Updated: March 29, 2023Published: October 24, 2022
Let’s play a game! Do you know how many types of guitars there are? More or less than five? GO!
Well, if you are a music connoisseur or an actual musician, you know there are more than 6 types of guitars. We could even say more than fifteen if we count the not-so-particular guitars like those with three necks.
But enough with the trivia. I know yuo are here for one thing and one thing only: the Spanish guitar. In this article, I want to share with you what it is, the differences with other instrumental cousins, a bit of its history, and, of course, some videos!
So, get ready to fall in love with the one and only Spanish guitar. Want a little hint? Is not an acoustic nor a flamenco te of guitar.
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What is the Spanish guitar?
First of all, what do you think makes this guitar different? Is it the sound? The shape, or maybe the strings? We’ll see of o that in a second, but before we dig deeper, we must clarify what the Spanish guitar is.
The Spanish guitar is what we also know as classical guitar. It consists of a six-course string, a wooden box, a neck with a fingerboard, and a soundhole in the center. The lines are “E - LA - RE - SOL - SI - MI.”
I know that you know what a guitar looks like. Still, it is worth clarifying the shape and distribution of the Spanish guitar before getting into the main differences with the other ones.
Aspects of the Spanish guitar:
Size – 25.6 in
Number of frets – 19 frets
Number of strings – 6 strings
Type of strings – nylon strings
Construction – solid wood construction, cedar top.
Size of the neck width - 2.04 in
What is the difference between the Spanish guitar and other guitars?
Just like I mentioned before, there are more than 6 types of guitars. We can find the classical guitar, flamenco, acoustic, electric, bass, ukelele, laúd, banjo, and the list could go on! However, I think the most significant difference you should know is the Spanish guitar with the acoustic and flamenco guitar.
Spanish guitar vs Flamenco guitars
To the unknown eye and ear, like mine, there wouldn’t be a difference. But after doing some research, I realized that there is!
So, let’s begin with the most Spanish guitar versus flamenco guitars. Both instruments originated in Spain, but the second one has evolved to transmit more energy when performing a flamenco song next to the committed passion of a flamenco dancer.
What do these guitars have in common? They both have 6 strings and share similar scales and tunes. And what sets them apart? Spanish or classical guitars have a cedar top, while flamenco guitars are made with bruce tops. What are those? By the top, I mean the soundboard or the guitar’s body. Cedar and bruce are different types of wood, and age differences create other kinds of sounds. The Flamenco guitar needs the bright and snappy sounds of the bruce top.
Another aspect that sets them apart is the space between the neck and the strings called to action. Spanish guitars have higher actions than flamenco ones. Another detail is that the flamenco guitar has a piece of plastic on the body to play “percussion” on the top without causing any damage. And, is a bit lighter that the Spanish guitar, so the guitarist is able to move with the instrument.
Spanish guitar vs. Acoustic guitar
These guitars look very similar, but for true musicians, there are essential details that make the cords sound differently and create a different impact. Besides that, there are three main differences that you should know.
For once, the main difference is that acoustic guitars were designed in the United States by C. F. Martin y Orville Gibson at the end of the 19th century. Then, the neck of the Spanish guitar is wider, while the acoustic’s neck isn’t because it is meant for strumming and finger to get through the board quickly.
But the most crucial difference is the material of the strings. The Spanish guitar is made with nylon strings, which are thick and create a mellow, softer sound, while the steel strings of the acoustic guitar create a crisp, bright sound.
A Brief History of the Spanish Guitar
A brief history
From writings from the 15th century, it is believed that guitars originated in Catalonia. Still, Spain was a country that re-designed and innovated on the instruments to get the result we have today.
In the 17th century, the guitar was an instrument of four courses of strings. Still, the instrument was changed a bit before 1674, when the musician Gaspar Sanz presented the guitar with five courses; and recorded in his notebook that the Italians and french copied the guitar.
Then in the 18th, Spain was at the forefront of the guitar’s sound and innovation thanks to Benito Sánchez. He set the standards of guitar-making in Madrid. And this is what the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) says about him:
“(He) is an early example of a nineteenth-century design form. While it retains the wide lower bout, it has a narrow waist connecting to more rounded shoulders. These accentuated curves would become an increasingly popular feature of early nineteenth-century guitar-making in Madrid”.
A bit later into the century, 1759 to be precise, on a bright day in Sevilla, another good change was introduced to the guitar. Francesco Sanguino created fan bracing, which transmits the forces exerted by the strings from the bridge to the rim.
From then on, the Spanish guitar became so popular that other European artisans proclaimed themselves experts in the art of Spanish guitar making. For example, the 20th-century guitar maker, Hermann Hauser, learned from Andrés Segovia, an apprentice of the Ramirez brother’s workshop. The German artisan is one of the best Spanish guitar makers in history.
From the 20th century onwards, any additions made to a guitar were to make the instrument capable of filling a huge room, like the concert hall we know now. The MET in New York guards a guitar made by Ignacio Fleta (1953), which comprises the tradition of Spanish instrument making.
Famous Spanish guitar players
By now, you should have fallen in love with the Spanish guitar. There is no doubt that the energy that flows from the strings vibrates inside you. If you feel that from a Youtube video, just imagine how incredibly moving it is when you listen to it live.
We have created a list of the best flamenco artists from recent years and added their playlists from Spotify! Check it out!
But way before them, we had more awesome guitarists, and I will stand out three of them. First, we have Gaspar Sanza (1640 - 1710). If you remember, I mentioned him before. Sanz was one of the best guitar players of the 17th century. He studied music, theology, and philosophy at the University of Salamanca and then got appointed as a teacher of music. Then we have Fernando Sor (1779 - 1839), a classical guitarist from the early Romantic period known for his solo guitar music. Our third artist of the day is Francisco de Asís Tárrega (1852 - 1909), known as the “father of classical guitar music” and composer of “Capricho Árabe” and " Recuerdos del Alhambra."
Here you have Memories from Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega
How does the Spanish guitar sound?
In this section, I have linked two videos for you! One is an eight-hour playlist of Spanish Guitar, and the second is a tutorial. I bet it happens the same to you as it does to me. Once you hear something, you like you want to learn it! That’s why if the playlist awakens the guitar player inside of you, the tutorial will give you the basics to begin.
I hope that after this post, I have persuaded you into Spanish classical music. It would be even better if I get a comment saying you actually know how to play it or that you want to learn it.
I know I would love to, but I have no musical ear! With that, you have all the information yuo need on the Spanish guitar. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it, and let us know what you think.
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.