I am making this post to try and help those of you who are new to the classical guitar, (as I am), and who are bewildered by the array of available makers and models, and who may not be in a position to personally try out a wide range of instruments.
Good advice I have been given on this forum is to try out as many instruments as possible and acquire the one which most suits you for your given budget. Other, (good), advice is to save up and acquire the best guitar possible – ideally used so someone else has already taken the depreciation hit. The only issue here is when you find yourself in a position where the range of guitars you can physically try within your area is limited, and you wish to extend the range of any potential acquisition by undertaking your own research and seeking advice from others.
This is where I hope this post can help by providing a starting point for researching a first guitar or upgrading an existing guitar, (and in all honesty if you already have a classical guitar you will probably know potential upgrade options already).
The guitars I have listed here are simply a summary of my own experience and on-line investigations and represent instruments which overwhelmingly receive positive reviews. My own personal experience only extends to the Alhambra guitars I have listed.
I know that I have probably missed out some very good guitars from this list, and may have included some which are contentious, but please view this post as it is intended; a distillation of my own research to try and help others in their acquisition of a new guitar. It is not extensive and it isn’t definitive – just a personal thing!
Group 1 – Starter Guitars
In this group I am including guitars which could be recommended for someone who is trying out the classical guitar for the first time where a budget is likely to be less than £300 or so. As opposed to singling out specific models I am just listing some manufacturers who have a reputation for producing good quality guitars at this price point:
Yamaha, Alhambra, Paco Castillo, Altamira, Santos Martinez, Merida
One guitar which I will specifically mention, however, is the Yamaha C40 which many reviewers indicate to be a great value starter guitar, (available for less than £100 at the time of writing).
Group 2 – Student Guitars
In this group I am listing guitars which would be suitable for someone upgrading from a ‘starter’ guitar or someone who is contemplating serious study. In the case of the latter if you are undertaking lessons you will probably want to listen to the advice of your teacher.
La Patrie Collection
Paco Castillo 204
The Kremona, Hanika and La Patrie guitars listed here are ‘all wood’ models.
Another guitar I will mention here, which probably could be included in the ‘intermediate’ group is the Antonio Picardo Model 49, (solid wood top and sides, laminated back).
Group 3 – Intermediate Guitars
These are all instruments which I believe to be potential upgrades from those guitars listed in group 2.
Antonio Picardo Model 53
Antonio Picardo Model 54
Paco Castillo 205
The Picado and Hernandez models are both built by small teams of luthiers and so can be truly described as ‘hand-made’ guitars.
There is a whole world of luthier concert guitars at ever increasing price levels which I am not even going to attempt to list. This is a rarefied area that I haven’t investigated and the only guitar I am going to mention here is one which I currently perceive as the limit of my potential upgrades – Antonio Picado Model 60.
If you are new to classical guitars I hope this is useful and helps you in your search for a new guitar. From a personal perspective, just in case any of you are interested, I currently see my own potential upgrade path as Hernandez Professor / Picado Model 60, (but that is just for now!