Hopefully if the Taylor doesn’t strike your fancy something else on our list does!
If you are looking for easy guitar songs, chords or any other guitar resource make sure to check our learning to play section!