Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

omlove

Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by omlove » Fri Oct 14, 2016 8:49 pm

I'm new to the forum so Hi to everyone.

I came from a steel string acoustic guitar background. Starting as a hobby but kept learning and improving and it's been more than 10 years now. Like some people, I went from Chinese laminate to Taylor to Martin, to vintage Martin and Gibson but eventually found that it's the player who matters. It's the mind and fingers that produces the desired tone, although a decent instrument definitely helps.

I recently became interested in classical guitar as I accidentally played one in Guitar Center and it suits my fingerstyle playing very well. Wide string spacing makes more room for fingers, and nylon makes it easier to fret as well as produces a warm, clear and pleasing tone. Not to mention the fingers don't get as tired as on steel strings. It seems a good fit for everything I play and after lots of research and playing almost all the stores I can visit I ended up with a decent sounding and looking C10.

During the research I found out there's a big difference in price between steel string acoustic and classical guitar. They are made with similar woods, my C10 for instance mahogany neck, solid cedar top, solid indian rosewood back sides. Although the top is very tight grained (about 300 years old) quarter-sawn cedar which by all standards is a high quality piece of wood, and the back sides are also good looking, the price is below $1000. Many spruce-top classical guitar uses European spruce or Engelmann which are very common on steel string guitar as well. Spending $2500 to $4000 can get one into one-off custom made to order luthier guitar that meets the specific needs of the player. And vintage Ramirez 1a can be bought for about $4500, which from my reading so far is a concert level guitar that can hold up very well even at Carnegie Hall. Some discussion even leads to the statement that "In my opinion, one should not spend more than $2500 on any factory made guitar".

One the other hand, Martin's standard D-28 - factory made, solid spruce top with indian rosewood back sides - costs $2629 MAP. And that's the cheapest in the "Standard Series". One can easily get lost in the worlds of Golden Era, Marquis, Authentic, eventually the real "Authentic" - vintage and spend $5000 on a new guitar is all but uncommon. $1000 can only get a Mexico made Martin guitar if one wants the brand name. Similar price point applies to other factory made guitar. If one goes for custom made one man shop, the starting price would be something like $12,000 or even $25,000 and wait list can be 2-5 years.

Is this because of the demand? Although my personal experience tells me that a guitar is after all, a guitar. It's the player who makes the music. And nylon string guitar is by no means inferior in quality, wood, sound, playablity than steel string counterparts. In fact, I feel they are much more resonant, perhaps because of less need to withstand string tension so much lighter top and bracing.

What is your opinion regarding the current market price for both type of instruments?

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Erik Zurcher
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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by Erik Zurcher » Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:08 pm

I believe that the current market price for both type of factory-made instruments is about the same. The market for cheap to mid priced guitars is hugh and very competitive. The market for custom made or luthier guitars is small. Prices start at about $3000 and can go up to $30000. A luthier told me that it takes 200 hours to build a guitar. He uses the best tone wood. It's quality versus quantity.
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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by Philosopherguy » Fri Oct 14, 2016 11:42 pm

I don't think the price points between steel and nylon are too much different, as Erik noted. The difference when you get into the brand names you mention is that you are paying big bucks for the name on at the guitar, not necessarily the quality(not that they are bad quality.. just the law of diminishing returns after a certain point). If you can't find a steel string luthier for under $12000, you aren't looking too hard. There are plenty of steel string guitars to buy from luthiers from around $2500 and up, depending on the name you want on the guitar.

I think classical guitarists tend to want custom luthier guitars more than steel string players. Most steel string guys I know want the brand names, or vintage guitars like you mention. No one wants a "Joe Saturday - made in the basement" guitar. For a steel string player, that just wouldn't be cool. For a classical player, the same basement guitar would still be a thought of as a luthier guitar, likely made with care and attention if the luthier was any good at all.

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by Big bird » Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:10 am

I have quality guitars in both categories. I agree that they (steel and classical) are very similar in cost and quality. Not hard to find a 20+k guitar in either of them. I also agree that classical players are much more likely to look for a one off or luthier guitar. No idea why? Maybe it's because build style and woods affect a nylon string guitar more than a steel string but that is just a guess.
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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by Paul Janssen » Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:29 am

I own both a steel string single luthier made guitar and a classical single luthier made guitar. Both of them cost me less than $12,000 each and both of them are excellent instruments. So I think your starting price assumptions for luthier made instruments may be a tad too high.

Companies like Martin, Taylor and Maton churn out consistently good instruments and people are willing to pay a higher price because of this.

I also have an untested theory that it's easier to build half decent steel string guitars to a formula (after all, this is what happens in a guitar factory - they are built to a plan by lots of different people). As a result, most steel string guitarists are satisfied with a good quality factory built steel string guitar (thus pushing up the demand and therefore the price). Whereas classical guitars I believe are harder to build and require the skill and experience of a good luthier to turn a pile of wood into a great sounding and playing instrument. This doesn't mean that there aren't examples of good factory made classical guitars, but in general I believe that a good luthier made guitar will be overall better than an equivalently priced factory instrument (just my opinion).

Lastly, most of us classical guitarists are far more particular about our tone than most steel string guitarists. As a result, we want the best sounding instruments we can afford, which usually pushes us into the luthier made arena sooner. So it's less likely that you will see a $5,000 factory made classical guitar hanging up in a shop, especially when the average guitar shop would sell many more steel string guitars than they would classical guitars (specialists classical guitar retailers excluded).

omlove

Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by omlove » Sat Oct 15, 2016 1:53 am

Thank you all for the kind reply. I am indeed just beginning to enter the classical guitar realm and I am sure there's lots (and probably more than the steel string world) to learn.

I think for many Americans, experience of steel string guitar comes mostly from the factory. And to many, Martin is the top quality and standard of the industry. But as stated above, classical players tend to prefer individual luthier to factory made, readily available models. So there is a different point of view. Again use Martin as example, every year at the winter NAMM, there will be new models and many custom shop models coming out, $8000 to $12000 price tag is not uncommon. And as I mentioned earlier, standard model is in the $2000 to $3000 ballpark while upgraded versions are in the $3000-$5000 bought new. In the meanwhile, what I read on the forum is $5000 could get a decent luthier made guitar built and taylored to the player's specific needs - and 200 hours is a lot of time.

I am not familiar with classical world but to name a few steel string luthier:
jeff traugott $26,500; bruce sexauer $11,300; jim olson $15,000; ervin somogyi $35,000

But I am sure as Philosopherguy said, price varies a lot in both steel and nylon world and there could be lower priced but still very good custom made ones out there.

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by markodarko » Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:56 am

It's fairly easy to find a really nice sounding steel string for less than £500 (even if it has laminated b&s, doesn't really seem to matter that much with steel I find) and the difference between a £500 steel string and a £4000 steel string (in term of acoustic sound, not how fancy the trim or finish is, or how high-end the electrics are, and playability) are negligible in my experience. In fact, I've played some Martins and Taylors which sounded "worse" (to my ears) than cheap (by comparison) Crafters, but of course a Crafter doesn't have the same street-cred - which is important to some.

The opposite is generally true for classical guitars.

It's quite difficult to get a classical guitar that sounds and plays well for £500. Not impossible, but difficult, and the difference in sound and playability between the best of the £500 bunch and pretty much any luthier made guitar in the £4K price range is vast.

These are my findings.

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by dilettante1000 » Sat Oct 15, 2016 7:25 pm

Interesting subject. I have both. My best steel string is an OM bodied spruce/rosewood Furch hand finished in a factory in the Czech republic,which I chose over a number of options at the acoustic guitar centre in Worthing. My two best CGs are a Bernabe and the McLaren I mention elsewhere.

I tried some Taylors and others in a guitar shop in Newcastle recently. No question, a £3000 steel-string is a fine instrument. The nylon-stringed Taylor and Lowden which I also tried had good tone and range. At this price point the quality control, design and finish are a good bit beyond your average Martin or Gibson.

My sense from experience is that comparing value relative to cost across the two styles, you get a whole lot more CG for your money once you cross the £2000 barrier than you do from a steely. It is possible to get a stunningly good hand made CG for £3000, a top name for £5-6000.

By comparison, £2000 will buy you a better grade factory made steel guitar, which is better than cheaper steelies, but still comparable, say, to an Alhambra or Cordoba. £3000 and you're paying at least a proportion for the marketing or exclusivity element. If you want a top steel string like a Collings, it's more, but an Atkin or Brooke would be good value for money.

IMO, if you go for the big brands, Martin, Taylor, Gibson, etc., you need to pay more for their better products. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot of difference in the quality at various price points, though I'd argue that there's more workmanship and care in a CG than its Steel comparison.

To me, where CG's really win out is in the middle-category. You can get a really nice classical guitar between, say, £1000-2000. The steel offerings at this price point are often above average, but rarely 'top grade'.

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by simonm » Sat Oct 15, 2016 7:53 pm

A $6,000 Gibson I tried was (in my view) not a patch on the first StewMac kit steel string I did. On the same trip when tired the Gibson, I also tried an old Washborn parlour guitar with a cracked back in Gruhns in Nashville for $600 - it was superb. Two things stopped me buying it - luggage allowance and the conviction it was BR.

omlove

Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by omlove » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:55 pm

dilettante1000, thanks for chiming in. One thing I do notice after joining the forum and reading a lot of threads is that there are perhaps a lot of difference between US and Europe. In US we don't have access to a lot of good luthiers in Europe and vise versa. Also there are different attitudes towards brand names - for instance Australians may be more in favor of Maton while Americans may be more in favor of Martin. A $1000-2000 (dollar, not pound) steel string guitar in US is just the starting point, also factory only - as I don't think I can find any American luthier to build a custom with $2000 as baseline. I do not recall seeing any Collings at $2000 either even though it's certainly "factory guitar". Things may be different in Europe and since classical guitar is "Spanish" guitar in a way, I think it could be more popular there therefore more affordable.

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by guitarseller345645 » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:10 am

omlove wrote:A $1000-2000 (dollar, not pound) steel string guitar in US is just the starting point, also factory only - as I don't think I can find any American luthier to build a custom with $2000 as baseline. Things may be different in Europe and since classical guitar is "Spanish" guitar in a way, I think it could be more popular there therefore more affordable.
I do not know anything about acoustics and all these come as a surprise to me.

While a less advanced classical player would be quite happy with a $500 guitar eg a Cordoba C7, does that mean a $500 acoustic would be regarded as a "child's plaything", something that comes from an Asian sweatshop?

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by Bill B » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:44 am

I play both. Electric too, for that matter. Im at the opposite end on my electric and acoustic guitars. I had a 1918 Gibson l-4 that I thought was the cats pajamas when I bought it, years ago. But the sound of my washburn acoustic (bought for $500 or so when I was 16) was better, so I sold the Gibson. My current favorite is a 1937 harmony supertone that was given to me by a stranger at a flea market. It has more volume, and a voice with a more distinctive character. Dirt cheap beater acoustic guitars that play and sound great are my favorite. I like the looks I get when people see my wonky looking guitars. My main electric is an original harmony stratotone, also. But then, I have a lot of unpopular opinions.
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omlove

Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by omlove » Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:54 pm

guitarseller345645 wrote:
omlove wrote:A $1000-2000 (dollar, not pound) steel string guitar in US is just the starting point, also factory only - as I don't think I can find any American luthier to build a custom with $2000 as baseline. Things may be different in Europe and since classical guitar is "Spanish" guitar in a way, I think it could be more popular there therefore more affordable.
I do not know anything about acoustics and all these come as a surprise to me.

While a less advanced classical player would be quite happy with a $500 guitar eg a Cordoba C7, does that mean a $500 acoustic would be regarded as a "child's plaything", something that comes from an Asian sweatshop?
I'm not familiar with classical guitar and what would be considered as "toy level" or "student level", but a decent acoustic guitar for professional use would normally start with good factory quality control and quality wood. A quick search on GuitarCenter's site would give the results:
Martin 000-15M $1459
Taylor 314ce $1799 214ce $1199
Blueridge BR-180 $1104
Fender PM-1 $1199
Gibson J-15 $1499
Guild M-20 $1279
Takamine Pro3 $1099
I don't think any professionals play anything lower quality than these and I would also think $500 can not get an as decent sounding and playing acoustic the same satisfaction as that may be get from a classical guitar at that price level.

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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by markodarko » Sun Oct 16, 2016 9:25 pm

omlove wrote:$500 can not get an as decent sounding and playing acoustic the same satisfaction as that may be get from a classical guitar at that price level.
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Re: Classical guitar's relative cheaper price point than steel string?

Post by Philosopherguy » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:05 pm

I think the OP is overestimating cheap classical guitars and underestimating steel string guitars. I know a fair number of gigging musicians that use Yamaha and Seagull guitars in the $500 - $1000 range(I have seen some professionals using Seagull guitars too, and they top out pretty low in the scheme of things). I think the Op is comparing apples to oranges in his posts. If you do a search around the internet, you will find plenty of luthiers building steel strings starting at around $2500 or so, roughly the same as the starting price of a luthier Classical (many luthiers who build nylon string guitars also make steel strings).

The equivalent of Martin in the steel string world to nylon would likely be something like Ramirez(both big brand names.. have been played by numerous professionals). You can buy a Ramirez for around $1500US and you can also buy a Ramirez for around $30,000US. So, it's all over the map.

If you are looking for the best sound of the price, well that is depending on what you believe to be a good sound. To some, to get a good sound is very tough, to others they are happy with a $500 guitar (and to some even less)... So, what would the average professional classical guitarist play? Well,from my knowledge, likely a $4000+ luthier instrument. What would the average professional steel string player play? That's all over the map. I know guys playing cheap guitars professionally and I know guys playing vintage stuff worth big bucks. It really depends on the type of music and the sound you want. These concerns are the same concerns that classical guitarists have as to why they choose their instruments. The other concern, what is a professional steel string guitarist? A guy in a band that makes money and does it for a job, or a blues player who does solo work? The quality of guitars between people will vary depending on their usage.

It's a tough debate here.. I think the prices are pretty equivalent. Steel string just has more name brands to worry about.

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