"The Difference Between Classical and Modern Flamenco Guitars"

Ruben Diaz
paco de lucia-mag44.jpg


To write properly about the subject, first of all I should clarify that here

I am talking about the modern Spanish flamenco guitar




By that, I mean the improved outcome that came as a result of the post-Paco de Lucia’s period which is the time we are living now.


This will clear possible misunderstandings regarding the flamenco guitar as conceived in the Sabicas era:




For instance: On those days, the distance between strings at the bridge were much more narrow (from 56 to 57 millimeters between 1st string and 6th strings) than how it is used nowadays:




This was because the techniques and repertoire played those days didn’t require more than 56mm. So the evolution that Paco de Lucía brought regarding flamenco music also impacted several measurements on the guitar as an instrument:




You just have to see the very size of the “Plantilla” or the particular shape and dimension of the top which certainly affects the player:




In addition to that, you can read from the following link:




About the raw materials that Paco implemented and how it radically changed forever what was conceived as a standard flamenco guitar until those days as well as the former stage the guitar reached out by Paco de Lucía’s research:




As an example, please observe the guitar Paco plays on the following video




That was one of the first modified guitars (made with Jacaranda rosewood back and sides).In the 60s Paco requested to Mr.Faustin Conde (a luthier of the traditional school who passed away in the late 90s) to make that instrument as an exclusive guitar for him.


As you can notice, this guitar is made with a very deep acoustic box which is 12 centimeters deep, as opposed to the traditional 8.7 centimeters on the sides. The height of the bridge (from the strings to the top of the guitar) in a flamenco guitar is around 4 or 5mm making a big contrast when compared to classical guitar bridges.


Here are a couple of videos that will be useful to measure the bridge of your guitar:






Now, coming back to lutherie art, historically the guitar itself is considered a young instrument and therefore it’s necessary to do much more research and experiments regarding its manifold possibilities. Elaborating on this topic I would like to quote the innovative and resourceful effort of Andalusian Guitars as matchless leading innovators on the field.


From the following links you can see some diverse aspects that A.G. have

implemented to re-define the modern flamenco guitar:


1)A new fret-board division and raw material











2)Carbon Fibber Nut






3) Liberated Top









4)Extra flat maple bridge









5)Sound portal







6)The use of Ovangkol for the back and sides,the new flamenco negra (a

further development of pioneer Paco de Lucia’s research)







7)A flamed maple neck







8)Alternatively  Friction Pegs







9)Jacaranda right hand nut






Here is another video to understand diverse right hand nuts:





10)Protection on scalloped fretboard from 12 fret on as shown on minute

10,00 of this video:






Other factors comprise that even the way you put your strings on, meaning which pegs you use to strung your strings may change the kind of the sound and “pulsacion” or touch  you get from a particular guitar, for example:

To string the 4th string on the 6th peg, and 4th string on the peg correspondent to the 6th string. To get an idea about this improved way to strung please watch the following video:




Other interesting matter is the effect that a 12 orifice bridges can have

on sound:


How to Change the Tension of a String at the Bridge



Further Uses of the 12 Holes Bridge




Coming back to the sound it’s of paramount importance to mention that the real value of the wood resides in its being aged before the guitar is made, hence fresh wood has no quality in sound:





Based on Antonio Torres who proved (by making a guitar with a proper top but which sides and back were made out of paper instead of any kind of wood), we also discard considering the type of wood for the back and sides of the guitar as a prominent factor in the outcome regarding the quality of sound. The top has a paramount importance over the often over-emphasized selected materials (kind of woods) with which the back and sides of a guitar are made:




In other words: The top is the heart and soul of the guitar. Therefore, provided the top is properly made with knowledge and art,  the guitar will be great regardless of the kind of wood of which the back and sides are made. In fact this concern is unimportant or at least, not essential.





Therefore ultimately, the important thing is not the wood with which the body of the guitar has been made




rather what really matters is how the top is created.


Regarding the German Spruce and Western Red Cedar tops, in my experience(of course I mean exclusively in actual first class and appropriately aged tops) new guitars with German spruce top starts around their 70% of capacity, and will go up rising their quality for a very long time always ascending their beauty in tone for even 70 or 80 years or more, while tops of red cedar wood starts their life at 96% of their potential, and do not change much with time





In other words a first class guitar with a German Spruce top may sound better 5 or 10 years after it’s made, while the Red Cedar one will remain equal from the beginning to the end. This aspect of being “mature” from their very birth, can be attributed to the fact that Red Cedar tops have more carbon on it. However, flamenco guitars with both kinds of tops have their unique particularities each one of them, and they are complementary to each other in recordings and otherwise as far as sound nuances an range of harmonics are concerned




The very essence of a guitar, that which defines its birth and span of life, is something that too many new luthiers overview due to the so called “simple” nature of the subject. Big mistake… I am talking about the order in which the bracings or “abanicos” are glued and settled to begin with




The tuning of the top itself also maters according to personal taste:









For example if there are 5 “abanicos” and one under bridge or “bajo

puente” (like in some distinctive Marcelo Barbero models) in which specific order should be to settle them, viz. 1) Starting from the bases side, or from the treble side of the top; 2) Which exact order they should be glued, for example: 12345 or 54321 or any of the many possibilities in this equation, and when exactly the under bridge is placed and how; all those aspects represent the “seed stage” of a guitar, its genetic code. Hence that order of the “abanicos” itself defines the pulsation, tone, quality and even tension that the guitar have, its playability, not to mention the balance or lack of it that the guitar will have between the bases and the treble range.


It’s interesting to notice that this specific topic is not an easy subject to know about, only great luthiers who have worked and learned for many years from other great masters themselves know about it. Hence this feature constitutes the very essence or basic principle on which quality will exist or not in a flamenco guitar. This secret password for the order of the setting of the “abanicos” (viz. perhaps it could be 14532, or 31542 if male nature is desired…and so forth to many other plausible variations) some great luthiers tend to be must secretive about, as it is the essential key factor, it is not necessary to mention that the passwords are not explained or given in any available book or text about guitar making nowadays, master luthiers only disclose this knowledge to their deserved successors at appropriate times.


An interesting example is that Marcelo Barbero Jr. (the son of Marcelo

Barbero, who recently passed away) studied under Arcangel Fernandez who is the only disciple of Marcelo Barbero himself:





and not directly with his own father  therefore Barbero (father) himself

gave those passwords to Arcangel Fernandez and Arcangel gave it to the son

of Marcelo Barbero between others and that’s the way this knowledge is conveyed.


For me a guitar easy to play is the one that allows me to flow while playing these kind of lines:




Here is a brief explanation




This Buleria is an example of the sound that I like to play nowadays



Small ensemble http://www.rdiaz.org/rdvideo887.html


Group http://www.rdiaz.org/rdvideo888.html


Solo http://youtu.be/ChLEWoGdRbY




To resume my message to you I would like to share how my instruments

founded me




Next there is a list of videos to understand more about the evolution of

the modern flamenco guitar:



Is it True that Guitars Open-Up with time ?




Super Low-Action Flamenco Guitars & Lutherie Art




Copies of Andalusian Guitars




Risk of Buying Second Hand Guitars (used guitars & repaired)




Defective Guitars & Antidote




Friction Pegs Vs Regular Machine Heads (The Difference in Sound)




New Generation Features on Andalusian Flamenco Guitars





What is Sustain on a Flamenco Guitar...?



What is a "Mild Male" Flamenco Guitar




Tips: Humidity Levels / Humidifier & Hygrometer Flamenco Guitar Care





Tips: How to Know if the Fret-board (Neck) is Bent...?




Deep Sound & Thin Sound in cypress  guitars




What is a female negra guitar




Female guitar tone




Ideal vs Emergency Choices Regarding Guitars




Thanks for your enthusiasm!













© Ruben Diaz 2012 I Developed by ¡Viva España! Digital I Contact