Why Trust Guitaristnextdoor?
Everything you see here is a creation of 5 guitar guys that have combined 82 years of experience with guitars. We spend our workdays researching and testing gear so that you can get the best bang for your buck!

5 Best Budget Classical Guitars in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Best Budget Classical Guitars

I’m an affiliate. Guitaristnextdoor.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we earn an affiliate commission(this adds no extra cost to you). This helps us to keep the lights on. This site is not sponsored by anyone and all opinions are our own. Great to have you here!

Since June 2020, we have helped guitar players select the best gear for them 2427 times. I hope that you are the next!

image displays Yamaha CG122MS

Best Overall – Yamaha CG122MS

Sound
Playability
Overall Quality
Value For Money

Summary


Pros
-Solid top at budget prices
-Full classical playability
-Innovative bracing pattern for increased sustain and projection
-Affordable price
-Delivers great tones (especially for this price)

Cons
-Extra-wide nut can be hard to play with small hands

By all considerations, this is an excellent axe and is in fact my #1 recommendation for budget classical guitars.

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or pro, you’ll love the stage-worthy tone of the CG122. If you can afford it, it’s a great choice. It will offer you easy playability and great tones for years to come.

4.3

How Yamaha CG122MSH sounds:

Compare prices:


The Next Best:

Best Budget – Yamaha C40II


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros

  • Very inexpensive full-scale model
  • Responsive, articulate tone
  • Lightweight and well-built for easy playability
  • Really durable

Cons

  • Sometimes ships with damage
  • Laminate top

C40II is a great starter acoustic with all the tonal and playing features that make a classical guitar a timeless instrument.

Guitaristnextdoor’s Teemu has loved his own for over a decade and hopes to never get rid of it.

So if you’re looking for a full-size budget classical that can last a lifetime, the C40II is the best bargain option.

Runner-Up/Best for Small Hands – Cordoba Dolce 7/8


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros

  • 7/8-size is a good choice for small-bodied adults
  • Handmade with a solid cedar top
  • Traditional bracing and tonewood combo for vintage sounds
  • Slightly narrower nut improves playability

Cons

  • Slightly weak bass response
  • Tuning machines are weak sometimes

Ranking as the top budget option in our review of the best classical guitars for small hands, the beautiful voice and easy playability of the Dolce are hard to beat at this price.

Its traditional construction, blending quality woods with tested bracing methods, makes for a guitar that outperforms most others in its category.

Fastest Playing- Ibanez GA35TCEDVS


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros

  • Acoustic-electric classical with a cutaway body
  • Thin body design adds comfort and intimacy to playing-feel
  • Traditional Spanish fan bracing for vintage classical tones
  • Great acces to frets
  • Narrowr neck makes accesseing frets easy
  • Neck joint at the 14th fret instead 12th increases overall playability

Cons

  • Modern body shape and narrow nut take away from classical feel
  • Thin body decreases bass response a bit

As good of a guitar as this is, it’s not the best choice if you want the “full classical experience”.

But if you’re looking for a fast-playing modern take on the traditional nylon-string acoustic, the Ibanez GA35TCE is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Best for Kids/Travel– Yamaha CGS102A 1/2


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros

  • Small size great for kids or for travel
  • Narrow nut width ideal for small hands
  • Dependable construction at a low cost

Cons

  • Small string spacing increases finger-picking difficulty
  • Quiet and not very full sound

Because it’s so small, I recommend this as the best classical guitar for kids (6-12 years old) more than I do for adults.

But this mini body size paired with its good build quality and tone make it a fine choice for a small travel guitar as well.

With Yamaha quality at such a low cost, there will be no money lost with the purchase of the CGS102A.

This graphic helps you to compare these classical guitars:

this graphic lists key specs of 5 great budget classical guitars and lets visitors compare the specs easily

It can be overwhelming to find a classical guitar that won’t break the bank and fits your needs… This guide will walk you through everything you need to know before making a purchase!

We have narrowed down the choices to our 5 favorites that are ranging from solid-top stage-ready performers to super-cheap student models perfect for introducing your kid to music.

Every one of these classical guitars is here based on extensive research and combined 27+ year experience of me (Tommy) and Teemu.

Who crafted this article:

Tommy Tompkins Profile Picture 2

Author: Tommy Tompkins

Playing guitar since 2004. Primarily an acoustic guitarist who plays and writes traditional American folk music, with a background in melodic metal and a solid foundation as a bassist.

photo reveals the Owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

Playing guitar since 2009. Plays guitars from electrics to classicals. Started this blog in January 2020.

Let’s first look at these fine guitars, and at the end of the post, you can find the FAQ section that helps you to make the best choice possible.

Use the table of content to jump to the section you want:

Best Budget Classical Guitars

With this graph you can see how tonewoods of these guitars affect the tones(in my opinion):

this graphs helps to compare tones of acoustic guitar tonewoods

Body Top: Solid Engelmann Spruce

Sides: Nato

Back: Nato

Neck: Nato

Fretboard: Rosewood

Body Top: Laminate Spruce

Sides: Meranti

Back: Meranti

Neck: Nato

Fretboard: Rosewood

Body Top: Solid Western Red Cedar

Sides: Mahogany

Back: Mahogany

Neck: Mahogany

Fretboard: Pau Ferro

Body Top: Laminate Spruce

Sides: Sapele

Back: Sapele

Neck: Nyatoh

Fretboard: Walnut

Body Top: Laminate Spruce

Sides: Meranti

Back: Meranti

Neck: Nato

Fretboard: Rosewood


Best Overall – Yamaha CG122MS

Sound

The Yamaha CG122 has two main things that give it an excellent tone: a solid top and a newly-designed bracing pattern.

The Solid Spruce top produces a bright, articulate sound.

The hybrid bracing increases both the responsiveness and the volume of the top. And this is one clear advantage that the Yamaha CG112 offers.

This makes the CG122 series a louder, more pronounced guitar than your average classical.

The tone is well balanced, and both bass and treble tones come out clear.

Check how this guitar sounds:

Playability

The CG122 is built in the traditional style—a 4/4 body size with no cutaway and a 12th-fret neck joint.

Its nut comes in at just over 2-inches, giving you the wide string spacing required for true classical technique.

This might be a challenge for players with really little fingers, so be sure to explore your options if you’re worried about playing a wide-neck guitar.

But this guitar is still smooth and comfortable to play once you get used to it. No sharp edges and strings are easy to press down.

Quality

The only area this guitar lacks in—at least in my opinion—is the body wood.

Don’t get me wrong, having a solid spruce is awesome. 

But the back and sides are made of nato, a cheap wood that will never sound as good as the heritage mahogany guitars.

Of course, replacing this body wood would raise the price quite a bit. Other guitars in this series, like the CG192S, do have mahogany bodies, but at more than 2x the price. So we get what we pay for.

Summary

Pros

  • Solid top at budget prices
  • Full classical playability
  • Innovative bracing pattern for increased sustain and projection
  • Affordable price
  • Delivers great tones (especially for this price)

Cons

  • Extra-wide nut can be hard to play with small hands

Give me enough time and I can find something to complain about in just about every guitar, but the best I could do for the Yamaha CG122MSH is wish for a better body wood.

By all considerations, this is an excellent axe and is in fact my #1 recommendation for budget classical guitars.

It sounds superb, plays beautifully, and offers real classical playability.

Who is this for?

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or pro, the CG122S offers you the best budget classical guitar playability and tones.

Compare prices:


Best Budget – Yamaha C40II

Sound

Yamaha’s C40II is one of the best totally affordable classical guitars around.

It’s an updated version of their popular C40 model, the same owned by GuitaristNextDoor’s very own Teemu.

Teemu’s owned the C40 for 13 years and finds it a great fingerstyle axe for the ringing melodies of “Für Elise” and the dominant bass lines of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. 

Because of its laminate top, it could stand to be a bit brighter overall. 

But Teemu says his C40 is articulate and responsive enough for anything from classical standard to Metallica’s “One”.

Check how this guitar sounds:

Playability

Me and Teemu are in the same camp when it comes to hand-size and playability: we both have smaller hands but can still manage on a full-scale classical.

The C40II’s 2-inch nut, rosewood fingerboard, and full-size body give you the traditional classical guitar playing experience.

It’s the guitar of choice for players on a budget who want to develop the perfect fingerstyle technique.

If a full-scale guitar is a bit uncomfortable for you, you might benefit from using gear that aids your posture. Check out our recommendations for classical guitar supports and classical guitar cushions to help you wield a 4/4 guitar.

The feel of the C40 II’s neck doesn’t lose to Yamaha CG122S’ neck much. But when it comes to sound, CG122S is a clear winner.

Quality

When I asked Teemu what his favorite thing about the C40 is, he said it’s “the value you get for the money you spend. It’s really a bargain, and the quality of the C40 is great”.

In my own experience with Yamaha guitars, they don’t sell any duds.

I’m sure you’re wondering what the main difference is between the C40 and the C40II, and the answer is there isn’t much of one.

As far as I can tell,

  • the C40 was exclusively made with a meranti back and sides.
  • The C40II is made with “locally-sourced tonewood” or meranti, even on Yamaha’s own site both these are mentioend.

Most often, I think you’re still getting meranti, a low-cost alternative to mahogany.

Depending on what’s available to Yamaha at the time, you might end up with other mahogany-alternatives like sapele or nato.

Summary

Pros

  • Very inexpensive full-scale model
  • Responsive, articulate tone
  • Lightweight and well-built for easy playability
  • Really durable

Cons

  • Often ships with damage
  • Laminate top

No matter what tonewood they choose for your C40II’s body, the result is guaranteed to be a great starter acoustic with all the tonal and playing features that make a classical guitar a timeless instrument.

Teemu’s loved his own for over a decade and hopes to never get rid of it.

Who is this for?

If you’re looking for a full-size budget classical that can last a lifetime, the C40II is the best bargain option.

Great for classical guitar beginners.

Check Price on:


Runner-up/Best for Small Hands – Cordoba Dolce 7/8

Sound

The Dolce by Cordoba is a beautiful handcrafted classical guitar that delivers traditional nylon-string tones.

Cordoba combines classic fan bracing with the historic cedar + mahogany tonewood combo in this model for a sound like what you would have heard in 19th-century Spain.

Its voice is clear, responsive, and plucky—warm and round while bright, with lots of overtones and lengths of sustain.

The size reduction scoops the Dolce’s bass just a bit, but the tonal balance is still nearly flawless.

Check how this guitar sounds:

Playability

7/8 is a great body size for adults that are on the shorter side. Scale length is 24.8” (630mm). Regular-sized classicals have a scale length of 25.5” or 25.6” (650mm), depending on the manufacturer.

It’s not kid-sized, but the body, scale length, and neck width are all reduced to make the Cordoba Dolce more comfortable to play.

The neck isn’t so thin that it changes the classical guitar playing experience—1.96-inches compared to the standard 2. 

But this one-millimeter shortness makes a noticeable difference in being able to wrap your fingers around the fretboard. 

At the same time, you have plenty of string spacing for detailed fingerpicking patterns.

Quality

So we’ve already got:

  • A solid cedar top
  • Historically-authentic construction
  • Handcrafted quality
  • Small-hand playability

What’s more, the Dolce is made with a real bone nut and saddle for increased resonance and sustain.

Is there any issue with this nylon-string axe?

Unfortunately, yes—and depending on how you feel about it, it could be a deal-breaker.

Sometimes, due to a weakness in the plastic tuning machine knobs, they can simply break.

If this happens, there may be a chance of manufacturer replacement, but it could be up to you to buy and install new knobs.

Otherwise, this would probably be my top-rated budget classical guitar. But this chance of malfunction is more than I’d personally want to deal with.

Summary

Pros

  • 7/8-size is a good choice for small-bodied adults
  • Handmade with a solid cedar top
  • Traditional bracing and tonewood combo for vintage sounds
  • A bit easier to handle than full sized classical guitars

Cons

  • Slightly weak bass response
  • Tuning machines are weak sometimes

Ranking as the top budget option in our review of the best classical guitars for small hands, the beautiful voice and easy playability of the Dolce are hard to beat at this price.

If those tuning knobs hold up, the Cordoba Dolce 7/8 is sure to be a guitar you’ll love for a long time.

Its traditional construction, blending quality woods with tested bracing methods, makes for a guitar that outperforms most others in its category.

Who is this for?

Small-bodied or handed people, who don’t want a full-sized classical guitar. Really beginner-friendly too.

Offers the most in hardware and tonewood when classical guitars featured in this article are compared.


Fastest Playing- Ibanez GA35TCEDVS

Sound

Considering this is another budget guitar with a laminate top, I don’t know how Ibanez managed to make the GA35TCE sound as good as they did—but boy is this a beautiful nylon string guitar.

When I first saw it, I thought it might be too bright because of its thin body. 

And, while I was right that it doesn’t have much low-end, the balance between the ranges is really sweet. 

The mids are thick enough to drive your bass lines, and the highs are soft and smooth rather than cutting.

Check how this guitar sounds:

Playability

If your small hands are holding you back from playing classical guitar, the Ibanez GA35TCE can really help you out.

Its nut is a whole 4mm shorter than the standard classical neck. I guess you can expect that from Ibanez, being that they’re known for their fast-playing guitars.

The neck is very thin down the whole length, but the fingerboard radius is still flat so you still get at least some bit of traditional classical playability.

Unlike most classicals that have a neck joint at the 12th fret, the GA35TCE gives you a full 14 frets free of the body. 

The cutaway gives you further access almost all the way to the 20th fret! If you wanna get some fingerstyle action going in the highest ranges, this is the guitar for you.

Quality

Not only is the GA35TCE made with authentic Spanish fan bracing—its electronics come equipped with both a 1/4-inch and a balanced XLR output.

A singer-songwriter’s dream when playing in small coffee shops, this and the onboard preamp let you plug directly into the venue’s PA system to play loud and clear.

Blending the best of classical guitar tone with modern playability and electronics, the mix of old and new is finely executed in the GA35TCE.

Summary

Pros

  • Acoustic-electric classical with a cutaway body
  • Thin body design adds comfort and intimacy to playing-feel
  • Traditional Spanish fan bracing for vintage classical tones
  • Narrowr neck makes accesseing frets easy
  • Neck joint at the 14th fret instead 12th increases overall playability

Cons

  • Modern body shape and narrow nut take away from classical feel
  • Thin body decreases bass response a bit

As good of a guitar as this is, it’s not the best choice if you want the “full classical experience”.

Some players want to train in the true classical style, carrying on an almost 200-year tradition. For those guitarists, this guitar isn’t it.

Who is this for?

If you’re looking for a fast-playing modern take on the traditional nylon-string acoustic, the Ibanez GA35TCE is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. A great option for small hands.


Best for Kids/Tight Budget – Yamaha CGS102A 1/2

Sound

Yamaha’s CGS102A half-size guitar is a great classical for kids for many reasons—one of which is how quiet it is.

Ask my poor mom, when your kid is learning music (heavy metal bass guitar in my case), the first few years are a headache.

This 1/2-size nylon string guitar sings softly without compromising on overall tone. It’s quiet while still maintaining a surprising amount of bass in the mix.

There’s not much sustain in the CGS102A, but it’s got the tonal balance and response a beginner needs to learn the basics.

Check how this guitar sounds:

Playability

With a nut width (1.9”(48mm)) more commonly found on steel strings than classicals, you’ll have a great time playing the CGS102A if you have small hands.

The nut being smaller does make the string spacing for your picking hand more narrow. 

This means it’s a bit harder to play fingerstyle if you have more average-sized hands. It can be a real problem for players with fat fingers.

So unless you’re on the smaller side, the playability of the CGS102A might not be ideal. 

If you’re having a hard time finding a guitar you think will hold up to your big hands, we’ve checked out the best acoustic guitars for fat fingers that might have what you’re looking for.

Quality

Coming from Yamaha, you can trust you’ll get a well-made guitar no matter how cheap its cost.

They made the CGS102A the ideal student model. 

Despite its laminate spruce top, it sounds good—at least good enough to learn on. 

And it’s so inexpensive that music teachers can afford to buy multiple for their students.

Lacking the problems many starter guitars face—sharp fret edges, poor tuners, bad intonation—the CGS102A gives you a dependable little classical guitar for just over $100.

Summary

Pros

  • Small size great for kids or for travel
  • Narrow nut width ideal for small hands
  • Dependable construction at a low cost

Cons

  • Small string spacing increases finger-picking difficulty
  • Quiet sound

Who is this for?

Because it’s so small, I recommend this as the best classical guitar for kids (6-13 years old) more than I do for adults.

But this mini body size paired with its good build quality and tone make it a fine choice for a small travel guitar as well.

With Yamaha quality at such a low cost, there will be no money lost with the purchase of the CGS102A.


Verdict

It’s pretty easy to tell that the Yamaha CGS102A is not going to be much of a competitor against the other guitars on this list.

While it’s the best classical guitar you can get for children and maybe travel, its weak voice won’t entertain more serious players for very long.

As much as I love the Dolce’s construction and tone, the Yamaha CG112MSH sounds fuller, offers true classical playability and there’s less worry of breaking the tuning knobs.

By most measures, I’d say the Yamaha CG112MSH is the best budget classical guitar in 2021. 

A couple of other helpful posts for classical guitar lovers (click the title to view):

First, these posts will help you play with comfort:

And here’s another classical guitar buyer’s guide worth checking out:

5 Best Classical Guitar for Small Hands


Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5


Buyer’s Guide – FAQ

What Should I Look for When Buying a Budget Classical Guitar?

Buying a budget classical guitar isn’t much different from buying any other acoustic.

You want to find a blend of good tonewoods put together in a dependable construction, plus comfortable playability and of course a great sound.

This sounds like a lot to ask for in an affordable guitar, but you’d be surprised at how good an axe you can get for just a couple hundred bucks.

Here are the main things you’ll want to look for when choosing the best budget classical guitar for you:

Overall Quality

When you’re shopping for a new guitar, you might be tempted to go with the ultra-low-cost models, but some of the best “deals” you’ll find aren’t really deals at all. A lot of the time, these guitars are no better than toys.

They might be inexpensive, but the real cost might be high, because you have to buy a new one sooner. We don’t include any guitars like that in our reviews

That means you won’t run into common problems found in “cheap” guitars. No razor-sharp fret edges, no loose hardware, no warped and twisted necks.

Of course, Lemons slip by with any model, but brands like Yamaha, Ibanez, and Cordoba are trusted instrument-builders that almost always provide great products.

In the best budget classical guitars, you’ll find:

  • Stable tuning machines
  • Good intonation after proper set-ups
  • Properly fitted frets
  • Smooth-playing necks
  • Dependable construction

Tonewoods

Solid vs. Laminate

The soundboard, or top, of your guitar, will either be solid or laminate.

Solid tops are considered superior in just about every way. They’re more resonant, they give you more sustain and volume, and they even sound better with age.

The main downfall of solid tops is the price, but there are many budget classical guitars made with these higher-quality tonewoods.

Laminate tops are basically made of plywood—easy to work with, easy to mass-produce, and cheap to source. 

Although more affordable, laminate top guitars are said not to resonate as well as solid tops. Also, laminate tops don’t age so well, and in general, lose some tonal characteristics over the years. But they still make great beginner axes.

If all the other parts of the guitar are done right, it can be hard to notice the difference between the two.

You can read a thorough explanation of guitar tops here.

Cedar vs. Spruce

Classical guitars are traditionally made with either cedar or spruce tops. Read here for a more detailed description of how these woods affect your sound.

  • Cedar tops are known for their warm, earthy tones. In general, they produce a more mellow, rounder-voiced guitar.
  • Spruce tops are the most common because of their tonal balance and clarity. They’re considered to be the brighter, more brilliant of the two tonewoods.
photo displays pictures of cedar and spruce wood

Body Size and Shape

Because budget guitars are made with beginners in mind, you can find affordable classical guitars in a wide range of body styles.

In addition to the regular full-size classical body shape, you have a choice among

  • 7/8 – A bit smaller than full sized. Exact scale-lenght depends on the manufacturer.
  • 3/4 – Noticably smaller than full sized. For smaller sized adults, kids, and teens.
  • 1/2 – A lost smaller than full sized. Best for kids. Works as travel guitar too.

There are even budget classical guitars with cutaways, one of my favorite options!

What Size Classical Guitar Should You Get?

With so many different body types to choose from, it can be hard knowing what size classical guitar is best for you.

If you’re stumped about what the different sizes mean, this guide to 10 common guitar sizes should clear things up.

The classical guitar body size is already significantly smaller than a dreadnought, so chances are that a full-size (4/4) classical guitar will be fine for you.

Most adults and children over the age of 12 will be able to comfortably play a 4/4 guitar. And if you’re very tall, you probably don’t want to go any smaller than this.

Now, there are exceptions to this. My friend Sunny, for instance, is hardly taller than a dreadnought acoustic. She’s much more at home with 3/4 and 1/2 size classicals.

Children under the age of 12 will be most comfortable on these reduced-size guitars. The smallest size is 1/4, best suited for 2-5-year-olds.

Take a look at this guitar size guide for a comparison between height and guitar size to help you pick the best classical guitar for you or your kids.

Can You Play Classical Guitar Without Long Fingernails?

Yes, you can.

If you couldn’t play classical guitar or fingerstyle without fingernails, I’d be totally out of luck.

For whatever reason, my nails break pretty easily, so I’m never able to grow them long enough to fingerpick the traditional way.

Thankfully for all of us, you don’t have to go to a strict professional teacher to learn to play classical guitar these days.

The benefits of playing with long fingernails include:

  • More tonal variation—hard metallic attacks or gentle, warm strokes
  • Greater volume
  • More dynamic control
  • Playing accuracy

But these are the finer points of classical guitar technique—these are the things to focus on advanced stage after mastering all the basics.

And even then, there are many masters who never play with long fingernails, such as one of the greatest classical guitar composers of all-time, Fernando Sor.

So, while there are benefits to playing with nails, you don’t need long fingernails to play classical guitar.

Conclusion

These affordable classicals are great starter guitars, but you don’t have to be a beginner to enjoy a budget axe.

With options ranging from ultra-affordable laminates of all sizes to traditional solid spruce top guitars, you’ll find a guitar in this list to please players of any skill level.

I’m much more of a steel-string player than a nylon-string enthusiast. But after taking a closer look at these great budget classical guitars, I think I’ll be adding one to my arsenal pretty soon.

I wish you all the best!

More Posts For You

Guitar Terms Explained!

Some guitar terms feel alien to you? I and Darren crafted a guide that explains common guitar terms. Stuff like nut width, fretboard radius, and intonation.