Check out my tips for buying a classical guitar if you'd like some guidelines on what to look for in a guitar.
I’ve recommended three guitars as good choice guitars for beginner guitar players.
You could pretty much pick any of these classical guitars with full confidence, knowing that you are getting excellent value for money and a beautiful guitar that will take you well down your guitar playing road.
If there is one out of the three that stands out for me it would be the Cordoba C3M.
The Yamaha C40 is also a solid guitar and follows as a close second.
For me the Cordoba C3M (on shipment) has a warmer tone and greater resonance while the Yamaha is definitely crisper and brighter.
One of my friends described the Yamaha C40 as a "bit dull" in comparison to the Cordoba C3M. Listening to the two guitars side by side, I had to agree that the Yamaha C40 definitely sounded quite a bit more muffled than the Cordoba C3M.
Here's a useful video that InfernoStudios put up that provides a short audio snippet of each guitar. Have a listen and you can decide for yourself.
One has to consider though, that one of the benefits of the Yamaha C40 is that it is very, very consistent. You can pick up any Yamaha C40 and it will sound exactly the same. The Cordoba C3M, on the other hand seems to have differential quality depending on where it was produced. This might be because Cordoba produces across three different countries: USA, China and Spain whereas Yahama produces in the Hangzhou Yamaha Musical Instruments Company Ltd in China which results in a reliable consistency in the quality.
At the end of the day the toss up is between your preference: the warmth of a cedar top (the Cordoba C3M) or the brightness of Spruce (the Yamaha C40) and your willingness to gamble a bit the quality of the Cordoba C3M that you might end up with, as compared to the security of the Yamaha C40 quality.
Cordoba guitars are built in either the United States, Spain and in China.
The Cordoba 3CM is a full size guitar with a solid cedar top which is a big plus in a beginner guitar as it allows your ear to get used to the beautiful round and clear sound that a classical guitar should have.
The cedar wood gives that sustain and resonance that laminate tops just aren’t able to achieve. The design is beautiful with a natural wood, hand inlaid rosette and a rosewood fingerboard.
The Cordoba C3M is the model just below the Cordoba C5 which is one of the guitars that I recommend for beginner to intermediate players. It is the entry level of the Cordoba Iberia series. The next guitar up in the Cordoba Iberia series is the Cordoba C5. If you can afford the extra $100 I suggest you go for the Cordoba C5. You can read more about it here.
One of the advantages of the Cordoba series is that it ships with a comfortable and playable low action which reduces the need to find a luthier to drop your action.
The sample that I reviewed shipped with Savarez normal tension strings which is a plus as you don’t need to change the strings the moment you get the guitar.
Below is a useful video that provides a comparison of all the guitars in the Cordoba Iberia Series: Cordoba C3, Cordoba C5 and Cordoba C7. He doesn't really provide a conclusion, but have a look. My conclusion is that the Cordoba C5 provides the best bang for your buck out of the three and it would definitely be my recommendation for a beginner to intermediate student.
Yamaha C40 Acoustic Guitar has the standard full 2” inch nut with a spruce top that provides a bright and lively side. The fingerboard and bridge is real rosewood. Various packages are available that include a bag or case and metronome and tuner.
You won’t ever get a concert guitar for this price, but the Yamaha C40 definitely is a solid and safe bet in this price range. It’s easy to play, has a great great sound.
Although I still prefer the warmth and resonance of the Cordoba (3CM), because of it's brightness the Yamaha C40 is a solid and oft recommended guitar for beginners and intermediate level players and provides a guitar quality that is seldom seen in this price category.
Below is an excellent video review of the Yamaha C40 that covers just about everything that you need to know.
My third recommendation is the one that I struggled with the most as it was a toss up between the Cordoba C1 and the Yamaha CG104A. It was really difficult to pick between these two.
A part of me almost wanted to cop out and recommend FOUR guitars, but that wasn't what I started out wanting to do.
After much tooing and froing and backwards and forwards to my local guitar shop, I decided that I'd recommend the Yamaha CGS104A. I need to say outright that the trips to my guitar shop was necessary as I don't own either of these guitars.
I decided on the Yamaha CGS104A for two reasons:
A few things to say about the Yamaha CGS104A.
The Yamaha CGS104A , as all the guitars recommended on this page, is a full standard size guitar. It has a spruce top similar to the Yamaha C40.
Unlike the Yamaha C40 that has Indonesian Mahogany on the back on sides, the Yamaha CGS104A has Nato wood on the back and sides. Nato wood is reddish brown and comes from the Mora tree.
While Nato is a possibly a good furniture wood, it just doesn't resonate as well as Mahogany in a guitar which is why it's not used in higher end guitars.
The Nato hardwood makes this an excellent choice for the younger player who tends to be less careful with banging their guitar as Nato wood is hard as nails and is a common wood for furniture in the Phillipines.
The guitar shipped with an unpleasantly high action that will definitely create unnecessary challenges for the beginner guitarist. This is possibly to improve the out-of-the-box just-shipped resonance, but you would need to get a luthier (or someone knowledgeable) to help you drop the action pretty much as soon as you get the guitar.
The sound is acceptable, but keep in mind the lower action (needed to make the guitar playable) will decrease slightly the resonance.
Here's a good video review of the Yamaha CGS104A.
You'll need to go a little deeper into music theory as you proceed. The best online resource for this is Guitar Theory Revolution. It recognises that music theory is very hard for guitarists because music theory has till now been located in the piano paradigm. The Guitar Theory Revolution overthrows the piano paradigm that is holding you back and embraces the attributes of the guitar to unpack music theory. In fact, it goes further and allows you to see that the guitar is one of the best instruments for learning theory.