Difference between classical and flamenco?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments

Difference between classical and flamenco?

Post by neo » Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:44 pm

I bought a classical nylon string assuming that i could play flamenco music on it.

Is there any difference between classical and flamenco guitar?


Post by Azalais » Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:04 pm

Yes... I don't want to over generalize because it is a subject with rich historical and "cultural" answers, that you might enjoy researching.... but in terms of playing them... the flamenco guitars tend to have a faster neck, lower action and lighter woods than classical guitars, and are often fitted with a "golpeador" protective covering to prevent damage from wild and crazy strumming (rasqueado).

Yes, you can play flamenco on a classical guitar, but I would recommend that you get a set of removable "golpeador" protectors... I don't remember the name of the company that makes or sells them, but they are thin sheets of soft clear plastic that you press on and they stay on by friction (no glue or adhesive) they peel right of when you are finished playing and do not damage the finish.
Last edited by Azalais on Sun Jan 08, 2006 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Post by Skai » Sun Jan 08, 2006 4:12 pm

Yes, it always gets to me when people consider classical and flamenco guitars as being in the same category. And I simply despise those who call their guitars 'classical flamenco guitars'.

To answer your question will take a long time but here's a summary:

Classicals are often built with spruce or cedar tops and rosewood, mahogany etc.. backs and side. They have higher action as buzzing is supposed to be minimal and tone and sustain is of utmost importance.

Flamencos can be classified as either blancas or negras. Blancas are traditional flamenco guitars commonly built with spruce tops and cypress backs and sides (sycamore in cheap models). Their sound is bright, percussive and very responsive. Sustain is minimal as it interferes with rasgueados and other unique solo flamenco guitar techniques.

Flamenco negras are the modern kind built with spruce tops and rosewood backs and sides. Their sound is deeper than a blanca but with good technique, flamenco tone can be produced on it. Sustain is also minimal like a blanca. It can produce more tonal colours than a blanca.

Both flamenco guitar types usually have a slight buzz as it makes the guitar sound more 'flamenco' and helps in techniques. Eg. rasgueados, pulgar techniques and picado sound great with slightly buzz. They are ideally as loud as possible since it traditionally has to be heard through all the feet stamping, singing and percussions. Thus a bright sound will cut through all that noise more easily.

The thing that makes flamenco guitars different is that the basses sound tighter and less boomy. Not to mention that proper flamenco guitars have tap plates or 'golpeadors'.

So how does a flamenco negra differ from a classical guitar with the same materials? Construction. Flamencos have low action for sheer speed and the tops are thinner and braced differently to get a growling percussive tone.

To sum it all up, it's the construction that plays a huge role in distinguishing the different kinds of nylon guitars. Hope this answers your question.


Post by JQ. » Sun Jan 08, 2006 11:26 pm

Azalais wrote:I would recommend that you get a set of removable "golpeador" protectors... I don't remember the name of the company that makes or sells them, but they are thin sheets of soft clear plastic that you press on and they stay on by friction (no glue or adhesive) they peel right of when you are finished playing and do not damage the finish.
Are you thinking of Kling-ons?


They were developed by an incredible young guitarist named Jason Yoshida who gave me a set before they were even on the market. Jason used to play guitar with the Los Angeles Mandolin Orchestra (his dad, Dennis, was my stand buddy in the 2nd mando section).

Jason introduced me to Guitar Salon International, where I eventually purchased my Woodfield. He even met me there for my first appointment so he could test out some guitars for me.

We've lost touch, but a little googling and I see he's pretty active in the SoCal lute/theorbo/baroque guitar scene these days.

Az, found this recording of him playing the Gallardas by Santiago de Murcia on a baroque guitar that I thought you might enjoy. :)



Post by neo » Tue Jan 10, 2006 11:22 am

So can I cant I play flamenco music on my classical guitar successfully. I really picked it up just to play flamenco music. I've never ever seen a flamenco guitar in a music shop ever, thus i din know there is a difference. :?


Post by Azalais » Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:08 pm

JQ... You are exactly right! Thank you... and yes, I think I did order them from GSI (when got my first gitano guitar support). Kling-ons are a great invention!

Thanks for finding it... and for guiding me to that excellent Santiago de Murcia sample that Jason plays... (he's playing it on a guitar built by a group in London who have an amazing client list and inventory.) Do you know if he has released the CDs yet... I would be interested in getting BOTH of them! He plays beautifully!

thanks again



Post by Skai » Tue Jan 10, 2006 2:24 pm

No! It might be a good idea to buy a cheap classical and learn flamenco on it. Simply because cheaper guitar marketed as 'flamenco guitars' will never give you a satisfying and authentic flamenco tone, they sound like classical guitars built with different woods. Sometimes they don't even have tap-plates! Yamaha C40s seem to give a decent flamenco sound.

But beware of certain things. Action has to be low enough to allow for golpes (taps). If action is too high, strumming and tapping SIMULTANEOUSLY might be a problem. However, all Yamaha at least ave decent and consistent set-ups.

Lastly, you have to be able to do golpes without being scared of damaging the guitar. So it's either you get dented soundboards or you attach a tap-plate.


Post by neo » Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:26 am

My action is pretty high? :( can i modify that?


Post by Skai » Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:46 am

If you lower action, it might buzz quite bad. In other words, you're sacrificing the guitar. If you're really serious about it, then lower it till u get a slight buzz, not something so bad that it sounds like a snare drum! :lol:

But file down a spare bridge saddle instead of the original one, so you can easily reverse the modifications back to factory settings. By the way, what guitar do you have?


Post by neo » Thu Jan 12, 2006 11:04 am

J&D CG-20 or 30.


Post by Skai » Fri Jan 13, 2006 3:21 pm

Well then, if you're willing then go ahead. But I still think that you should do any modifications on a spare saddle instead of the original.

Before you start off, I'd like to mention a few things. Flamenco guitar is not just a certain style or sound. Neither is it about 'crazy' playing techniques nor showing off. It's a complete lifestyle and culture that I don't think anyone who stays away from it's origins can ever understand fully.

To begin, flamenco guitar is traditionally used to accompany dancers or singers, with barely anything more than a few single notes and a few open chords. The thing that makes it so special, is the rhythm of flamenco (or compas) that must be followed absolutely strictly. The many different song forms of flamenco have their own distinct sounds and rhythms and the various rhythms are separated into their own palos (or forms). If you can't keep in rhythm and play along with other flamencos, you're just a poser who knows nothing about flamenco. You can have amazin picado, rasgueado, alzapua but it's still not flamenco.

Secondly, flamenco does not imply Spanish music as it is a small culture within the whole country. And for that matter, the Ketchup Song, Macarena, Ricky Martin, Ottmar Liebert etc are all not flamenco. :lol:

As for solo flamenco guitar, it's a far more recent development and it turned out that solo flamenco guitar is more popular than cante (singing) or baile (dancing). In more early solo playing, songs consist of rasgueado rhythm compas and falsetas which give the melody. The compas sections give the rhythm, and falsetas can be likened to guitar solos throughout the piece.

To end off, play a Paco de Lucia composition without keeping in rhythm will mean it's not truely flamenco. Strumming a few open chords in compas means it's real flamenco. I'm not a flamenco purist but this is the basis of the concept that cannot ever be forgotten.

Good luck in playing, I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. I've been groping around for a long time and I'd be willing to save you the trouble of going off track. :)


Post by Gecko » Sun Jan 15, 2006 11:01 am

Skai wrote:Well then, if you're willing then go ahead. But I still think that you should do any modifications on a spare saddle instead of the original...................

That's about the best short summary on flamenco I have ever read!!!!


Post by Skai » Sun Jan 15, 2006 2:00 pm

I agree it's surprisingly short too. I'm unusually a long-winded person who somewhat likes giving lectures on things I love alot. In fact, I feel that I've left out alot more important points!

But I just like to correct people's impression on flamenco. Firstly because it's more than just flashy techniques and that 'Spanish sound'. Secondly because I myself didn't know all that until I spent quite a long time researching on it!


Sound Principle

Post by olenaval » Wed Jan 25, 2006 5:58 am

Okay, this is second hand information but from a Luthier who asked another specifically making Flamenco guitars:

Flamenco guitars have a different internal construction for one purpose -- to avoid the "sustain". Flamenco is the dance primarily and dancers are cued on the music. That is, good Flamenco dancers get irritated by the sustain and they loose timing. No reason I see that you can't learn Flamenco music with your classical -- so long as you don't have a snobbish Flamenco dancer dancing to your tune.

Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Wed Jan 25, 2006 6:23 pm

There are several differences between flamenco guitars and classicals. You have read several and will continue to read more. There is a perspctive from R.E. Brune a luthier and flamenco researcher. He thinks that at the beginning there was no difference between flamenco or classical guitar. In fact, he thinks that flamenco guitars were done first, and that classical are an outgrow of the flamenco guitar. In one of the many books about the guitar, there is a photo of a logo in a Jose Ramirez de Galatea (the first Jose Ramirez) that says GUITARRAS DE CONCIERTO, as opposed to GUITARRAS SEVILLANAS. What that tells me is that the sevillanas were probably done for common people, gypsy mostly who played flamenco. Remember that Segovia was the one who actually brought the guitar to the classical levels we know today. Before him, there were several few players and composers. So after Segovia, the deman for different styles of classical music may have placed a demand on the guitar makers to produce guitars more consistent with the music. Curious to see, the tendency now with the new flamenco players is to go back to classical guitars to play flamenco. The so called traditional blanca flamencos, do not have the sustain that new players demand. So, I would play flamenco with your classical at no time. Just adjust the action, so you can develop those flamenco picados well.

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