I have been learning guitar (using a pick) for 4 years, I play only a few chords and a minor scale. I have a metal string guitar, but I'd like to play Flamenco style.

  1. Is it possible for me learn Flamenco on a metal string guitar?
  2. Will playing Flamenco on a steel string guitar "sound right"?
  • 2
    BTW, you have to forget striker/pluctrum/pick. Flamenco is played with fingers.
    – Chiron
    May 6, 2011 at 22:27
  • This question is very similar to Skills needed for classical guitar. (It's not a duplicate, I think.) May 6, 2011 at 23:08
  • 2
    @Neil I don't think so, Flamenco guitar and classical guitar are so different. Majority of Flamenco guitar right hand techniques don't ever exist in classical guitar.
    – Chiron
    May 6, 2011 at 23:16
  • Your hands and fingers are going to take a pounding. Those steel strings are wound pretty tight and put a lot of pressure on your fingers.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 15, 2016 at 12:25

8 Answers 8


Playing Flamenco style on a steel string guitar will be rather painful I am afraid. Also, you will be getting an overly bright sound, and it won't sound anything like traditional Flamenco playing, which is nearly always played on a nylon string guitar.

With this style of playing, there are a lot of subtle things you have to know, much like classical guitar, so I would highly recommend that you do at least a few lessons with a good flamenco teacher so that you can get important things such as posture, left hand positioning and proper right hand technique down pat before you embark on some self learning.

Also perhaps you could pick up a decent, cheap nylon string guitar at a pawn shop or second hand dealer to experiment with this style?

Good luck with it!

  • I've had good results with Thomastik Nickel Flats and short round nails. By varying the mount of nail involved in the attack I can get an appoyando that's almost a pure sine wave; and an enganchando with a selection of higher harmonics (by varying the location on the string - dark and sweet at the neck, bright and punchy at the bridge). Drink whole-milk lattès for your nails! Oct 7, 2011 at 0:46

I agree. "Flamenco" is a very specific style of guitar which incorporates many techniques that are specific to the nylon-string classical guitar. Or more specifically, the Flamenco guitar which is slightly different. Flamenco guitars traditionally have the clear-plastic "golpeador" or tap-plate on the front so you can do the percussive effects without damaging the top. Also, these guitars are frequently topped with cedar rather than spruce for a lighter and more responsive instrument. Also traditional are friction tuners, but almost no one uses these any more.

Flamenco is primarily a dance-accompaniment style, with solo passages.

There is a great deal of Latin music which is Flamenco influenced, and that may be more what you are interested in....

  • 1
    I believe you have it backwards, Flamenco players usually use the brighter (both in tone and wood color) spruce tops to the darker red (and darker toned) cedar that most classical players use.
    – crasic
    May 13, 2011 at 10:00
  • Yes, it's spruce for flamenco guitar, not cedar. Furthermore the traditional wood for the back and sides of a flamenco guitar is cypress, whereas on a classical guitar, it is mahogany or rosewood.
    – user1044
    Jun 23, 2012 at 18:59

Another factor is that, compared to the classical guitar and the flamenco guitar, the typical steel-string acoustic guitar has a very narrow string spacing, at the nut, at the bridge, and everywhere inbetween. This narrow string spacing is not sufficient to play the left-hand fingerings required of classical or flamenco guitar, and is not sufficient to enable your right-hand fingers to pluck the strings finger-style using the techniques that flamenco requires.

In short, a steel-string acoustic guitar is designed for an entirely different musical purpose, style of playing, and style of music than that of a classical or flamenco guitar. So if you want to play flamenco, you need a flamenco guitar, or for starters, a classical guitar.


Don't ever play Flamenco on metal string guitar, you will break your nails. Not to mention you aren't going to sound Flamenco any way.
Rasgueados and Alzapua are all about hitting the strings with your nails. Flamenco playing is so demanding on the right hand and takes a lot of time and efforts to develop decent techniques, you have to pay special attentions to palos and the compas.
Flamenco is all about the rhythm.

One famous book is Juan Martin 'El Arte Flamenco De La Guitarra', avaliable in English too.

My personal recommendation is to get a teacher, Flamenco is really hard to get and grasp not to mention it is really easy develop bad habits and miss the whole palos & compas thing.

To conclude:

  1. Get a teacher.
  2. Get the suggested book above.
  3. Live and breath Flamenco palos and compas.
  4. Be extremely patience.
  5. Practice, practice, practice.

Flamenco is a unique world, live it to the max.
(On November 16, 2010, UNESCO declared Flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.)

  • Even though it wouldn't sound at all like flamenco, rasgueados is the only way you can achieve fast triolet rythms without a pick. I know that's not the topic of the question, but with proper nail care and technique, rasgueados doesn't hurt at all on metal strings and can allow one to play all type of rock and metal rythms without having to use a pick. I know I do. And it allows your right hand to be fully free from a pick, hence go from picking to multifinger-tapping in one shot. Mar 22, 2013 at 11:33

You can use Flamenco technique on a steel string, but it is not the same. I use Rasqueado technique on my Rickenbacker 660-12. The techniques are fun to incorporate into many styles of music, but if you want to learn Flamenco right, get a teacher. The Dennis Koster book "the Keys to Flamenco" is good, as is the one listed above. My instructor studied with Koster, so that is what I learned.

  1. It is theoretically possible but not at all recommended (if you do choose to do so, make sure that your nails are extra hard lest they break and be aware that it will be immensely more difficult than on a classical or flamenco guitar if only because the strings are closer to one another).
  2. No, it will not sound "right".

That being said, it all depends on what you seek to achieve:

  1. If you want to become an actual flamenco guitarist who can play the flamenco classics from Sabicas, Ramon Montoya, etc. etc. and also accompany a flamenco singer or dancer, then I'd highly advise not learning on a steel-string guitar. Let's put it this way: you could play Van Halen on a classical guitar but you would have to adapt a lot of it, leave out some of the techniques, and, more importantly, it would be so far removed from the original that it would be a very bold artistic move that not everyone would appreciate (to say the least). Likewise, you could play flamenco on a steel-string guitar, but not that many people would enjoy it (and you run the very real risk of singers and dancers refusing to work with you if they don't enjoy the steel-string sound) and you'd be branded as a "fusion" player, not a "flamenco" player.

  2. On the other hand, if you merely wish to take some flamenco techniques and adapt them to a steel-string guitar, why not! To a certain extent this is what Gabriela of the band Rodrigo and Gabriela has done. The abanico and rasgueado techniques she uses wouldn't be considered flamenco at all but they are clearly inspired from flamenco. Similarly, even flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, took the picking technique of shredding and adapted it to flamenco guitar (a good example of which you can hear in his song "Tio Sabas"). Adding a technique from another style is always a good way of sprucing up your playing, provided you use it wisely!


I love the sound of steel string acoustic, and tried to play some flamenco techniques on a steel string guitar, with silk and steel strings. It sounded much better than a nylon string guitar, to me at least, but I broke my nails, and I play usually a nylon string guitar now, although I don't like the sound. Perhaps try a guitar with Martin silk and steel or retro strings, but you must make your nails very hard, don't know how.


It is possible, but it is painful. Flamenco is normally played on nylon string guitars because the string gauge is lighter and playing flamenco style will not hurt as much.

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