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Can I Play Classical / Classical Style Music on a Flamenco Guitar?

I have been asked this question several times and so thought I would publish a summary of my answer here.

My simple answer is “yes – if you are happy with the sound then go ahead”. The guitars are very similar in specification so there are no insurmountable obstacles – 

  • 6 nylon / wound strings
  • typically 650mm scale length
  • same string spacing at nut and bridge

However there are significant if subtle differences that need to be taken into account – 

  • The string action is typically lower on a flamenco guitar
  • the bridge is typically lower too
  • the flamenco typically has back and sides made of cypress while the classical has indian rosewood
  • the internal bracing of the flamenco is different

Because of these differences in construction – 

The strings of a flamenco guitar will buzz against the upper frets when played loudly – so will those of a classical guitar but not until played much more loudly. The flamenco guitar is built for speed and it doesn’t matter that there is a bit of string/fret noise because the guitar is played in an environment where there is a lot of extraneous noise. The classical player by contrast wants the note to sound without this percussive noise and is prepared to play with higher action to achieve a purer tone at higher volumes.

The tone of a flamenco guitar is more “brittle” and the notes have less sustain than a classical guitar. The sound in each case is suited to certain styles of playing. Rapid runs and percussive strumming on the flamenco guitar and a greater variety of styles and tones on the classical guitar – often benefitting from longer sustain.

So while I would never discourage anyone from experimenting with different sounds and nor would I say “classical music can only be played on a classical guitar”, I would say that you may be frustrated playing classical on a flamenco guitar that you cannot achieve the range of tones and expressions that you have heard other players do. On the other hand, if you want to play flamenco, you may well be frustrated on a classical guitar that you cannot get the speed you need nor the ease of percussive strokes on the soundboard with the right hand.

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