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IDing a classical acoustic guitar?

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Joined: 15 years ago
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Hi, this is my first post. I apologize in advance if I'm asking a stupid question or one already covered in the FAQ -- I looked around and didn't see anything that was directly on point. I've recently started getting into stringed instruments a bit. I borrowed a friend's mandolin, found the tone wasn't really for me, and then borrowed a friend's acoustic steel string guitar. I love it. So I have been planning to pick up one of my own.

Tonight I noticed someone on my local Craigslist selling his daughter's nylon-stringed classical guitar for $75. She used it while in a music program at college. When I contacted the guy about it, he said that the paper identifying the make and model had peeled off, so he doesn't know it's provenance.

Is there any (reasonable) way to ID a guitar like this beyond that paper? I'm not expecting this to magically turn out to be some lost classic, but I'd sort of like to have at least some idea if I'd be buying "a good instrument, just used" or something that was junky from the get-go.

(I'm aware that the feel of a classical guitar is quite different from a steel string, but I'm still interested).


Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

Hi, and welcome to Guitar Noise

It's not so easy to ID a classical guitar without the label as there are practically no visible variations in design. That said, there are still some obvious things to look out for which will give you an idea of quality.

Look at the soundboard round the hole. If you can see the grain of the wood all the way through the rounded lip of the soundhole, then you have a solid-top guitar. If the edge is just cut off square and you can't see the woodgrain then you have a laminate top. The solid wood top will play in over a number of years and the laminate will sound brighter on day 1 and always sound more or less the same.

Do look for obvious dinks and scratches. And look at the soundboard for cracks too. Also, if the soundboard is very very thin (and the guitar very very light), then it might have been built for flamenco. Strum a few chords, and if the sound dies away very very quickly then that's a possibility.

For $75 you're probably not going to go too far wrong for a first classical guitar. You're not going to find you've bought a Smallman or a Ramirez, which sell for somewhere in the region of $20,000 - you're going to be getting a student guitar that can handle a little bit of abuse and will give you a decent introduction to classical guitar. Do get some new strings for it, and make sure you've got a tuner as nylon strings take a while to settle and you'll spend the first few days doing nothing but tuning it.


A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
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Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 76


'... the paper identifying the guitar has peeled off.....'

Perhaps I'm too cynical but...that must have been some cheap glue!

I have guitar that's nothing outstanding- it was passed on to me from my father in law, who put it down after a few attempts with nearly 20 years ago. But still has the Paper label identifying the guitar......

Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 59

I'm not sure about classical guitars, but many steel string acoustics can be identified by the shape of the bridge, pick guard or headstock. See if you can get a picture of the guitar and post it on the forums. Someone may recognize it.

-- Rob

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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3454

I have guitar that's nothing outstanding- it was passed on to me from my father in law, who put it down after a few attempts with nearly 20 years ago. But still has the Paper label identifying the guitar......

+1 I've got a guitar that's over 35 years old and the label (inside the body, under the sound-hole) is still as good as the day it was stuck on. I'd be erring on the side of assuming this is a pretty cheap guitar.

It's not always easy to pick a laminated top from a solid if you're not used to squinting at the small edge that you can see, but you can usually tell by looking inside with a mirror. The mirror on an empty powder compact (woman's make-up accessory) will usually do the job, but you can also get ones for use by people such as mechanics and dentists. I've got a couple of useful ones with cheap plastic handles, that came in a free kids' tooth care kit from the dentist (mirror, brush and toothpaste). When you look inside with the mirror the grain on the wood will usually be obviously different from the one you can see on the top, because it's a different thin sheet of wood rather than solid all the way through.

Good luck with it all.