What Is A Spanish Guitar?

The Spanish guitar, known for its passionate and evocative sound, has played an essential role in the world of music for centuries. In this Killer Rig article, we’ll explore the rich history of this captivating instrument.

It’s important to touch on the different types, techniques, and famous musicians who have made it an integral part of their art. So, let’s go ahead and discover the essence of the Spanish guitar.

What is a Spanish Guitar?

As we pull back the curtain on the world of Spanish guitars, it’s essential to understand what exactly we’re dealing with. What sets them apart from its counterparts isn’t just its origins. It’s a culmination of craftsmanship, design, and sound.

A Spanish guitar, often referred to as a classical instrument. It’s traditionally handcrafted with wood and strung with nylon. A departure from the steel strings often found on other varieties of guitars.

Its body is a tad smaller, with a wider neck and a flat fingerboard that allows for complex fingerpicking techniques, a cornerstone of Classical guitar music.

The key feature, however, is its method of construction. Known as the Spanish heel, this technique involves the neck and body being carved from a single piece of wood.

This gives these guitars an increased resonance and a tone quality that’s as warm as the Spanish sun.

You see, each element of a Spanish guitar, from the woods used, to the build style, contributes to its character and sound.

It’s a testament to the artistry of luthiers, a celebration of centuries-old craftsmanship that has been passed down through generations.

The Origins of the Spanish Guitar

The Spanish guitar has a fascinating history that dates back to the medieval period.

Its origins are deeply intertwined with the cultural exchanges that took place in Spain over centuries. This was particularly influenced by the Moors, who brought the lute, a stringed instrument, to Spain.

The Moors, who held sway over Spain for nearly eight centuries, significantly impacted the culture. Which ultimately included the evolution of the Spanish guitar.

They introduced the oud, a Middle Eastern instrument, which was gradually adopted and adapted by the Spanish. This fusion of cultures and musical traditions laid the groundwork for the development of the modern guitar.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, a stringed instrument known as the vihuela gained popularity. The vihuela, with its curved back and six strings, played a crucial role in the evolution of the Spanish guitar.

Over time, the characteristics of the vihuela were merged with those of the guitarra morisca, another stringed instrument, leading to the creation of the guitar we know and love today.

Thus, the Spanish guitar is a testament to the cultural and musical influences that have shaped it over centuries. From the Moorish oud to the vihuela. Its sound and design are a reflection of this heritage.

The Nylon String Story

When it comes to Spanish guitars, the strings play a major role in defining their iconic sound. If you’re used to playing on steel strings, switching to one might feel like venturing into uncharted territory.

Spanish guitars typically use nylon strings, which produce a softer, warmer, and more mellow tone. At least when compared to the bright and punchy sound of steel strings.

These nylon strings were introduced around the mid-20th century. Replacing the gut strings that were used in the earlier versions of the instrument.

The change not only enhanced the durability and tuning stability of the strings, but also contributed significantly to the characteristic tones of the Spanish guitar.

Maintaining your strings is essential for their longevity and for ensuring the best sound quality. Regularly cleaning them with a soft cloth after playing can help remove oils and dirt, prolonging their life.

And remember, always listen to your guitar! It will tell you when it’s time for a string change. A loss of tonality, intonation issues, or visible wear are usually good indicators that your strings need a refresh.

A Spanish Guitar.

Spanish Guitar Sound

The sound of a Spanish guitar is rich, complex, and full of character. It’s a sound that captures the essence of Spain’s musical history and its cultural influences.

The tonal quality of this style is largely down to its construction and the materials used. As we touched on earlier, Spanish guitars traditionally use nylon strings. They contribute to a warmer and mellower sound compared to steel-string guitars.

The choice of wood also significantly impacts the guitar’s tonality. For instance, a spruce top guitar is known to deliver a bright, clear sound with plenty of volume. While a cedar top tends to provide a darker, more nuanced tone.

But it’s not just the materials or the build that shape the sound, it’s also the way you play it!

The wide neck and flat fingerboard of Spanish guitars are designed to facilitate intricate fingerpicking techniques, allowing the player to create rich sounds. From the stirring rhythms of flamenco to the intricate melodies of classical compositions.

The Flamenco Guitar

The world of Spanish guitars isn’t just limited to classical models. There’s another player on the scene that deserves our attention, the Flamenco guitar.

Bursting with fiery character and born to accompany the passionate rhythms of Flamenco music! This guitar adds another layer of depth to the Spanish instrument family.

When it comes to the number of strings, there’s no real difference between a classical guitar and a Flamenco. Both of them are equipped with six strings, just like the majority of guitars we’re familiar with.

But don’t be fooled by this similarity, because when we dig a bit deeper, the differences start to surface.

Flamenco guitars, while sharing a similar structure with classical models, are generally lighter and made with different woods like cypress and spruce.

This is to produce a brighter, more percussive sound. This aligns with the rhythmic and vibrant nature of Flamenco music.

The Flamenco guitar’s setup, including a lower action, is designed to facilitate rapid, flamboyant playing styles.

This setup does lead to some string buzzing, but within the context of Flamenco, it adds to the percussive character of the music rather than being seen as a fault.

While these two instruments are sisters, they each have their different personalities and roles within music!

Playing the Spanish Guitar

Strumming a Spanish guitar is more than just a musical endeavor! Playing a one is a deeply expressive experience.

In terms of techniques, they offer a playground for your fingers. Thanks to its wide neck and flat fingerboard, complex techniques become more accessible.

With classical music, this might mean delicately picked arpeggios and harmonics. If Flamenco is your style, fast, percussive strumming and finger tapping will be your go-to techniques.

The hallmark of Spanish guitar playing, regardless of the genre, is the expressiveness. It’s not just about hitting the right notes, it’s about feeling them.

Spanish guitar music is filled with dynamics, from whisper-quiet passages that draw listeners in, to powerful crescendos that can fill a room with sound.

The key here is to let the music flow from your heart through your fingers, letting each note you play be a reflection of emotion.

As you become more comfortable with your Spanish guitar, you may find yourself experimenting with different techniques, styles, and even creating your own music.

Famous Spanish Guitarists

When it comes to Spanish guitar, there are a few names that stand tall! Their contributions to the world of music, echoing through the strings of every strum.

Andrés Segovia

Let’s start with the legendary Andrés Segovia. Often hailed as the father of the modern classical guitar movement! Segovia elevated the Spanish guitar from a folk instrument to a vehicle for serious musical expression.

His interpretations of classical compositions have set the standard for generations of guitarists that followed.

Paco de Lucía

No conversation about Spanish guitar would be complete without mentioning the flamenco virtuoso Paco de Lucía. Famed for his lightning-fast picados (scales) and innovative rhythms, Paco’s music is a testament to the power and passion of flamenco.

His groundbreaking fusion of flamenco with other music genres brought the Spanish guitar to a broader audience.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Speaking of fusion, Rodrigo y Gabriela are a dynamic duo who’ve brought a new edge to Spanish guitar music.

Mixing flamenco with elements of rock and heavy metal, their high-energy performances have captivated audiences worldwide. Proving that Spanish guitar music can continually evolve and push boundaries.

These are just a few of the many guitarists who have left their mark on the world of music. They remind us that the Spanish guitar is not just an instrument, but a medium for expressing passion, emotion, and creativity.

Nylon Guitar Strings.

Spanish or Acoustic Guitar: Which to Choose?

We’ve all been there, standing in a guitar shop, lost in a sea of choices. Spanish or acoustic guitar? If you’ve found yourself stuck in this crossroads, you’re not alone.

While they may look somewhat similar to the untrained eye, the Spanish guitar and the acoustic are quite different creatures, each with its specific characteristics.

At first glance, one of the most noticeable differences is the strings. Spanish guitars typically use nylon strings, delivering that warm, mellow tone we’ve been exploring.

But most acoustic guitars use steel strings, which are known for their bright, loud, and clear sound.

Structurally, Spanish guitars have a wider neck and flat fingerboard, allowing for intricate finger-picking styles. Their bodies also tend to be smaller and lighter.

In contrast, acoustic guitars often have narrower necks and a curved fingerboard, designed for comfortable chord transitions and strumming styles. Their bodies are usually larger, contributing to their louder volume and fuller sound.

When it comes to tone and playing style, Spanish guitars shine in classical music and flamenco, where their warm tones and design allow for expressive fingerpicking techniques.

But, acoustic guitars are versatile workhorses that are at home in a variety of genres, from pop and rock to folk and country. All thanks to their bright, robust sound and adaptability.

Choosing between a Spanish and an acoustic guitar comes down to the kind of music you wish to play, your style, and the sound you’re after. Each has its charm and character, so it’s all about finding the one that resonates with you.


The Spanish guitar is a beautiful and versatile instrument with a rich history and sound. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musician, learning to play the one can open the doors to a world of musical possibilities.


Are Spanish guitars harder to play?

No, a Spanish guitar will be a bit easier to play than a regular acoustic. This is because the nylon strings are softer and the necks are wider. The combination of these factors creates an easier playing experience.

However, the technique of finger style playing is more difficult than strumming. So it really comes down to what style of music you are playing.

Does Spanish guitar use a pick?

Yes, you can play the Spanish or classical guitars with a pick. But this will mean that a conventional tuning will need to be used to form chords.

If you are a classical guitar purist, then finger picking will be the most frequently used method. It should also be mentioned that using a pick will wear the nylon quicker.

Do Spanish guitars have truss rods?

Not usually. Spanish guitar use Nylon strings, which do not apply enough tension to require them. The neck and body alone can handle the small amount of force applied by the strings.

What tuning does Spanish guitar use?

A Spanish guitar will normally use a standard tuning. This is E-A-D-G-B-E and is similar to a regular acoustic or electric guitar. But you can use any tuning you like, as long as you are not over tightening the strings.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!