Nylon strings provide a mellow and percussive contrast to the bright and articulate sound of steel strings. When equipped on a small body instruments like parlor or small classical guitars, nylon strings produce a different tonal palette that both professionals and beginners enjoy.
To make it easier to choose which one to get I have put together the following list of the best guitars in this category. If you are looking for a beginner friendly instrument that has enough tone and feel for experienced players to appreciate, then you're in luck.
NB - this guide only covers small sized guitars, for full sized options see The Best Classical & Nylon String Guitars - $99 to $1000 on Gearank.com.
Small Classical Guitars or Nylon String Parlor Guitars
Small classical guitars are simply scaled down versions of their standard sized counterparts. They follow the same shape, build and style with the main difference being the smaller measurements. This results in a tone similar to standard size classical guitars but with less sound projection. 7/8 and 3/4 classical guitars fall under this category, and are popular for beginners and serious students of the instrument. Nylon string parlor guitars on the other hand have a different shape, following the compact design of "parlour" instruments from the early 1900s. These compact instruments have more pronounced middle frequencies, and are more comfortable to carry around and play with, ideal grab-and-go instruments that you can leave on your couch or on a stand. Regardless of your preference, you will find one that suits your budget and style in this roundup.
What to Look For When Buying a Small Sized Nylon String Guitar
If you budget will allow, and you're looking for a well balanced tone, it is always be best to go for solid top instruments. The sound of solid topped instruments "open up" as they age, making them worthy longterm companion instruments. Cheaper laminate topped parlor guitars offer a more dynamic yet abrupt sound that fans of vintage parlor guitars will appreciate. Cedar is the wood of choice for nylon string instruments because it helps round out the tone nicely, but you can go for ones with spruce top if you're looking for a more balanced tone. Note that the shorter scale length of a parlor allows for easy playability, while longer scale length of the small classical makes for easier transition when switching to regular sized acoustics. Other features to consider include having a nut width that matches your fretting hand and of course you want an instrument that inspires you to practice and play.
Nylon String Parlor Guitars
Cordoba Requinto 580
Manufacturer: Cordoba Requinto 580 |
From its humble beginnings, Cordoba has grown into one of the biggest nylon string guitar manufacturers in the world today. They've grown so much that they recently acquired the Guild brand from Fender, expanding the company's reach into the steel string guitar market. As expected, Cordoba is not afraid to produce non-conventional variations of their nylon string guitars, and one of these which falls under the parlor guitar category is the Requinto 580. This 1/2 size guitar comes packed with impressive features and for its size and it plays surprisingly similar to standard size instruments. This small guitar features a solid cedar top with mahogany back and sides, a traditional combination that works great for nylon stringed instruments. It even comes with traditional 5-fan Torres style bracing so it can reproduce genuine Spanish tones in spite of being small. Because of its compact size, the scale length is shorter at 22.8, which results in beginner friendly playability. To compensate, they strung this guitar with high tension strings so that it can be played in standard tuning. Other features include hand-inlaid wood rosette, and Indian rosewood detailing. While it can be a little too small for some players, professionals will appreciate it's elegant look and genuine sound.
La Patrie Motif
Manufacturer: La Patrie |
La Patrie, another sub brand of Godin made it into this list, and this one specializes in classical nylon stringed instruments. One of their production line models has a parlor guitar shape, the La Patrie Motif. Instead of following traditional short scale specs, this guitar is actually a "full-scale" guitar, which means that it feel and plays like standard size classical guitars. This makes the Motif a great couch guitar for classical guitarists, a reliable grab-and-go instrument that you can play without adjusting your playing technique too much, which means that your main guitar can stay longer in its secure case. This nylon string parlor guitar comes with a solid cedar top, wild cherry back and sides and a mahogany neck that joins the body at the 12th fret. Scale length is similar to standard size acoustics at 25.66". The longer scale length of this parlor guitar might put off players with small hands, but it provides an excellent opportunity to practice in standard scale with a more compact instrument.
Small Classical Guitars
Yamaha CGS103A 3/4 Size Classical Guitar
Manufacturer: Yamaha |
So many teachers and guitar schools recommend Yamaha guitars, myself included, and the reason is simple - they provide excellent easy to play instruments that students will find inspiring to play. I for one took formal classical guitar lessons on a Yamaha and that guitar is still with me now years later. If I had only known about the 3/4 size CGS103A, then my learning days would have been a bit easier with its short 23" scale length and slightly narrower 1.9" nut width. Being an entry level guitar, the CGS103A comes with basic wood that includes a spruce top, meranti back and sides and nato neck, thankfully Yamaha's impressive build quality makes this guitar look and sound better than what you'd expect. Yamaha mentioned that this guitar is meant for players age 6 to 10, but even older and experienced players are finding themselves quite pleased with how this guitar plays and sounds.
Cordoba C9 Parlor
Manufacturer: Cordoba |
The Cordoba C9 Parlor is actually a small classical guitar, slightly smaller than standard at 7/8 size. This means that Cordoba is staying within their expertise, and not necessarily utilizing traditional parlor style design as the name seems to imply. This can be good or bad depending on whether you want a small classical guitar or a nylon string parlor, but whatever your preference is, there's no denying that the C9 Parlor is a cool looking instrument. Far from being an entry level guitar, the Cordoba C9 Parlor sports an all solid wood construction, with either a solid Canadian cedar or solid European spruce top, paired with solid mahogany back and sides. Following traditional Spanish style guitar building, the top is supported by a fan bracing pattern which allows for more surface area vibration, resulting in improved projection and articulation. Interestingly, Cordoba opted for a slightly shorter 24.8" scale length, which better explains the "Parlor" label, meaning that it looks like a classical guitar, but plays like a parlor guitar. Nut width is narrower but still close to standard specs at 1.97". Thankfully, Cordoba was able to keep the price reasonable, although some beginners and students will find this guitar to be out of their budget range. If you are looking for a concert-level workhorse classical guitar that plays like a parlor guitar then check out the Cordoba C9.
Antonio Hermosa AHQ-10
Manufacturer: Antonio Hermosa |
This relatively unknown 3/4 size classical guitar is hidden gem in the entry level market. Although not much is known about the manufacturer and their reputation, The Antonio Hermosa AHQ-10 comes with nice specs at a very accessible price. It sports a solid cedar top, mahogany body and mahogany neck, all built following traditional Spanish designs. Although it doesn't have big brand backing, reviews on this model are unanimous in saying that build quality is superb, tone is nice and more importantly, it is very easy and inspiring to play. This is mostly thanks to the short 22.75" scale length and the smaller body design and the narrower 1.875" nut width. In addition to its resonant sound and playability, the AHQ-10 features cosmetic appointments that you don't normally see on guitars of this price point, including maple binding, 3-ply top purfling, and gold-plated tuners. If you're looking for a budget friendly solid top 3/4 size classical guitar then check this one out.
If you need any further advice please post in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.