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My son has begun classical guitar lessons(he's 8). I'd like to begin playing with him, and so I have begun shopping for a guitar for myself. However, I'm also interested in learning/playing folk style finger picking. The model I'm currently considering has a folk body, with a nut width of 1.8". Is it realistic to think that a folk style guitar can be used to play classical pieces(at an admittedly novice level), or should I commit to one style of play and respective guitar type (classical or folk)?

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I commend you on your desire to learn to play with your son. That will go a long way towards encouraging him to stick with his lessons. Plus you will gain first hand knowledge about how much dedication and commitment are required to learn to play the guitar. And don't be too discouraged if your son advances faster than you do. Kids seem to have a greater ability to assimilate new information than adults.

You can certainly play classical pieces on a folk style guitar, but if you are a beginner, you might find a classical guitar with nylon strings easier to play and less painful on tender fingers.

As long as you stick with folk style finger picking, you would be able to do that on a classical style guitar with no problem. If later you decide to expand in to more chord based rhythm guitar featuring strumming with a pick, the classical guitar is not going to be ideal for that. But if later down the road you do decide to diversify your playing styles, perhaps you could buy a second guitar at that point.

But to your original question, yes you can play classical pieces on a folk body guitar - especially one with a wide 1.8" nut width. If you do chose to go that route, you might try "silk and steel" strings to minimize the pain on your fingers until you form callouses. They have padding (it's not real silk but polyester) under the windings which give them a softer feel. Less volume than regular bronze wound steel strings but at least as much volume as nylon strings.

Here is a link to see what I mean by "Silk and Steel" strings. Martin Silk and Steel Folk Guitar Strings

Have fun learning to play guitar with your son. That should be a rewarding experience for both of you.

  • Spot on @Rockin Cowboy, an additional note: Classical players(teachers) can get pretty snooty about how to hold the guitar. Depending on how seriously you (and possibly your teacher if you have one) take the classical side of things, this and other things about technique could be issues. I do not personally think it would be worth worrying about, but know that you may not be able to set a good example of proper or conformist classical guitar technique on most occasions. – amalgamate Nov 5 '15 at 15:17
  • "don't be too discouraged if your son advances faster than you do" is good advice, but beware of the opposite also. It certainly will depend on the personalities, but if the son perceives that the father is having an easier time with it, then it might actually harm the child's interest in pursuing it. – Yorik Nov 5 '15 at 16:51
  • @Yorik I agree - I have seen students become discouraged and frustrated when they have a perception that they are not getting it as fast as others. – Rockin Cowboy Nov 5 '15 at 17:11
  • @amalgamate That is a good point about classical guitar body shape being more conducive to holding the guitar in the classical position (which I never could get used to - perhaps because I never really tried). A dreadnought body shape or Jumbo body would certainly be cumbersome in the classical position. But a 000 concert body or parlor sized folk guitar would not present that problem. – Rockin Cowboy Nov 5 '15 at 17:15
  • @RockinCowboy Perhaps for you and me that is true, but some Classical Guitar teachers and performers are too stuck up for even that. So it may depend on his teacher. – amalgamate Nov 5 '15 at 17:41

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