July 2003
So what is the difference between Classical and Flamenco Guitars? by Joe Bigham

With the rise in popularity of acoustic music within the last decade, many older styles of music have been gaining attention in more mainstream music. For instance with "Latin Boom" heralded by artists like Ricky Martin and Enrique Englasias, Spanish and Afro-Cuban music has gained a renewed sense of popularity. Thus, we've seen many guitarists come into the store looking for nylon string guitars that communicate the flavor of these musics effectively. Inevitable the question comes up: Is this a Flamenco guitar or a Classical Guitar?

The difference can historically be traced back to Spain. Classical guitar, as performed by Andre Segovia and composed by De Falla, Tarrega, and further back Fernando Sor, was enjoyed by the upper class. Flamenco music, which developed in southern Spain, was more "Folk" and considered slightly lower class. Stylistically, the two have as many differences as they do similarities. Flamenco music developed out of a dance and singing style that was rhythmically aggressive. Classical guitar music was more influenced by other composers who primarily worked out of the standard European tradition. It only makes sense that the instruments used by these two genres would differ to better suit their respective styles.

Classical Guitar

Classical Guitar Great Eliot Fisk

Classical guitars are the most common found instruments when shopping for nylon string guitars. They feature slotted head stocks, 2" wide fingerboards, cedar or spruce tops, and typically rosewood back and sides. They are designed for contra-punctal music, with two or more lines moving about each other. They respond well from a soft dynamic touch, to a loud strong attack. The tone should be full-bodied and well defined across all registers. Many design advancements have been made through the years, with some exclusive builders such as Thomas Humphry changing many of the construction standards utilized from as far back as the 18th century. Still, a strong element of tradition remains with this style of instrument. For further listening, artists such as Julian Bream, Eliot Fisk, Sharon Isbin, LA Guitar Quartet and of course Andre Segovia represent the pinnacle of classical guitar style and technique.

Flamenco Guitar
Originating in southern Spain, Flamenco music is a savvy combination of dance, singing, and guitar based music influenced by Moorish, Mediterranean, and more traditional European musics. Flamenco guitar technique involves a more aggressive right hand technique. To accommodate this technique, square pickguards can be seen on both sides of the soundhole to protect the top, which is usually spruce. Sycamore back and sides give

Flamenco Legend: Paco de Lucia

flamenco guitars a brighter sound which suits the style well. Lately however, many "Flamenco Negra" have become popular, utilizing rosewood back and sides for a deeper tone. Historically, a flat head stock with friction pegs topped the instrument off, but many instruments are now moving towards geared tuners. From the front of the instrument it looks very similar, but a side view reveals the slightly thinner body. All of these elements combine to produce a very light and responsive instrument with a bright percussive tone. For those interested in finding out more about Flamenco music, check out the Gypsy Kings, Paco Pena, and the fantastic Spanish movie "Vengo", which features all manners of flamenco.

If you have any more questions regarding nylon string guitars, email us or call us. Our knowledgeable staff is always available to answer your questions.


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