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8 best beginner classical guitars 2021: Plus the top Spanish guitar for beginners

8 best beginner classical guitars 2021: Plus the top Spanish guitar for beginners
(Image credit: Getty/Wachirawit Iemlerkchai)

The best beginner classical guitars can help introduce both adults and kids to the captivating world of Spanish playing, without breaking the bank. Nylon string strummers and even the best classical guitars can be prone to a fair bit of hate from select members of the guitar community. Some guitarists associate them with the cheap, flimsy axes they took their first formative steps on and couldn’t leave behind quick enough. That doesn’t have to be the case though.

In our guide to the best beginner classical guitars, we’ll show you examples of great quality instruments that will get you started off on the right footing, whether you’re taking your first guitar lessons at school or looking to branch out with your existing guitar collection. 

You see, there are many reasons why beginners tend to favor classical guitars, which we’ll outline later on. But regardless of the guitar type, you need to know you’re learning on an instrument you can trust, that plays well, and which sounds great. Every instrument featured in our guide to beginner’s classical guitars fits that bill.

We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide, so click the ‘buying advice’ tab above if you’d like to read more. If it’s products you’re after, then keep scrolling.

Best beginner classical guitars: Guitar World’s choice

When you’re choosing one of the best beginner classical guitars, you essentially want three things. A guitar easy to get to grips with, that sounds good, and one that won’t fall apart. 

With all of those considerations in mind, for us the best beginner classical guitar overall is the Yamaha C40II. That’s because it marries great tone and a comfortable playing experience - something which few other beginner classical guitars can rival for that kind of money.

For great build and superb tonality, and for not an awful lot more, we’d also recommend the stylish Cordoba C5, which is built for playing captivating Spanish styles. 

Best beginner classical guitars: Product guide

Best beginner classical guitars: Yamaha C40II

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha C40II

The best beginner’s classical guitar overall

Launch price: $252/£129 | Type: Classical | Body: Spruce top with Meranti back and sides | Neck: Nato | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Electronics: N/A | Finish: Natural

Price
Build quality
Comfortable to play
Feels a bit cheap

Choosing from among the best beginners classical guitars can be hard, especially knowing how to get value for money if you’re unsure how much time you can put into learning. The Yamaha C40II is almost perfect for anyone looking to invest in a decent quality beginner’s classic guitar without breaking the bank. 

The Yamaha C40II is light, comfortable to play and sounds great, making it ideal for anyone looking to learn the guitar without overextending their finances at an early stage. It rewards regular playing and will ensure your guitar journey starts out on the right foot. 

Plenty of players choose Yamaha guitars to learn on, and the C40II beginner’s classical guitar is a great example of why that reputation still stands true today.

Best beginner classical guitars: Cordoba C5

(Image credit: Cordoba )

2. Cordoba C5

A Spanish-flavoured nylon string acoustic with a touch of class

Launch price: $349/£279 | Type: Spanish | Body: Cedar top with Mahogany back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Electronics: N/A | Finish: Gloss Polyurethane

Ideal for flamenco and Latin styles
Sturdy build 
You want a more versatile choice 

Not every nylon strung acoustic is designed for playing whimsical medieval ballads on. The Cordoba C5 is geared entirely towards Spanish styles, like flamenco and gipsy jazz, and has a few neat design touches to support this. The choice for fan-bracing inside the guitar provides strength but also can deliver a brighter, more attack-heavy sound, which is perfect for more percussive playing styles. 

There are some pleasing aesthetic points to the Cordoba C5 too, like the gold tuners, which when combined with the guitar’s great build and superb tonality make for a pretty compelling argument for one of the best beginner’s classical guitars. 

The C5 is also available with a solid spruce top, instead of the standard cedar. This produces an extra hint of  brightness, enabling the crisp treble of this instrument to shine through.

Best beginner classical guitars: Yamaha CG122MSH

(Image credit: Yamaha )

3. Yamaha CG122MSH

The best beginner’s classical guitar for blending price and performance

Launch price: $249/£249 | Type: Classical | Body: Englemann spruce top, Nato back and sides | Neck: Nato | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Electronics: N/A | Finish: Natural

Rich sound
Wide nut 
Cheap looks 

As a ‘proper’ nylon strung beginner’s classical guitar, they don’t come much better than the Yamaha CG122MSH. While it may look like a regular cheapo guitar, the difference when it comes to tone, build quality and playability is night and day. 

The solid Engelmann spruce top gives the tone a depth and richness which sounds amazing, while the full 2-inch nut width gives you the proper classical playing experience. There’s a lot to like about this beginner classical guitar.

Best beginner classical guitars: Epiphone PRO-1 Classical

(Image credit: Epiphone)

4. Epiphone PRO-1 Classic

A beginner’s classical guitar that’s affordable and easy to play

Launch price: $129/£119 | Type: Classical | Body: Cedar top with mahogany back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Electronics: N/A | Finish: Antique Natural

Cheap and cheerful
Fun and easy to play
Ideal for absolute beginners 
Basic design 

Despite being more famous for its iconic electric and steel-string acoustics, Epiphone has dipped its toe in the classical waters with the PRO-1. Clearly aimed at getting younger players hooked on the Epiphone brand, the Epiphone PRO-1 Classic is designed to be incredibly simple to play. 

You won’t find fancy fixtures and fittings here, but as an inexpensive first step on the ladder, this is one of the best beginner’s classical guitars for smaller hands in particular. Buy it and don’t look back.

Best beginner classical guitars: Takamine GC1CE

(Image credit: Takamine)

5. Takamine GC1CE

An electro-acoustic classical guitar from respected name

Launch price: $359/£259 | Type: Classical | Body: Spruce top with mahogany back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Laurel | Electronics: Takamine TP-4T preamp with built-in tuner | Finish: Natural

A step above the bargain models
Superb amplified tone 
Pricey for a ‘starter’ guitar 

For those of you now find yourself above the level of ‘total beginner’, and want something a bit more fully featured to aid your progression, the Takamine GC1CE might just be the best beginner’s classical guitar for you out of all the instruments featured here. This superb quality electro acoustic classical guitar boasts a level of tone and build quality way above the basic beginner models. 

You also gain the ability to play plugged in, making the Takamine GC1CE viable for gigs and performances. It is a little more expensive than most of the others on this list, but the leap in quality and reliability makes the GC1CE a guitar you won’t grow out of any time soon. 

Best beginner classical guitars: Ibanez AEG50N

(Image credit: Ibanez )

6. Ibanez AEG50N

The best beginner’s classical guitar if you want something different

Launch price: $299/£240 | Type: AEG | Body: Spruce top with sapele back and sides | Neck: Nyatoh | Fingerboard: Walnut | Electronics: AEG-TTS preamp with tuner | Finish: Black High Gloss

Well made
Sounds great
Ideal for ‘secret’ nylon fans 
Finish might not appeal to purists 

Not every nylon string player wants the traditional shape and finish seen on almost every guitar in the category. The Ibanez AEG50N caters for this crowd by providing everything nylon players love – wide fingerboards, clean tones – with a more modern visual aesthetic. 

The Ibanez AEG body shape is slightly shallower than a standard beginner’s classical guitar, meaning it may appeal more to electric players as a second guitar. That classic Ibanez style and quality is evident throughout here, too.

Best beginner classical guitars: Washburn C5CE

(Image credit: Washburn)

7. Washburn C5CE

A great value electro-classical model for beginners

Launch price: $199/£179 | Type: Classical | Body: Spruce top with Catalpa back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Engineered wood | Electronics: EVT preamp | Finish: Natural

Mellow tone
Affordable entry model 
Sound can be ultra-treble focused 

Washburn is a well-respected brand, particularly in the world of acoustics, so the Washburn C5CE comes with a certain assurance of quality. The C5CE is a solid, entry-level electro-acoustic with everything you’d expect from a beginner’s classical guitar, including a wide nut and spruce top, producing a mellow, warm sound.

We’ve heard from players who have found the plugged-in sound to be slightly harsh and toppy, so performance at high volumes may not be advisable, but for recording and practice, the Washburn C5CE is one of the best beginner’s classical guitars around. 

Best beginner classical guitars: Cordoba Mini II

(Image credit: Cordoba )

8. Cordoba Mini II Classical

A small-body classical guitar that’s ideal for little kids

Launch price: $129/£119 | Type: Mini Classical | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Composite | Electronics: N/A | Finish: Natural

Great for younger learners
Sounds legit 
Easy to outgrow 

For younger players, or those with smaller hands, even a standard classical acoustic might be a daunting proposition. The Cordoba Mini II is the perfect solution though, coming in at a much smaller size than a full sized acoustic, yet with all the same functionality and playability. 

We were surprised at the sheer level of volume the Cordoba Mini II Classical can produce, while the tone itself is rich with harmonics and warmth. One not to be overlooked, especially for such a low price.

Best beginner classical guitars: Buying advice

But I don’t want to play classical music! 

The classical guitar - so-called because of its association with classical, flamenco, jazz and latin genres - is a dream for beginners to learn on due to the inherent design, build and characteristics of the guitar.  

Why should I buy a classical guitar? 

For starters, the best beginner classical guitars have everything laid out just that bit more comfortably. The nylon strings aren’t as harsh on the fingertips, which will help you avoid unnecessary pain when playing for longer periods of time. If you plan on branching out into the less forgiving world of steel electric guitar strings in the future, then being able to get the basics down on a fairly painless nylon string guitar is ideal. The distance between the strings is also increased, so there’s less chance of accidentally fretting the wrong notes.

Classicals are acoustic by nature, meaning they produce their own sound and don’t require amplification. The vibration of the strings as you pluck, twang or strum them reverberates around the big hole on the guitar’s body, creating the sound you know and love.

There are a few variables that can have an effect on what an individual guitar sounds like, from the size and shape of the body to the woods used in the construction. There are no right, wrong, better or worse answers here; guitars of any kind (especially acoustic guitars) are highly personal instruments, so it’s important you find the balance that suits your taste best.

When it comes to the best beginner classical guitars, you’ll find certain brands to be the major players. Yamaha is one such name you’ll see a lot, certainly at the entry-level end, but there are also brands like Cordoba and Takamine, both offering wide ranges of good quality guitars.

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.