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Noyce Guitars
Mount Clear
Ballarat, Victoria
Australia, 3350

Choosing a guitar (3)

How to find the right guitar Pt 3. ©Ian Noyce 1997

Classic and Flamenco Guitars.
The modern classic and flamenco guitar can both be attributed to Antonio de Torres Jurado. Torres work in the 1850s refined and stabilised the instruments in the form we see them today. Although I believe the number of flamenco players in Australia would be the smallest grouping of the guitar player family, this guitar makes a fascinating contrast with the classic guitar (sometimes referred to as the Spanish guitar).

The classic guitar is typically built with Rosewood back and sides whereas the flamenco is constructed of Spanish cypress, a lighter, blonde and more closed grain material than rosewood, allowing it to be worked down to thinner dimensions (about 2mm.). Thus the major difference between these two guitars is the lightness of construction of the flamenco guitar. This produces a more percussive, more explosive and brasher sound than the classic. The energy the player imparts to the string is used to produce a bright, percussive sound with less sustain than the classic(you can't have it all in the one guitar).

As the flamenco guitar is somewhat lighter than the classic most still use friction pegs to maintain the balance of the instrument. The action on a flamenco is typically lower, allowing the player to execute rapid melodic phrases more readily, perhaps with a bit more tolerance for a little percussive fret rattle.

In choosing a classic or flamenco guitar we have the full range from the cheapest to the most expensive guitars made. Classics are cheaper to make at the low end than steel strings, due to the much lower string tensions involved, and at the other extreme perhaps involve greater finesse than steel string construction amongst the top individual makers. Greg Smallman, the famed Australian classic maker told me many years ago that he aimed to secure an order from John Williams. Some years later as I was working in the garden some 70 metres from the house, I heard John Williams playing on the TV. (an Australia Day Opera house concert). I immediately realised that Smallman had done it! From a 50mm speaker at 70 paces the Smallman sound was still unmistakable!

The cheapest classics start at under a $100.00 and solid top models start at around $300.00. Completely solid construction starts at about $700.00 and extends up to the $10,000.00 mark from the worlds best makers. For my money I'd buy a $3-400.00 solid top first and wouldn't trade up until I was ready to spend around a $1000.00 for an all solid wood guitar. After that, you're on your own!

In comparing guitars in a similar price range, apart from the obvious personal preferences for the look and feel of the instruments, test them for dynamic differences- see which one responds best to light and heavy playing and which one covers the range of response you want in your playing, and trust your own feelings and judgement.


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