Flamenco guitars have an overwhelming resonance, projection and a percussive, drier sound with punchy, wide-ranging tonality
The flamenco guitar made its appearance as an accompanying instrument in flamenco singing during the 19th century. The French artist Manet made in 1862, during one of his tours in the Spanish southern part Andalusia, a copper engraving entitled "Les Gitans" showing a Gypsy man carrying a guitar on his back. At these times, Flamenco consisted only of singing and clapping. Later, during the period of café cantante or flamenco bars, 1850-1910, the need for a very specific guitar, accompanying flamenco, increased. To play along with the loud volume and often low frequencies produced by the percussive footwork of the dancers and the powerful vocals of the singers, a guitar with a strong, brilliant, somehow sharp and percussive sound was needed. In addition the guitar should respond instantly to hard rasgueados, sensitive falsetas, technically difficult tremolos and also golpes or hand taping on the sound box. Also the guitar that was needed should produce a sound matching the rawness of flamenco singing. The Spanish classical guitar concert was inappropriate for this.
It was the legendary Spanish guitar maker Antonio Torres (1817–1892) of Seville, at the end of the 19th century, that succeeded in making the guitar required to accompany flamenco singing and dance, giving the guitar its definitive form. For more information please read Jose Romanillos his wonderful book from 1997, Antonio de Torres his life and work. Most of Antonio Torres his guitars all were cheap flamenco guitars, the ones made from cypress wood instead of from the precious woods from Latin America. Local Gypsies could only afford these cheap guitars to play flamenco. In time they were adapted to small variations and eventually identified as flamenco guitars. Antonio Torres increased the body size and the width of the neck, he increased the scale length, he introduced the seven fan braces instead of three to make a thinner soundboard and improved internal bracing. His guitars were now suitable for concerts; the volume was not too weak anymore to play along with the loud percussive footwork of the dancers and the powerful vocals of the singers. Often it is thought that the flamenco guitar is to be a derivative of the classical Spanish guitar. This isincorrect since the classical guitar as well as the flamenco guitar have been developed, around the same time but separately, from their 19th century predecessors. Strangely enough, the founder of both the flamenco and classical guitar was the same luthier, Antonio de Torres from Seville. A very interesting and striking article, Cultural Origins of the Modern Guitar in the Soundboard magazine edition fall 1997, Richard Bruné stipulates that the modern flamenco guitar is closer to the 19th century guitar of Antonio Torres than the current classical guitars. In this article Richard Bruné indicates that the modern classical guitar is derived from an earlier flamenco type instrument. This guitar founding period at the end of the 19th century is also characterized by Tarrega (1852 -1909) his pioneering playing techniques used by guitarists. Today Juan Miguel Gonzalez Morales, born in Almeria January 17 1947, is the last legacy of Antonio de Torres.
In the early 20th century flamenco guitar makers such as Manuel Ramírez (1864–1916), Domingo Esteso (1882–1937) and later on Marcelo Barbero (1904 - 1956), Miguel Rodriguez (1888-1975) as well as Santos Hernandez (1873–1943) modernized the guitar by modifying design elements of bracing and dimensions. These evolutions gave the flamenco guitars an overwhelming resonance, projection and a percussive, drier sound with punchy, wide-ranging tonality making them perfect instruments for playing without amplification to accompany dance or singing performances, but even in orchestras or large concert halls. Most contemporary Spanish guitar makers build both classical and flamenco guitars, though there are some such as the Conde Hermanos in Madrid, Manuel Reyes in Cordóba, and Andres Dominguez Guerrero in Seville, who are specialized as flamenco guitar makers only.
Although the flamenco guitar originally purely had a supportive role, the flamenco guitar has enriched the musicality of flamenco significantly, immediately increasing the accessibility and impact of the flamenco art in broader segments of the public. Patiño was one of the first flamenco guitarists, formalizing various styles and leading the development of flamenco guitar music. Especially the work of flamenco guitar masters such as Ramón Montoya and Niño Ricardo, at the beginning of the 20th century, enabled the flamenco guitar to evolve beyond its role as accompaniment of singing and dance, becoming a popular solo instrument as well.