Buying a beginning-level instrument

Since many students are guitar-less before taking Beginning Classical Guitar, I offer here some ideas on purchasing inexpensive guitars. Keep in mind that guitars have an extremely wide range of costs, with fine, handmade--and often vintage--instruments selling for as much as $30,000 or more. Thus, All of the instruments I list are "entry-level."
The most important point is that you'll need a nylon-string, classical guitar rather than a steel string guitar. Aside from the difference in strings, the dimensions of these "acoustic" guitars make them very different than classical guitars. Students do succeed regularly in the class using these instruments, but, while great for what they are intended for, are a real compromise in many ways for learning to play classical guitar. So particularly for those who don't already have an instrument, stick with the nylon-string guitar.

  • Music Village carries an inexpensive "Stagg" classical guitar for a little more than $100. These are acceptable instruments for beginners.
  • For another inexpensive instrument, take a look at the Yamaha C40. It's around $150, should be available locally - slightly better than the Stagg.
  • The Yamaha CG101a is slightly more expensive, and should be fine also.
  • There are some less expensive, like the Lucero, and others around $100 that you can check out. I don't recommend spending less than this.
  • Avoid Internet "specials" of $50 guitars. They are complete junk, as are those instruments sold on TV--"Esteban" or something like that.
  • If you're interested in better, solid top instruments (which have better resonance and sustain characteristics), look at the Cordoba C5 or the Le Patria Etude. These are around $350--still in the inexpensive range.
  • For smaller people (5'2" or thereabouts), Le Patria also makes the "Motif" guitar. This is an instruments with full-size string length and neck dimensions, but a smaller body. This guitar is modeled on 19th century "salon" guitars, but is perfect for slightly smaller adults.
  • There are several "7/8" size guitars on the market, which are generally OK for smaller players. Hohner makes one of these in an inexpensive model, and Cordoba sells the "Dolce" solid top "7/8" guitar for under $300.
  • Do not use the so-called "3/4" size guitar. This is a child's instrument, and generally the quality of a toy. You can also buy custom-made smaller guitars, generally in the $4,000 and up range.

Buy locally.I prefer dealing with local shops like Music Village, Gryphon Stringed Instruments (Palo Alto), even Guitar Showcase over the large chain store in the area. While you might get an instrument cheaper there, price is not the only consideration in choosing a guitar or shop. Also, check out CB Perkins in San Jose--they have some really good values in less well-known names. You'll find good values on the Internet, but keep in mind that a local purchase will generally be more satisfying in the long run, if you need adjustments or exchanges on the guitar. I feel that buying an instrument is entering into a (hopefully) long-term relationship with the retailer.
Renting may be the best option for you--this enables you to have an appropriate instrument as you "test drive" your interest in classical guitar. Several music shops in the area also rent instruments. Three that I know of are

  • Music Village rents, and has one classical guitar make for rent at $18 a month and a $45 deposit. If you rent it for 30 months you own it--a good deal!
  • Gryhon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto. Good rate, portion of rental monies applied toward purchase of a guitar.
  • Guitar Showcase on S. Bascom. Also applies a portion of rental toward purchase.
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