It is not unusual to mistake a classical guitar for a flamenco one. They look relatively the same at first glance, and it is very hard to determine the difference between the two. Often, only guitar-makers and people who play flamenco guitar really know these differences.
If you believed that differentiating a flamenco guitar from a classical one is very hard, this disparity takes things to a whole new level. This article will discuss these differences and provide you all the needed information so that you can determine and spot the differences between a classical and a flamenco guitar.
If you are thinking about whether you can tell what type of guitar you are holding or looking at, classical or flamenco, the answer is hard. As it turns out, there are just a few disparities between the two, and some of them are related to the materials and tonewood.
While you are able to distinguish a classical guitar from an acoustic one just by staring at the strings, it’s very subtle for flamenco guitars.
Things That Differentiate Flamenco and Classical Guitar
Here are the 5 main factors that distinguish flamenco guitar from a classical guitar:
- the height of the strings on a flamenco guitar is lower than on a classical guitar.
- the sides of a classical guitar are narrower than on a classical guitar
- a flamenco guitar is lighter because the type of wood used is not the same
- the sound of a flamenco guitar is more powerful and has less sustain than a classical guitar.
- often, a flamenco guitar has a transparent plate to protect it from rhythmic hits
If you want to know more about these differences, I suggest reading the rest of this article. I have divided the differences between a flamenco guitar and a classical guitar into 5 categories.
There is a bit of difference between the two when it comes to tonewood. The tonewood used in the making of a guitar is able to show you a lot about the instrument. Often taken for granted by many guitarists, tonewood tells a story. Different woods produce different sounds, different sustain capabilities as well as a different color in general.
With that said, classical guitar is conventionally made of specific kinds of tonewood. There are guitar models with tops made of either spruce or cedar. The sides and backs of the guitar are most of the time made of mahogany that is considered a hard tonewood.
The case is very much different with flamenco guitars. These types of guitars are made to address a different set of needs and requirements. Flamenco negra guitars, in general, are made with spruce tops. The sides and back are made of Cypress or Sycamore.
A negra flamenco guitar, on the other hand, is often put together with the use of a darker tonewood for the sides. Indeed, the sides and the back of a negra flamenco guitar are ofently made of rosewood, and sometimes of cocobolo. The goal is to achieve greater sound projection and a more powerful volume.
The entire concept of flamenco design is to obtain a high attack on a single note. In order to get this, original constructors of flamenco have chosen to lower the strings to a level where you would run into lots of fret buzz—utilizing higher tension strings is one of the many ways to contradict the buzzing. Lower strings mean lower bridge that all eventually means a fast fretboard.
As you can see, at the left side there is a classical guitar, and at the ridght side a flamenco guitar with lower strings.
I created a book for all the flamenco rumba aficionados. Inside, you’ll find 31-chord progressions that are fun to play no matter what your level is (they sound really “flamenco rumba”)!
Here is an example of a chord progression that I play and that you will find in the book :
Bracing & Construction
The way these tonewoods are assembled also determines if you are looking at a flamenco or classical guitar. As mentioned above, a flamenco guitar is all about that volume and aggressive attack.
Because of that, the top of a flamenco guitar is thinner than a classical guitar. A top, which resonates more, will be louder if combined with the right sides and back.
What’s more, the sides are shorter on a flamenco guitar as you can see:
Also, the top features a big pickguard piece known as Golpeador. This is a protective sheet of plastic set up to prevent the top from being harmed and damaged from golpe techniques.
The sound is perhaps the simplest way to determine what kind of a guitar you are listening to.
Classical types of guitar are a flexible musical instrument. It provides decent projection, decent volume as well as lots of sustain. That is relatively normal for a guitar that is intended to render many tones all at once, with all of them sounding as crisp as possible.
A flamenco guitar, on the other, is different when it comes to sound. Back when the first flamenco guitar model was built, the purpose of this instrument was to cut in the noise of flamenco dancing. In case you are not used to flamenco dance, this is a kind of dance with lots of shoe noises from the soles hitting the floor with pressure or force – cutting in that noise was one of the components and requirements for the design of the flamenco guitar.
Thus, a conventional flamenco guitar has an extremely loud and piercing sound but lacks sustain. The tone dispels and drives away fast as the decay takes over almost immediately. You will also notice that the sound has a very Spanish sound. It’s indescribable but you’ll know it.
A flamenco guitar is thinner and lighter in weight as opposed to classical guitar. This is something which, along with the kind of wood, has an impact on the tone.
Which Types of Guitar Should You Buy
This is a simple question with a simple answer. In case you’re mostly interested in pursuing the playing style of flamenco, get a flamenco guitar. Even if the sound has a Spanish flavor, you will be able to play any style with a flamenco guitar.
It is always advisable to do research prior to diving into the world of flamenco guitar. I hope you will find on tomatito.org as much information as you need. I recommend you to read the following article : The 6 best flamenco guitars by level
The differences between a flamenco guitar and a classical guitar are subtil. On the other hand, as you have learned through this article, those small disparities can add up extremely fast. Now that you know which features are found in which form of guitar, you will easily be able to distinguish a flamenco guitar from a classical guitar.