Lessons and info for the nylon string guitarist

Choosing a guitar

What type of guitar is best for a beginner who wants to learn flamenco. Although classical guitars look
basically the same, there are differences which should be taken into account when choosing a suitable
guitar for learning flamenco.

Do you need a special type of guitar?
The simple answer is No! For a beginner, any
(nylon stringed) classical guitar will do the job.

Having said that, there are 2 points of confusion that are worth mentioning. They may seem obvious to most
people, but I’m here to tell you they are not obvious to everyone.

1) Any guitar with steel strings on it is NOT suitable. There was a time when certain styles of Country and
Western and jazz guitars were advertised as “Spanish guitars” for some unknown reason. (I think because
they have roughly the same shape as a classical / flamenco guitar). If you look hard enough you may even
find a few books of the 1920’s , 30’s, and 40’s which have plectrum style music for these “Spanish
guitars”. The equation seems to be: Flamenco = Spanish music = let’s play it on my grandpa’s Spanish
guitar. Now where did he put those plectrums? Or something like that.

2) Another common misconception is that the bass strings on a classical guitar are steel. On the outside
they look the same as their steel brothers but that’s where the similarity ends. Classical guitar bass
strings have many fine strands of nylon woven together inside the copper winding. If you look closely you
will see these strands poking out of the end of the string.

Things to consider
1) The action needs to fairly low without producing excessive string

2) A solid wood top produces a better tone than a factory laminated wood

3) A tapping plate (golpador) needs to be attached on the top of the
guitar. Genuine flamenco instruments already have these but any decent guitar repair shop or Luthier can
stick one on for you. Right hand tapping techniques can certainly damage the guitar if this protection is
not there.

4) Flamenco guitars are generally lighter in construction. I personally
don’t like heavy guitars. For me a guitar must feel comfortable and “user friendly”. Heavy wood guitars
like some classical guitars don’t do it for me.

5) When I was learning I bought cheap guitars only. Mainly because I could
not afford to pay $500 or more for a expensive hand made guitar by a respected luthier. That doesn’t mean a
second hand non-flamenco factory made guitar is no good. For example, I think Yamaha makes good beginner
classical guitars that are more than suitable for learning flamenco with an attached golpe plate. I was
pretty rough on my guitars so I never got precious about an instrument. When my guitar needed replacing, I
just visited the local second hand guitar shop and spend an hour trying out different classical style
guitars. A guitar does not have to be expensive; it just needs to “speak to me”. What I mean is that it
needs to feel comfortable and have a strong tone.

6) One consideration that I think is important is whether the strings
maintain good tone even if they are fairly worn. This has more to do with the guitar than the strings
themselves. That’s why trying old guitars in a second hand shop is a good idea if you just want a cheap
beginners instrument. I would try those with worn strings first. The problem is that many guitars sound all
terrific and sparkly with band new shiny strings but quickly lose their tone after a few days.

Useless information department
The world’s smallest guitar is the nano guitar created in 1997 by a professor at Cornell University to demonstrate new
technologies that could be used in electronics and fiber optics. The nano guitar is 10 micrometers long
(about the length of a human cell), and has 6 strings that are 50 nanometers (one-billionth of a meter)
wide. If plucked, the guitar makes a sound which would be audible if you were a nano human 15 microns
tall. Normal humans however, can’t hear a damn thing.

Nano guitar - The world's smallest guitar

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