What are the characteristics of the flamenco guitar?
The flamenco guitar is one of the most popular variants of Spanish guitar. It is not surprising, considering that flamenco is considered a Cultural and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
As you know, the flamenco guitar is an indispensable part of any tablao and it seems impossible to conceive a flamenco show without this instrument. Although dancing may be the most striking aspect of a flamenco performance, everything revolves around the song and the emotional voice of the cantaores (flamenco singers). The guitar was introduced to accompany singing, but today the mastery of the flamenco guitar is an art in itself.
In the Palau Dalmases flamenco show we have excellent professional flamenco guitarists (or “tocaores”) such as Francisco Díaz, Rafael Fernández and José Santiago among our cast of artists. If you haven’t had the chance to see them live yet, you can come to Palau Dalmases and enjoy their music in the daily shows of our flamenco show in Barcelona.
What is the origin of flamenco guitar?
As some of you may already know if you have read our article on facts about flamenco, it has its origins in the 18th century approximately with clear Moorish and Spanish influences. These roots and mix of cultures are clearly noticeable in the sound of the flamenco guitar. However, at that time, singing was the only protagonist. The guitar was incorporated later on, followed by other instruments such as flutes, the cajón or violin, which are more typical of nowadays flamenco.
Experts agree that the guitar entered the flamenco scene in the 19th century, thus accompanying the cante, which until then had been completely a cappella. In fact, there are still some cantes that are performed without musical accompaniment.
Although there are different opinions about the exact date, it is known that the first documented reference of a flamenco guitarist dates from 1850 with Francisco Rodríguez “El Murciano”.
It was not until the 20th century that guitar and flamenco merged, thus consolidating the flamenco art we all know. In addition, with the introduction of the flamenco guitar, it helped to structure and regulate the schemes of flamenco singing, giving inputs and outputs, and to order and to win new melodies.
Differences between classical guitar and flamenco guitar
They may look the same at first glance, but flamenco guitar and classical guitar are different. Just as in the case of electric guitars, where we can find different types, shapes, with more strings and with different sounds for different styles, the same thing happens to classical guitars. Moreover, the music composed for a conventional guitar has nothing to do with flamenco guitar music.
The main differences between the two instruments are:
- The flamenco guitar is slightly smaller than the classical guitar, so its hoop is also smaller.
- Flamenco guitars are usually made of cypress and fir, while the other is made of cedar and palo santo.
- The harmonic bars are placed in a different way
These subtle variations make the flamenco guitar get its characteristic sound. They are less sonorous and offer a lower volume than the traditional Spanish guitar, but the sound it produces is more percussive and brilliant. As it is sharper and drier, it allows it to adapt better to the demands and characteristics of flamenco.