Acoustic guitar and classical guitar

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There are the instruments acoustic guitar and classical guitar. What exactly is the difference?

From what I remember, a classical guitar has a slightly different body shape than the type of acoustic guitar you see in most popular music. The strings are often different too: classical guitars are often strung with the top 3 strings being nylon and the bottom 3 steel.

All six strings are being referrred to as nylon strings. Even the ones with the metal wrappings have a nylon core.

Acoustic guitar is a broader term that includes classical guitars, western guitars, flamenco guitars and lots of other variants.

Acoustic refers to how the sound is produced. The thick hollow ones that make their own noise. As previously stated, it is the “generic” term that encompasses many different variations.

Classical guitars are a slightly smaller bodied acoustic, and they have nylon strings. Yes, as previously mentioned, all 6 are nylon, but 3 of them have metal windings around a nylon core.

Classical guitars are acoustic guitars. But not all Acoustic guitars are Classical guitars.

If you do not know what kind of specific guitar was used, you are safe to use the general term - Acoustic. But you are not safe to say Classical guitars, even if it has nylon strings.


Thank you for your answers!

That makes sense. However, according to the musicbrainz instrument AR, “acoustic guitar” is a child of “classical guitar”. Shouldn’t this be the other way round then?

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I should probably mention the strings are not always nylon: some guitarists prefer to use gut strings instead.

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But gut is more of a personal preference than an industry standard.

Yes, that does seem backwards.

True, but we have a separate instrument entity for guitars strung with gut strings.

You might want to add a ticket to reverse the order :slight_smile:


Since it seemed like no one else did it, I went ahead and made a ticket. @CatQuest is currently vacationing, so it might take a while for him to get around to it though. :slight_smile:


thank you! …

hello all! sorry for the wait. After the vacation the debussy cleanup ate me a little.
I have amended the order of classical and acoustic (which indeed seem a lot more sane than the current situation was.)
And I have a question to ask you all: what would you say about where the nylon and gut string guitars should now be?
Should they be moved to acoustic or remain under classical?

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thank you, great!

For your question: Not much of an idea, I’m not an guitar expert. Is every nylon/gut guitar necessarily a classical guitar? My guess would be “no”, implying that they should be children of the acoustic guitar.


I’d say move to acoustic and edit the descriptions to match

After having read and I am no longer sure that this was the correct thing to do, it at the very least seems there are two "classical guitars"
The historical one, which all “modern” including the acoustic, comes from, and one “used in classical music” new one which derived from a combination of gut string acoustic guitar and various older “classical” guitars.

My guess is that the mb classical guitar instrument was created as, and /or became an amalgam of the two.

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Acoustic guitar refers to how the sound is produced. Twelve thousand years ago, there was no electricity, no amplifiers, so there would be no electric guitar.

Prior to the invention of the electric guitar, people played “guitar”. That is why someone like Robert Johnson is a guitarist, not an acoustic guitarist.

I think that we definitely should have acoustic guitar as the top of the tree (after ‘guitar’). Classical, which are primarily acoustic guitars would then be a sub-category. They are acoustic guitars first. Then their specifics is what makes them classical guitars.