Flamenco and classical guitars

Flamenco guitars, different sound and different techniques

Classical guitars have a full rich, sustainable tone and, no doubt, they enable guitarists to play several guitar styles with an enchanting passion, but the most noticeable difference appears when playing rasqueados and a flurry of rhythmical flamenco melodies that would sound quite muddy on a guitar with a big sustaining sound.

Flamenco guitar bridge string setupTypically Flamenco guitars are much more lightly constructed than classical guitars. Compared to a classical guitar, besides the Smallman classical guitar tops, flamenco guitars weigh almost nothing since its soundboard is thinner, the walls of its back and sides are much thinner, its body dimensions are shallower and thinner bracing. This different construction or design process, including little or no doming of the top and a neck with more inclination, results in the typical characteristic of a flamenco guitar: a less sustaining and more percussive sound, snare drum rasp when strummed, projecting a brighter and drier sound, a punchy wide-ranging tonality with fewer overtones and instantly responding. The sound of a flamenco has to be shorter with sharper, less sustain, the body is narrower including its soundboard and sides, the depth of the body at the lower bout of a flamenco guitar generally is about 95mm and for a classical about 103mm, the closer the back of the guitar to the sound hole, the less time sound travels within the interior body of the guitar, a flamenco guitar needs to attack quickly and fade off quickly which is the quality of a flameFlamenco guitar string actionnco guitar sound, for classical music more time is needed for the sound to fade out. Flamenco rhythm accuracy is the most important for flamenco guitarists since they accompany dancers and singers to support their rhythm, playing out of the compas (the flamenco rhythm) is really unacceptable. A blanca (or cypress guitar) has a very low sustain meaning that a projected tone disappears instantly allowing flamenco guitarists to play very rhythmical.

Flamenco guitars are generally built with a shallower neck angle and a lower bridge, allowing strings to be set closer to the frets, action can get as low as 2,5mm on the 12th fret (distance between the bottom of Flamenco guitar string actionthe string and the top of the fret). These low string actions and lower frets on the flamenco guitar neck enable faster left-hand action and rapid fingering to play technically complicated pieces.

The distance between the soundboard and strings near the bridge as well as the saddle height of a flamenco guitar is also much lower, sometimes so low that one cannot pass a cigarette between the top and strings. This lower bridge and lower saddle height facilitate right hand strumming (rasgueados) and finger tapping (golpes) on the tap plate (golpeador) as well as easier movements from arpeggios to alzapuas with minor wrist movements...all essential parts of flamenco guitar playing.

Flamenco guitars come with tap plates or golpeadors, protecting the top, to facilitate the execution of Golpes or rhythmic hand tapping on the guitar’s top or soundboard. In addition (although seldom today) flamenco guitars used wooden tuning pegs rather than machine tuners.

The result is that not only the percussive sound of a flamenco guitar is different from a classical one; the specific setup and low action of a flamenco guitar also support different kind of techniques or the way in which these guitar techniques can be executed. This is why many Jazz, Latin guitarists and various other contemporary musicians have fallen in love with the unique voices and playability of flamenco guitars.