• Drake Silver

The Tranquila Sound In The Spanish Guitar.


Without a doubt, the guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the United States and Canada. But did you realize it has a much longer history and a far bigger following?


Aside from the well-known acoustic and electric versions prevalent here, the “Spanish” or flamenco guitar is possibly the most well-known variant on the guitar, in both physical appearance and playing style.


THE SPANISH GUITAR


A Spanish guitar is essentially an acoustic guitar with nylon strings that is used to play traditional Spanish music, as you would have guessed. The strings are plucked with the fingernails rather than a pick when playing. Many Spanish guitarists lengthen their plucking hand's fingernails to achieve a stronger and more controlled sound.


Spanish guitars are typically played while seated, with the instrument lying on one's leg. A footstool is frequently used to raise the leg – and the guitar – to a more comfortable height.


The Spanish guitar, like its forerunners the vihuela and the lute, was initially strung with gut strings (i.e. material made form the intestines of animals). Gut strings, on the other hand, have fallen out of favor as synthetics such as nylon have gained appeal. In today's Spanish guitars, nylon strings are favoured, with a metal outer winding on the lowest three strings.


WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE TO PLAY A SPANISH GUITAR?


Although it functions similarly to other acoustic guitars, a Spanish guitar has a unique gentle, sweet tone that cannot be duplicated. A skilled musician can significantly alter the timbre of the notes they play by employing a range of right-hand techniques. Left-hand effects like vibrato, slides, and slurs can be used at the same time to give songs a lyrical aspect.

Take a peek at the video below for more information. Here, a right-hand technique known as "temolo" is utilized to create the illusion of extended, sustained melody notes, which the Spanish guitar is incapable of. It produces a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable as Spanish. Take a look at this youtube link by Clicking Here.


The “top” of a Spanish guitar is the front of the body. It serves as a soundboard for most guitars, amplifying the vibrations of the strings. The material used to make the top, as with other acoustic guitars, can have a significant impact on the instrument's tone. Spanish guitars with spruce tops, for example, have a crisp, brilliant tone, but those with cedar tops are warmer but less defined. Just by glancing at them, you can tell one from the other! Cedar tops are darker, ranging from pale brown to a deeper orange-brown, while spruce tops are blonde or tan.


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ACOUSTIC AND A SPANISH GUITAR?


Despite the fact that both types of guitars appear to be very similar, there are a few differences between a Spanish and an acoustic guitar.


The first distinction is that Spanish guitars are strung with nylon rather than metal strings. As a result, the neck of a Spanish guitar is under far less tension than that of an acoustic guitar. That means the Spanish guitar does not require a truss rod (a metal rod inserted into the neck of both acoustic and electric guitars), and the neck is constructed of solid wood.


Because of the nylon strings, a Spanish guitar requires far less bracing than an acoustic guitar to provide stability inside the body.


All of this means that stringing a Spanish guitar with acoustic guitar strings will almost certainly harm the instrument. Perhaps in a bad way!


Another significant distinction, unrelated to the strings, is that the Spanish guitar is significantly louder than an acoustic guitar. The sound is broader and deeper than that of an acoustic guitar, which has a more metallic tone.


SPANISH GUITAR PERFORMANCE


Although the strings of a Spanish guitar and an acoustic guitar are set to the same notes and their fretboards have the same notes, the way they are played is vastly different.


A Spanish guitar is played while seated and using the fingers rather than a pick, as we've already explained. The Spanish guitar is typically played solo, but the acoustic guitar is typically used to accompany a singer or as part of an ensemble. Of fact, neither of them is a hard and fast rule!


Strumming is employed rarely and for impact with the Spanish guitar, despite its prevalence in songs created for acoustic guitars. However, this norm varies per genre, with flamenco serving as a notable exception.


Finally, when playing Spanish guitar, one must adhere to a rigid method. In fact, most students of Spanish guitar learn to read music first, with a focus on performing written music rather than composing songs or improvising.


The Spanish guitar now not only has a large library of outstanding music composed particularly for it, but it has also inherited the music of previous plucking instruments. Spanish guitarists are preserving music that was originally composed for instruments such as the lute or vihuela.



Are you interested in learning more about instruments and music from around the world? For additional information, see our World Music Reference!


Have you always wanted to learn how to play guitar but never got the opportunity? Or maybe you did take lessons but haven't picked up the instrument in a long time? It's never too late to start! Check out you local Music Studio's guitar and bass courses to get back on track with your music.

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