The flamenco guitar is a version of the classic one, a simbiosis between the dotted or moorish guitar and the strummed or castilian one. The flamenco one historically appears as the only musical accompaniment for the singers in the XIX century. The guitar is associated afterwards and its fussion with the gipsy songs started in 1850. In the XX century the guitar was fused with the flamenco songs in an innovative way, which favored the rise of this kind of shows and therefore reinforced the structure of "palos flamencos".
Regarding the ways of playing the flamenco guitar, its important to aknwoledge the posture and the technique, which differs from the performers of the classic version of this instrument. This last ones tend to put the guitar over the left leg in an inclined way, whereas the flamenco ones cross the legs and puts the guitar over the one that is elevated, placing the mast in an almost horizontal position.
Besides, it is important to highlight that the flamenco guitar is less heavy than the classic one, its box is more narrow and its sonority is lower so it doesn't overtake the singer's voice. However, the guitar is often made of cypress wood with a cedar handle and a fir tree top, which creates a very characteristic metallic and incisive sound. Aforetime it was also used the 'palo santo de Río', which gave the guitars a bigger sound and it was specially suitable for solo guitar touch. Nowadays, the most used pegbox was the metal one, since the wood one used to create tuning problems.
The tocaores use the techniques of alzapúa, picado, rasgueado and trémolo. The 'rasgueo' or strumming can be done using 5, 4 o 3 fingers, this last one was created by the master Sabicas. The use of hte thumbs is also very distinctive of the flamenco touch. The guitar players place the thumb in the harmonic lid and the index and middle fingers on the cords that are over the ones that are being played. This way the performer reaches a greater power and sonority than the classic guitarrist. Also the middle finger is placed in the pickguard to reach a better precission and strength when playing the cords. Besides, the use of the pickguard as a percussion element gives strength to the flamenco interpretation.
Some flamenco songs are interpreted without instruments, without guitar. Depending on the kind of performance its called in different ways:
- Airy touch: lively, rythmic, cheerful, brilliant sonority, almost metallic.
- Gipsy or flamenco touch: deep and with a pinch, uses preferably the bordones and musical setbacks
- Pastueño: slow and relaxed
- Sober touch: without ornaments or superflous brags
- Virtuous: with exceptional technique domain, it can risk falling into excessive force
- Short touch: poor in technique and expressive resources
- Cold touch: lack of depth and pinch
Some important guitarrists have been Antonio de Torres Jurad, considered the guitar's father, Manuel Ramírez de Galarreta, el Gran Ramírez and its pupil Santos Hernández. He, at the same time, built several guitars for the Sabicas master, main promoter of the flamenco internalization. Others that stand out too are Domingo Esteso, Modesto Borreguero or the Conde brothers, Faustino y Julio, nieces of the first one. And, of course, it have to be mention the genius Paco de Lucía, considered one of the main modern flamenco figures, since he is credited with the origin of the reform of the musical scene thanks to the fussion of new rythms like jazz, bossa nova and classical music.