Celebrating 145 years in 2024! Est. 1879, the Oldest and Most-Read Magazine Covering the MI Trade!
Qualified MI Trade? Subscribe Now for Free! CLICK HERE!

More results...

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Search in posts
Search in pages

Classically Beautiful: Nylon-String and Classical Guitars in 2024

Christian Wissmuller • ArchivesMarch 2024Roundtable • March 19, 2024

“Soft,” “warm,” “soothing” – these and plenty of similar descriptors are used by many to describe the sound of nylon-string acoustic guitars. Classical (or “Spanish”) guitars have long been the go-to instrument for (get ready for a shock…) players of classical or Flamenco music, but in recent decades artists who trade in music of genres as wide-ranging as jazz, world, folk, rock, and even metal (truly!), have embraced the distinctive, rich tones afforded by nylon-string axes.

MMR recently picked the brains of reps from five major mainstream suppliers of classical & Nylon-string guitars to get the scoop on what’s hot in this market segment. It turns out that, while tradition is of great importance to a number of end-users, innovative design techniques and materials are continuing to push these instruments into ever-expanding applications across popular music of all types.

Have you been noticing any significant trends when it comes to classical &  nylon-string guitars: sizes, materials used, features, and other aspects that are sought after by today’s players? Innovations in design or manufacture? Impact of restrictions on the use of certain traditional tonewoods? 

Andy Winston: At Yamaha, we have been utilizing a couple of specific features that are designed to increase ease of play and user satisfaction. Our NTX models (NTX1 and the all-solid wood NTX3) of nylon-string guitars use the smaller and thinner body design of our legendary APX guitars and pair it with an easier-to-play narrower nut width of 48mm. These two features alone allow the steel string acoustic and electric players to add the nylon sound into their playing easily. Yamaha uses a similar narrower 50mm nut width on our SLG200N SILENT  nylon-string guitar. The other innovation we are proud of is our TransAcoustic technology, which is found in the  nylon-string CG-TA. TA technology gives the player two different reverbs and a chorus effect that can be heard from the guitar without the need for an amplification source. It’s an amazing playing experience everyone should have.

Mario Biferali: Players expect their  nylon-string guitar to perform as well as their electric guitars: fast neck, balanced and lightweight. Nylon-string guitar is in every genre of music, so that means versatility is key and, in live settings, guitarists don’t want to deal with feedback. Our Multiac Series  nylon-string guitars have been designed with this in mind. In terms of innovation, our dual chambered body allows the top to vibrate freely while reducing the risk of feedback in live situations, especially when playing with a full band. We listen to artists and remind ourselves that we are making instruments for music makers. That’s the priority. I am not seeing many restrictions in the use of traditional woods being used, but we always experiment with different types of tone woods like Canadian Wild cherry and Laurentian basswood.

Rameen John Shayegan: We have been noticing some trends toward non-traditional design elements – for example, radiused fretboards, slim body dimensions, and exotic veneer materials. Here at Martin, we offer “Folk Nylon” instruments on a custom and limited basis, as well as a “crossover” cutaway model for modern players. We also have a nylon-string Backpacker!

Andy Powers: When it comes to classical guitars, one of the more significant developments we’ve observed is in exactly how players will use a nylon-string guitar today compared to how they might have used these guitars in the past. While there are plenty of musicians learning and performing in a traditional classical style, there is a growing group of players who simply like the sound and feel of  nylon-strings, and are adopting those sounds into musical contexts outside of the traditional classical stage. Perhaps the clearest way to illustrate this point is to mention some artists here. While there are many musicians learning and performing in the legacy of the beautiful music made by Segovia or the Romero family, there are a great number of musicians playing nylon-string guitars in the tradition of Willie Nelson or Zac Brown. They might strum chords as a rhythmic part or use a flatpick in front of a rock band. They might play some Latin music or add color to a hip-hop tune. It feels like an open-minded expansion, even liberation, of a worthy musical choice. As a result of these playing styles that fall outside the traditional role of a classical guitar, we’ve seen enthusiastic response to nylon-string guitars with narrower necks, arched fretboards, guitars with cutaways and pickups for stage use. This open-minded use has also seen players welcoming equally non-traditional wood choices. Rosewood or cypress used to be the only options viewed as legitimate for a classical or flamenco guitar, but with the wider range in playing styles, players have welcomed alternatives as much as they have embraced different woods with steel-string guitars.

Tom Watters: Takamine has long had a reputation for creating outstanding traditional  nylon-string guitars for classical performances. One of Takamine’s most influential leaders was Mass Hirade, who joined the company in 1968 and became president in 1975. His background was in classical guitar design, and many of his innovations still touch our current lineup of guitars.

One trend that’s developed that we helped spearhead was the hybrid  nylon-string, which are guitars meant as much for non-classical use in pop, Latin, jazz, and other music genres. These guitars, like the Pro Series P3FCN, offer a more narrow nut width and are much more comfortable for players who would otherwise have trouble with the wider traditional classical guitar neck.
In terms of materials, all of Takamine’s handcrafted Japan-built  nylon-string models tend to use very traditional woods, with solid cedar or spruce tops, and rosewood back and sides. Our lower-cost G Series  nylon-strings also offer spruce or cedar tops, but we often use more sustainable back/side woods like black walnut.


For your brand, what are the top-selling  nylon-string guitar models?

MB: Our Multiac ACS which is more of a solid body design is a constant top seller, so is our Encore Series which is chambered and has a dual pick up system and is perfect for recording. Our Mundial Series is brand new and guitar players seem to love how light and balanced it is. The non-traditional colors we offer also sets it apart. 

RJS: Our best-selling  nylon-string model is in our 16 Series, which pairs traditional premium tonewoods with a modern aesthetic. The 000C12-16E nylon is a great Worldbeat instrument, featuring a cutaway, Fishman Matrix VT Enhance electronics and a 26.44” (671.5mm) scale length that is well-complemented by our Magnifico strings. Our most famous  nylon-string model would likely be the N-20 which is still being played by none other than Willie Nelson. While vintage models are quite expensive, we do routinely get requests through our Custom Shop to recreate the N-10 and N-20 models, which we are happy to accommodate! 

TW: In terms of total guitars sold, our Takamine G Series models like the GC3CE, GC5CE, and GC6CE offer some of the best quality in truly affordable  nylon-string guitars that also provide onboard electronics for easy amplification and recording purposes. But for the professional or other serious player, Takamine’s Japan-built guitars like the TC132SC, TC135SC, and P3FCN have consistently been very respected and acclaimed.

AP: We have a number of nylon-string models in our portfolio from our Academy 12-N (Academy Series) and 100 Series all the way into our 800 Series guitars. Among the instruments we’re making, the spartan Academy 12-N is a favorite. The musicality of that guitar is something special to me.

AW: We are proud to manufacture and offer traditional classical Yamaha nylon-string guitars for every player and at every price point. Our C40II guitars are the perfect beginner classical, while the CGX122MC & MS models offer the player an upgraded guitar with a pickup and preamp on a traditional classical body. Staying with the traditional classical guitar, our GC series instruments will elevate the classical player from the recital room to the concert hall. The GC12 and GC22 models give the experienced player an exceptional instrument and an amazing value. As mentioned earlier, our innovative NTX guitar and CG-TA TransAcoustic guitar are finding an audience with players who may have yet to learn or grew up playing a more traditional classical guitar.

What are some impactful marketing and display strategies that you’re observing successful retailers adopt when it comes to these instruments? 

TW: The customers for  nylon-string guitars place high priority on feel as much as tone. Having the guitars be accessible in a store and playable for customers to try out in person is a big advantage that a back-and-mortar storefront can offer over online retailers. Also, here’s a sales tip: some customers can be intimidated by the idea of playing classical guitar, so let them know that the  nylon-string is just another color to add to their sonic palette. Whether or not they end up as classical virtuosos isn’t the goal. They can sound beautiful in any style of music.

AP: With such a wide variety of instruments these days, it’s easy for nylon-string guitars to get lost at retail. Our strategy has been to partner with our retailers so they can reach their customers with information before they even pick up an instrument. We provide our dealers with essential materials that help them create content that allows shoppers to have an informed opinion early in their buying journey. Additionally, we have educational programs and content that help young students learn about our nylon instruments early in their musical career. 

RJS: As with steel-string guitars, maintaining proper humidity is critical, along with providing a quiet and relaxing space for customers to try out the instruments. Since nylon-strung instruments aren’t as loud as steel-string guitars (or at least, they are often played in delicate fingerstyle), these instruments really do require a nice space to let prospective buyers hear their nuance. 

AW: The best retailers will have a thoughtful and well-equipped acoustic guitar room that permits customers to try out and hear what these guitars can do. The room should always feel approachable and welcoming. Another practice I see with our better dealers is controlling the sale by showing the customer what is currently exciting you and your staff. Suppose a salesperson has been amazed by hearing the internal effects of our CG-TA TransAcoustic  nylon-string. In that case, you should want all of your customers to have that same feeling and experience. Be proactive on your floor. Show people what’s new and cool.

MB: I am seeing a larger selection of nylon guitars being carried by dealers. It is no longer just a “classical” guitar on a hook in the store. I feel retailers are giving the  nylon-string guitar a dedicated space on the floor and highlighting them. Some are even putting the nylon hybrid guitars closer to the electrics which brings even more attention to them. YouTube has helped everyone discover new modern players, many are electric guitar players doing incredible things on  nylon-string guitars. For us, I am always amazed at how many different types of players use our guitars, for example: Steve Stevens, Roger Waters, Lionel Loueke, Habib Koite, Sylvain Luc, Al Di Meola, Alex Skolnick, Sergio Vallin, India Arie, Leonard Cohen, Hans Zimmer, and Mario Guini (Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez).

Do you have any recent or upcoming  nylon-string guitar introductions that you’d like to draw our readers’ attention to?

MB: Our new Multiac Mundial is our lightest Multiac with dual source custom pickup system. So well balanced and competitively prices. 100 percent made in Canada. The new Arena CW Black Onyx. I would say the Arena bridges the gap between a classic design and the modern Multiac Series. Our G Tour Series is a  nylon-string guitar made for electric guitar players and is a perfect example of a guitar we had been getting asked for, and it has allowed us to expand our audience even further and attract players that we never thought would play  nylon-string guitars. 

AW: As I’ve been sharing, the TransAcoustic experience of playing your nylon-string CG-TA guitar while controlling the reverb and chorus that is within the guitar is mind-blowing. The effects you’ll hear will have you playing MORE guitar as they help unlock your creativity and drive that inspiration we all clamor for.

RJS: All we can say is, stay tuned!

TW: No, but toward the very highest end of Takamine’s  nylon-string offering is the TH90, and it’s a guitar that should be a choice when a customer is looking for a very serious handcrafted classical guitar. One of the great things about the TH90 is that while it’s an amazing classical instrument, it’s also popular for pro Latin and bossa nova players.

AP: Seeing as how much we love working with these nylon-string guitars and love the music players are making with these guitars, I’ll say only to watch this space for news.


How do you see the classical Guitar market evolving in the coming year? What’s exciting about nylon-string guitars is that they can both live in a world of tradition and history, as well as in this new world of innovation and history-making.

AW: At Yamaha, we are proud to have a foot firmly planted in both worlds and will continue to offer players exceptional quality and build.

RJS: The  nylon-string guitar and the classical guitar markets are not necessarily the same. The feature set that is most appealing to a dedicated classical guitarist is very different from the  nylon-string guitar that is desired by international folk, jazz, and Worldbeat musicians. I think we’ll see more innovation in terms of unusual body shapes, materials, and onboard electronics in the  nylon-string world. In the classical world specifically, I think the customer is less accepting of design deviations from the standards established in the mid-1800s, so that is a less dynamic space for innovation. 

AP: I feel the current trend of players making creative music with what has been a traditional instrument will continue to grow. My impression is that once players realized the broad musicality of a nylon-string guitar could extend beyond the classical genre, they started to discover how much fun these guitars are to play, and how beautifully expressive they can sound. At the end of the day, that a musician is having fun playing an instrument seems like a good reason to continue making these.

TW: By its very nature, classical guitar is a traditional art, both in terms of the music performance and the manufacturing of instruments. Most of the aspects that made a classical guitar great 75 years ago – selection of excellent tonewoods for its top and body, the design of the internal bracing and well-constructed neck joint – are very similar to what they are today. One thing that can influence the  nylon-string market is when a pop artist features the beauty of the instrument on a hot new recording, and it does happen from time to time!

MB: It’s hard to tell, but I am optimistic that it will continue to grow.  nylon-string guitars can be heard in all kinds of different music so I think players of all different styles want to have at least one  nylon-string guitar at their disposal whether it is for gigs or studio sessions. For us, the Multiacs have been a big part of what sets us apart as it is such a different, yet recognizable instrument, from the body design to the EQ sliders right on the top.

Join the Conversation!

Leave a comment below. Remember to keep it positive!

Leave a Reply

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!