I have acquired an acoustic folk guitar, for $50, what is the best next step in learning how to play the guitar, in the classical style?
It currently has nylon strings, however I am in the process of finding some steel strings.
Congratulations on your acquisition (sounds like you got a great deal on a guitar). And congratulations on your decision to begin what hopefully will be a lifelong journey learning to play the guitar. The guitar is such a versatile instrument which is also quite portable. It can be used to play just about any style, genre or type of music.
You mentioned you are interested in learning to play in the classical style. Hopefully your new guitar is a classical guitar, as it will be easier to learn in the classical style on a classical guitar. If in fact by acoustic guitar, you mean a steel string folk guitar. I recommend considering acquiring a nylon string classical guitar if your primary goal is to learn to play in the classical style. A classical guitar is optimized in terms of string spacing, body style and string type for the classical method which involves holding the guitar in the classical position and finger picking individual strings.
Your first step if you have not done so yet, is to put a new set of strings on the guitar, if it did not come already strung with a new set of strings.
Your next best step in my opinion, particularly for learning classical, is to find a good guitar teacher who specializes in classical guitar - and start taking lessons. You could purchase books with CD's, courses sold on-line or even watch YouTube videos, but there is really no substitute for a good teacher.
Playing a guitar is about as natural as doing back flips off of a soccer ball in the ocean. The evolutionary development of all the necessary instinctive activities that come naturally to humans to help them survive and carry on normal activities - don't even begin to prepare you to play a guitar. You will be contorting your fingers and hands and arms and legs in ways that your brain will have a difficult time grasping (no pun intended) in the beginning. So you are going to need all the hands on (no pun here either) instruction you can get your hands on (okay - maybe that was an intentional pun)!
A teacher will be able to show you how to properly hold your instrument, the proper and most efficient fingerings, and help you learn the techniques you will want to learn. The teacher can personally observe what you are doing, and help guide you from wrong posture, techniques and hand positions, to more efficient and effective ones. These are things you can't get from a video or lesson book or CD.
After you learn the basics, you can add some self learning platforms to your routine if you like. But it would be extremely helpful to get some instruction from a teacher or tutor in the beginning. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find some free introductory lessons in a group setting that will at least get you started.
When choosing a teacher, talk to several before deciding on one. If you don't feel that the teacher you select is a good fit for your learning style, don't hesitate to try a different teacher.
Do keep in mind that learning guitar does take a great deal of time and dedication. And also know that the very beginning stages are the most difficult. But it is worth it in the long run. Once you learn to play guitar, it's something that will provide pleasure and enjoyment for yourself and those you entertain, for a lifetime.
Good luck on your journey!
With a $50 guitar, I'm going to guess you're starting at the same point I did - with no money! If so, you might be tempted to go the self-taught route as I did...
If so, I recommend you follow a proper method book of some sort. I had a few, the advantage is some of them help you learn to read music (reading the dots) rather than just tablature or copying videos, which is too limiting for classical.
I learned quite a bit from Herfurth's "A Tune A Day" series which has pretty boring tunes, but does cover the positions and basic music reading. But that was 30 years ago, so there might be better available now. Also I think old classics like Sor's method are downloadable for free these days, though they might be tough for the modern beginner to understand. In fact I'd suggest you search around for some free method books just to get an idea.
But beware - the advice the others have mentioned, to find a teacher if you can afford lessons, is very good as classical style guitar gets very technical and proper hand positions are extremely important. (I say this even though I didn't get a teacher.)