Classical Vs Spanish Guitar Differences [Guitar Tutor Explains]

When I first started playing guitar over 15 years ago, I knew that I really liked the Spanish type sound, but also found there is a bit of overlap with classical music. 

There are also many different kinds of guitars. Many people also called a classical guitar a Spanish guitar. So, today I thought I’d explain the differences between a classical guitar and a Spanish guitar.

A Spanish guitar is the same as a classical guitar. The shape, layout of the fretboard, number of strings, type of strings, and size of the guitar are identical. However, a Spanish guitar is technically made in Spain. Whereas, a classical guitar is made in any part of the world.

There is also what is called a flamenco guitar. And flamenco guitar and flamenco music has its origins in Spain. A flamenco guitar is very different to classical or Spanish guitar. 

So, below I will explain why Spanish guitars and classical guitar are virtually exactly the same, why it’s called a Spanish guitar, and the major differences between a flamenco guitar and a classical/Spanish guitar.

What Is the Difference Between a Classical Guitar and a Spanish Guitar?

The main difference is where the guitar is made. Classical guitars can be made anywhere, whereas, Spanish guitars are only made in Spain. In everyday speech people will often use the world Spanish guitar for a classical guitar. And say classical guitar for a Spanish guitar.

This is because in every aspect they are identical. Here’s a list of the aspects that are the same between both guitars.

Aspects of Spanish and classical guitar that are exactly the same:

  • Size – length, width and height
  • Number of frets – 19 frets
  • Number of strings – 6 strings
  • Type of strings – nylon strings
  • Construction – solid wood construction
  • Size of the neck, and fretboard – exactly the same

Therefore, by all accounts they are identical, and if you put a Spanish guitar next to a classical guitar you would not be able to tell the difference.

Spain has a long history of guitar making and guitar playing

Spain has a long history of guitar making and guitar playing. This stems from its proximity to countries such as France, and Italy where many of the world’s most famous classical guitar composers and players are from. 

And Spain itself has some of the most famous and well known guitarists. For example, Andres Segovia is considered to be one of the best classical guitar players, and he was born and raised Linares, Spain.

You may have noticed that Andres Segovia has relatively chubby fingers, and his fingers are not particularly long. 

Many people wonder if hand size effects your ability to play the guitar. I explained the answer to that question in this article that explains if long fingers are better for guitar.

Because of this long history guitar makers have refined the techniques to make guitars, and produce extremely high quality guitars. 

There are aspects of guitars that differ by guitar maker, which in turn change the resonance and sound quality of a guitar. These include the type of wood, how the guitar is put together, how the individual pieces are crafted, and the varnish used to finish them.

There are also various techniques for preparing the wood, and crafting the guitar that have been passed down over the generations. And have been honed to a fine art by Spanish guitar makers. 

For example, some guitar makers will age the wood for 30 years before using it to make a guitar. 

This has a dramatic effect, and produces a unique and nice tone to the guitar. 

Whereas, guitar made outside of Spain don’t necessarily have the same quality of craftsmanship. However, it does vary from guitar maker to guitar aker.

A guitar maker is known as a luthier. Which is a person who crafts guitars and other stringed instruments. 

There are many well known families who have been making guitars for many years. And are considered the gold standard of guitars. Such as, Valeriano Bernal, who make both classical and flamenco guitars.

Which leads to another important question which is whether a flamenco guitar is the same as a Spanish guitar and classical guitar.

Are Flamenco and Classical Guitars the Same

Flamenco guitars and classical guitars look almost identical. And I’ve played a lot of flamenco and classical music over the years. 

During that time I learned the difference between flamenco and classical guitars and here’s whether they’re the same or not.

Flamenco and classical guitars are not the same. However, the shape of both is virtually identical. The major differences are the weight, type of wood used, height of the strings, sound, volume, and the thickness of the body.

A flamenco guitar is made from different wood, which is lighter, and so a flamenco guitar is about 25% lighter than a classical guitar. The thickness of the body is less on the flamenco guitar as well. Which means is made of less wood, and also makes it lighter.

The thickness is the distance from the back of the guitar that rests on your abdomen as your play, to the front of the guitar where you play it.

The strings of a classical guitar are about twice as far from the body of the guitar as a flamenco guitar. This is desirable for a flamenco guitar because it makes it far easier to play very fast. 

The sound quality is very different, a flamenco guitar is MUCH louder than a classical guitar. In flamenco guitar the buzz effect you get from the strings is actually desirable. 

Whereas, in classical guitar you don’t want to hear any buzz at all. 

The buzz occurs much more easily on a flamenco guitar because the strings are much closer to the fretboard and body of the guitar.

Here’s a short video where some of the major differences are explained so you can see and hear them:

Is a Classical Guitar Easier To Play?

There are classical, electric and steel string acoustic guitars. So, you may be wondering if one is easier to play than another. I did a survey of guitarists and here’s what I found.

Overall, classical guitars are not easier to play. A survey of 73 guitarists found that the vast majority 80.88% said that electric guitar is the easiest type of guitar to play. 14.71% said classical guitar. Whereas, only 4.41% said that acoustic steel string is the easiest to play.

Therefore, classical guitar is the second easiest type of guitar to play. There are also different genres of music. For example, you can play jazz on a classical guitar, as well as, as the other two types of guitar. I explained what genre of guitar is easiest to play in this article about whether rock guitar is hard to learn.

In that article I surveyed 111 guitarists and asked them to vote for the style of guitar they thought is the hardest, and presented the statistics.

Is a Spanish Guitar the Same as a Classical Guitar?

A Spanish guitar looks like a classical guitar. But, because guitars have many different components, it’s easy for one to be slightly different to the other. So, I thought I’d explain whether they’re the same.

As a general rule, a classical guitar is the same as a Spanish guitar. A classical guitar and Spanish guitar have the exact same dimensions. The main difference is where the guitar is made. Also, a flamenco guitar is very different to a classical guitar or Spanish guitar.   

In everyday speech people often say Spanish guitar to mean a classical guitar. And also call a classical guitar a Spanish guitar. But, in every aspect they are identical. The main difference is that that a Spanish guitar is made in Spain. Whereas, a classical guitar can be made in any part of the world.

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