Is Classical Guitar Hard? [Guitar Teacher Weighs In]

I’ve been learning classical guitar, as well as many other styles since they all have aspects I like. But, a question that beginners can often have is how hard is it to learn compared to other styles, and whether it’s worth it. I thought I’d take some time to explain whether classical guitar is hard to learn.

Generally, classical guitar is not hard to learn or play. There are fundamental techniques such as how you hold the guitar, and how to position the fingers which does take a little bit of time to get comfortable with. Learning the music theory for classical guitar is logical and easy to understand.

In this article I will give an overview of the differences between classical guitar and other styles, as well as other instruments so you can get a good idea about whether learning classical guitar is right for you.

How Classical Guitar Differs From Other Instruments and Styles

As you may know, there are a few types of guitar that most people learn and play when they first learn guitar. They are rock, classical, acoustic, and to a lesser extent flamenco.

Here’s a table that shows how difficult classical guitar is compared to other styles.

Guitar styleHow difficult it is compared to classical guitar
RockHarder than classical guitar. You need to learn more about using pickups, and there are more techniques overall which take longer to learn. 
Physically playing rock guitar is roughly on par with classical guitar.
Acoustic/PopEasier than classical guitar. Limited chords and scales are generally used. Simpler songs and melodies.
JazzAbout as difficult as classical guitar. Usually jazz songs use more difficult time signatures. 
These take longer to learn than simple key signatures used in classical guitar songs. 
FlamencoHarder than classical guitar. More right hand techniques used. The right hand also uses more difficult techniques involving golpe and rasgueados. 
These are where the hand moves very fast, and requires a lot more coordination than most classical guitar techniques.

If you’re interested in flamenco guitar, in this article I discussed how hard flamenco guitar is to learn. When I first started guitar I was very interested in flamenco and classical guitar. And played flamenco for a few years.

But, interestingly most of my favorite rock guitarists started with classical guitar, or speak very favorably about it, or learned it along the way after initially starting out playing simple chords in a garage band.

For example, the well known guitarist Kirk Hammett from the band Metallica was taught by Joe Satriani who began by learning jazz guitar. Which has a big emphasis on music theory that makes up a large part of learning classical guitar.

Here’s a table that shows how classical guitar differs from learning other instruments like classical piano.

Other instrumentsHow hard it is compared to classical guitar
PianoMore difficult than classical guitar. It uses two notes playing hands, whereas, guitar only uses one. 
There are also two lines of music to read. Unlike a guitar that only has one.
Wind instruments like the flute, and clarinetSimpler to play notes, as there are less options. But, it requires you to control your breath which is quite difficult. 
In my opinion, considering all the factors wind instruments are about the same difficulty as guitar.
DrumsMore difficult than guitar. Involves all 4 limbs, and they are responsible for keeping time for the other instruments.
As a result,  drummers timing needs to be excellent and virtually perfect.
One exception is when a conductor is used in orchestral music.
Double bass / bass guitarOn par with guitar. More physically demanding in the beginning than classical guitar. 
But, once you develop strength in the muscles of your hands and fingers it’s on part with classical guitar.

Is Classical Guitar Good for a Beginner?

I first started learning classical guitar after seeing how helpful it was for learning rock guitar which I was very interested in, in my teenage years. With my extensive experience I thought I’d cover whether classical guitar is good for a beginner.

Generally, classical guitar is good for a beginner. Classical guitar will teach you the fundamentals of music theory which applies to all styles of guitar. But, learning to read music, which is required for classical guitar, is harder than reading tabs which are used to learn rock and pop songs.

Classical guitar helps a beginner learn the fundamentals of music. For example, a beginner will learn a song in a particular key such as in the key of C. This helps a new guitarist to remember music theory.

Whereas, if they learn a rock song, it isn’t stated what key the song is in. Learning about key signatures, time signatures, and the physical playing of classical guitar apply across all styles of guitar as well as other instruments.

Good sounding music always follows particular rules, which are learned either through learning music theory or by trial and error. 

Through learning classical guitar you learn the rules such as what scales go with which chords, and therefore, you can learn new songs much more easily. And also create your own songs more easily.

Is Classical Guitar Harder Than Acoustic?

I started with an acoustic steel string guitar, but later got a classical guitar. Over that time I learned both styles, so thought I’d weigh in on whether classical guitar is harder than acoustic.

Overall, classical guitar is harder than acoustic. Acoustic guitar generally involves very simple time signatures such as 4/4, and simple chord shapes. But, physically playing acoustic guitar and classical guitar is about the same difficulty. 

The reason is that acoustic songs tend to combine strumming chords, with playing licks. Licks are where you play a series of notes one after another like a guitar solo. Alternating between strumming and playing licks is quite tricky, and takes some time to master.

But, the same is true of classical guitar.  Learning to hold and play with a pick takes about as much time as learning to position the hands, and play using your fingers, as is done in classical guitar.

However, overall acoustic songs tend to be simpler and use less variation in the chords and scales. For example most popular acoustic songs are in the key of C, or G. And involve 6 chords. 

The three chords that make up the major melody of the song. Plus an additional  chord for the bridge. Whereas, classical guitar uses a much wider range of chords and hand shapes.

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