I am fascinated by Spanish guitar music, and I have started exploring it. I have heard classical music like Gypsy Kings, Taranta, Romance, etc.

Does anyone here know what types of guitars are used in Spanish music?
Please also give a bit of your personal experience using these guitars.


4 Answers 4


First of all, Gipsy Kings music isn't classical :)
Gipsy Kings play Flamenco guitar, major of their works is Rumba type.

Spanish guitar basically is two types:

  1. Spanish classic guitar. Famous players: Andres Segovia, John Williams, Julian Bream.
  2. Flamenco guitar. Famous players: Paco De Lucia, Vicente Amigo, Gerardo Nunez, Sabicas and of course many famous players.

Flamenco guitars are lighter in weight than classical guitars and have much brighter sound because they must be heard over the sound the dancers' shoes.

So what do you want to learn, classic guitar or Flamenco guitar? right hand techniques in Flamenco are really different and vast. It is a really demanding type of playing.

No matter what you pick, I really recommend to get a teacher. It is really easy to develop bad habits that will be hard to correct later.

You might want to check this question too:
Is it possible to learn Flamenco guitar on a steel-string guitar? Will it sound right?

  • Hey! thanks. As i said, i have just started exploring this music. Loved the Gypsy king's music and dint knew it wasnt classical. I want to learn the classical guitar though. And thanks for listing out the famous players.
    – GamDroid
    May 29, 2011 at 11:19
  • Also, flamenco guitars tend to have a "tap plate" or "golpeador" to protect the soundboard as the soundboard is used for percussion.
    – Tangurena
    May 31, 2011 at 18:22
  • Angel Romero is a good audio resource for both styles. While Segovia was trying to take the guitar into the concert hall, the Romeros took theirs to the Ed Sullivan show. Oct 9, 2011 at 6:53
  • @luserdroog Angel plays some Flamenco guitar but you aren't going to find any Flamenco players listen to Angel. Paco De Lucia is arguably the most successful Flamenco player who crossed over into other genres of music such as classical and Jazz.
    – Chiron
    Oct 9, 2011 at 20:20

While Chiron is correct, there is a fair amount of crossover betwen the two styles. If you play Spanish Classical pieces by Albeniz and Tarrega and even Sor, you will find rasgueados, trills, tremolos, pinched harmonics, and other flamenco effects. It's clear that those guys were playing flamenco on the weekend.

So know the difference, but study both. Listen to flamenco by Carlos Montoya. It's like Solo Blues with Spanish Technique. Being able to play flamenco allows you to isolate a fragment from a difficult Spanish Classical piece, and make a fun exercise out of it. You can even develop it into a new song.

  • Hey! thanks Carlos Montoya's music is really awesome.Earlier I was looking for music like "Malaguea" and "Alhambra" but couldnt find it. Thnks to you! this is what is always look for.
    – GamDroid
    Oct 7, 2011 at 9:04

So... Do you want a long-winded rant???

Actually, this question is difficult to answer because the range of "Spanish Music" is vast, even for the guitar. There's Spanish Baroque guitar music, which uses a 5-course guitar, all but the highest course double-strung. There's a strong movement of people playing this music on period instruments (I have one myself). It's really unique stuff, and you have to hear it on the original instrument to appreciate it. Gaspar Sanz is the best known Spanish guitar composer of that period. You have probably heard his Canarios in D maj performed on modern instruments.

Much of the music from this period uses hemiola... Divide 6/8 into groups of 3/3, 2/2/2... They add up to 6 and 6, but the emphasis changes. This is a fundamental rhythm for Flamenco forms such as Bularias. There's a Baroque song form called Jacaras which is very reminiscent of the Bularias, except its kind of square, or old fashioned, by comparison.

BTW, it seems right-hand technique was restricted to the thumb and first two fingers, no fingernails.

Find youtubes by Xavier Diaz-Latorre for Baroque examples you won't regret.

The classical period (roughly speaking) brought in the 6-string guitar. Still a small body, but six single-strung courses. Of course, Fernando Sor is the famous composer of that period. He still used just the thumb and two fingers (with perhaps rare exceptions). Also, playing was still done without fingernails. The guitar spread quite a bit thanks to salon playing.

Tarrega sits in the Romantic period, and played the Torres guitar -- a new design with a bigger body, and different bracing. He still played without fingernails, although I believe there were players who used them in this period. Following the art-music vein, you would probably come next to Emilio Pujol, and then Andres Segovia. General use of the nails probably coincides pretty much with the switch from gut strings to nylon.

Preferred woods for classical guitars are spruce for the top, and rosewood for the back and sides.

Flamenco music is associated with the Gypsies in Spain (los Gitanos). I have read that the Gypsy influence traces to India. One analysis I read points out that in general these were marginalized, opportunistic people. They learned that their music attracted attention, so they would put on shows to attract onlookers and then pick their pockets. This could be apocryphal... It's probable that there were Gypsies playing guitar in the classical period. I can't say anything about the Baroque.

Flamenco guitars used tuning pegs instead of mechanical keys for a longer period than classical guitars. It was said the machine heads were too heavy. The guitar itself is lighter -- sides and back traditionally made of cypress. Maybe this was because it was an easier wood to get. Anyway, the result is a more percussive sound, with less sustain. Modern Flamenco guitars are as likely to use rosewood, depending on the performer's preference.

Right hand technique for Flamenco is mind-boggling in its variation. The rasgueados of the Baroque were quite varied and specialized. It seems classical playing turned away from that. But Flamenco has expanded significantly on the strumming repertoire. Rasgueados in Flamenco can use all the fingers (pinkie included). Tremelo adds an extra stroke to the classical tremelo, so it sounds even more florid.

One thing about Flamenco... True to what I have heard of the Indian concept of music, song is primary. There is a a Flamenco concept of Cante Jondo -- deep song. Then comes guitar, and then comes dance. As far as I recall from my reading, the dance was put together to attract the tourists, more or less. That's not to diminish Flamenco dance, but I feel compelled to mention it.

Modern and fusion Flamenco is some of the hottest and freshest music in the world, in my opinion. Listen to Tomatito... Wow. And Paco de Lucia is still riding the crest of the wave -- he's a guru. For some reason, Spain as a country seems to dismiss Flamenco as just those guitar players... I can't figure that one out. This music really deserves a good hearing.

There's a good amount of pop music in Spain that sits on top of Flamenco. Manzanita got pretty famous in the '70s/'80s, and his songs are pretty nice if you can enjoy the era. The Gypsy Kings fit into this vein as well. Estopa is a more modern group doing this. They throw in a good old electric guitar, too.



I can only speak to the topic of flamenco guitar, as opposed to Spanish guitar as a whole:

The shape of flamenco guitars are slightly different from a classical guitar and tend to be lighter. They were traditionally made out of cypress. Cypress is not considered to be the best kind of wood for a guitar as it tends to absorb some of the range of sound. However, it is very good at projecting sound, making it one of the better choices if you want a "loud" guitar. As flamenco guitar began not with solo performances but with accompaniement of flamenco singers and dancers (both of which can be incredibly loud), cypress was the better choice simply because without it the guitar would have been drowned out by the other performers. Cypress was also cheap and easy of access in Andalucia, the home of flamenco.

Since the 1950s roughly, flamenco guitarists have opened to other types of guitar and many flamenco guitars are now made out of rosewood (which is considered much better in keeping the entire range of sound). This came about at a time when flamenco guitar was being recognized as a solist instrument (no need to be overheard over the dancer's taps in a solo performance) and also at the time were electronic amplification made if possible to increase the volume of an instrument without touching the instrument itself (so even if you were accompanying a dancer, you could simply turn up the volume).

Oftentimes, a cypress guitar will be referred to as a "guitarra blanca" and a rosewood guitar as a "guitarra negra", due to the color of the wood used.

  • This answer has severe formatting problems. Could we ask you to introduce paragraphs?
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 14, 2016 at 17:30

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