At first sight the Nylon String, Classical, Spanish guitar, whatever you want to call it, is definitely a sibling of the steel string acoustic guitar, and a close one at that. The spanish guitar has remained largely unchanged for over a hundred years, and probably because it was done right in the first place. Or it could just be that guitarists are a pretty conservative bunch when it comes to radical design changes and 'improvements'. This is also noticeable with the solid body electric when you look at the top guitars still selling today, they are the pretty much the same guitars as were introduced in the 50's.
Having said that, the spanish guitar has seen some major improvements in construction techniques and design and today we see great variations in the materials used to build them and a thriving market for both independent luthiers and for manufacturers who mass produce the instrument. So now we have the choice between acoustic, semi-acoustic and even some solid body nylon string guitars in the market.
With improvements in production techniques you should be able to get a pretty good nylon string for under three hundred dollars, with hand built models costing considerably more. Again, you need to decide on the purpose and your budget when you are considering a purchase. If you just intend some casual strumming at home then a purely acoustic model might suffice. However, if you intend doing some recording or playing live, you would be advised to opt for either the semi-acoustic, which will have a built-in transducer pickup, or stage (solid-body) models to help prevent unwanted feedback. More and more manufacturers are producing these solid and semi-solid models with Yamaha, Godin, Line6 and Takamine in the forefront, although don't count out other brands.
Very untraditionally, some of the semi-acoustic models will even come with a cutaway to allow easier access to the upper frets. Traditionally the neck would join the body at the 12th fret, not the 14th as on a steel string acoustic, and have no fret position inlays (dots) . It also has a considerably wider neck, with a flat fingerboard as opposed to slightly curved. The strings are, well three of them are, nylon (surprise!!), with the thicker strings being a round-wound string with a silk core.
Restringing and tuning can be a total nightmare, and any performing guitarist will try to change their strings a few days before hand in order for the stings to be stretched and settle down. They will also replace the wound strings more frequently than the nylon strings, as the nylon strings do not suffer from corrosion problems. The wider neck also makes it a bit more difficult for the beginner to get to grips with so for these reasons, unless you are intending taking classical lessons, or happy to put up with this then give the nylon string guitar a miss just for now. If however, you already play the guitar, having a classical guitar is a great aside from normal guitar playing duties and can be quite inspirational.
It has, over the last decade started to find it's way into popular music with everyone from Sting to Hip-Hop and Heavy Metal acts employing it's distinctive sound as either the main instrument in a composition, or to add something a little different to the mix.
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