Calling Jazz Guitarists with Crossover Guitars

I would like to hear from players who use a crossover nylon-string guitar to play jazz, and other forms of music other than traditional classical guitar music. Please post a comment here. I hope you can contribute to what I’m writing about.

As I’ve mentioned, I got a crossover guitar to play genuine classical guitar music. I play with (well, at this stage I rehearse with) a start-up unamplified classical guitar trio.

But I suspect that most guitarists who play crossover instruments are jazz or bossa nova players (or folk, rock, metal or country players) who don’t care to play traditional classical guitar music. They will also be more likely to use a crossover guitar to play plugged in with a loud stage band, needing to cut through drums, bass guitar and horns. They will play with a thumb pick in addition to their fingers, or they will hold a conventional plectrum pick. They will be looking for different features and a different sound than what I was looking for. They might even prefer a piano-black guitar with gaudy, tacky abalone binding. Hey, those things are being sold to somebody.

So you non-classical nylon-string players out there, from John McLaughlin to Jerry Reed to Richard Smith to Earl Klugh to Rodrigo y Gabriela, and all points in between, please drop me a line.

Models of Crossover Guitars on the Market, Introduction

No endorsement is implied. I have not had the opportunity to examine or evaluate many of these first-hand. What I’ve learned has come from Internet searches, visits to music stores, catalogs, and conversations with the people at Atlanta’s most excellent classical guitar store, Maple Street Guitars. Another source of information was Grant MacNeill from The Twelfth Fret music store in Toronto, who played a large part in designing Alhambra’s crossover guitars.

I will try to link to pictures on the Web and not re-post pictures myself, but in all respects all the pictures are the property of the various rights holders, which are not me.


First off, what are the criteria? For a classical guitar to be considered a crossover guitar, for my purposes, requires:

  • A slimmer neck
  • A narrower nut width
  • A radiused fingerboard
  • A cutaway

Additional criteria that others might require could include:

  • An internal pickup and preamp, with easily accessible controls
  • Reduced acoustic vibration and volume, in the name of reducing feedback on a stage with an amplified band
  • A smaller, thinner body that does not feel like a traditional classical guitar
  • Finishes, woods, or colors that are non-traditional and more emblematic of steel-string acoustic-electric guitars

As you know if you’ve read my previous posts, I wanted something that looks, sounds and performs like a traditional acoustic classical guitar, because I want to use it to perform traditional classical music. My requirement was that it have a neck more comfortable to a player who does not come from a classical guitar background.

However, there are many performers, coming from jazz or what have you, that want a guitar that looks and feels much more like a solid-body electric guitar, a hollow-body electric guitar, or an acoustic-electric steel-string guitar. In other words they just want the nylon strings, not the classical guitar experience. Probably they don’t want to play traditional classical guitar music on this instrument in the first place. They want to incorporate some of the sound of nylon strings into amplified, electrified solo or ensemble jazz or rock.

There are a lot of guitars on the market that are essentially traditional classical guitars that are designed to be played primarily plugged-in (amplified) and not acoustically. They almost always have a cutaway. In addition, they may have smaller bodies, thinner bodies, or even solid bodies. However, I am giving little coverage to those kinds of guitars if they have a traditional wide neck and flat fingerboard. To me those are not crossover instruments.

And I am leaving flamenco guitars completely out of the equation. There are a lot of interesting acoustic-electric or crossover flamenco guitars out there, but that’s outside the scope of these essays.

Ok, let’s go.