Differences between a Classical and Flamenco Guitars
These are the main differences between a classical and a flamenco guitars:
Type of Wood
Classical guitars are built to have a wide tonal and dynamic range. This is because classical guitar music requires lots of tonal variation like sweet, warm tones or harsher bright tones and it often requires very quiet dynamic or very explosive loud dynamics. To make this possible guitar makers use specific kinds of woods for the internals and externals of the guitar. For example, they might use a spruce or cedar for the soundboard, and a rosewood for the back and sides. These are the two critical areas of the guitar in terms of sound. The soundboard wood will define the warmth or brightness of the instrument, and the back and sides will help with projection and volume of sound.
Flamenco guitarists are often required to accompany dancing and singing so the instrument is built differently. This will be reflected in the internal strutting and also in different woods used. Often the flamenco guitar is made from cypress. This wood will give the guitar more mid-tones and help it cut through when playing alongside with clapping and singing.
The set up of a guitar has to do with the distance and angle of the strings from the fretboard. Classical guitars have a higher set up which will help them project more. This is because the strings are allowed to vibrate more which results in more air being pushed out of the instrument. The set up of a classical guitar is usually at a slight angle to the fretboard. This feature, alongside the generally higher set up, helps minimise buzzing made by unwanted contact the strings might have with the fretboard. Flamenco guitarists have their guitars set up a lot lower because they like to produce more percussive effects on the guitar which includes a certain amount of fret buzzing during their rasguedo passages. A lower set up is also better for fast ‘picado’ or picked playing.
Classical guitars are usually bigger than flamenco guitars. This is because a bigger body allows for more air to be projected and thus more sound. Classical guitars are usually built to be performed in concert halls and to be played with other chamber instruments so the loudness of a classical guitar is critical. Flamenco guitars are usually smaller because their loudness isn’t really important as much as their ability to cut through in a percussive way.
Tap or scratch plates
Flamenco guitarist uses a lot of percussive effects including golpes which require the guitarist to tap or hit the soundboard. To accomodate this, flamenco guitars usually have a scratch plate stuck on the soundboard. Classical guitars rarely have anything stuck on the soundboard as this can suppress the ability for a guitar to project.