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The History Of The Classical Guitar

Updated on March 2, 2015

Francisco Tarrega


The Modern Classical Guitar

Although the Guitar is one of the oldest instruments (there are hieroglyphs of Ancient Egyptians playing an instrument that bears a striking resemblance to the modern Classical or Spanish guitar the Classical guitar as we know it was first introduced by Antonio de Torres Jurado (13 June 1817 - 19 November 1892). Who was a luthier working out of Seville and he perfected the symmetrical fan bracing that is common in the best made Classical Guitars. He was the first to realize that the sound projected from the front board of the guitar and not the back and sides. To illustrate his point he is said to have made a guitar with papier mache back and sides which proved to be quite playable! His most famous customer was Francisco Tarrega.

This idea of fan bracing was further developed by the family of Jose Ramirez and Jose Ramirez III added a fan, which is a baffle running around the center of the guitar when looking from front to back, this helps eliminate some of the undesirable overtones and further adds to the instruments projection. From Jose Ramirez I to the present day under Alamira Ramirez`s direction Ramirez guitars have been the dominant force (for 5 generations). Their most notable customers are Andres Segovia, Narcisco Yepes and Jose Tomas. The Ramirez guitars are even larger and use an asymmetrical fan to attain even greater projection than those of Torres.

The picture is of the monument to Francisco Tarrega playing his Torres guitar courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Guitar Segovia Played

Ramirez 1a Segovia`s Ramirez
Ramirez 1a Segovia`s Ramirez

Prior To The Modern Classical Guitar and The Flamenco Guitar

Prior to the modern Classical Guitar there were many similar stringed instruments and these varied in size and shape, most of them achieving far less projection than the modern Classical Guitar. The Flamenco guitar is an interesting offshoot from the Classical or Spanish Guitar as it is also known. The Flamenco and its exquisite dance and costumes actually developed amongst the poorer classes who could not afford the concert guitars of Torres and Ramirez et al.

The Flamenco guitars have a thinner front board and use balsa bracing instead of spruce as in the finer guitars and were cheaper to make. This is now no longer necessarily the case, the flamenco guitar also often had a plastic face cover as the player strikes the face with his nails as part of the percussion whilst playing. The biggest difference was in the quality of the woods used to make the guitars. The Classical or Concert guitars are always made from the finest hand selected woods.

Usually Spruce, Cedar, Rosewood, Ebony etc. and the flamenco guitars often made by the same luthiers would use the cheaper woods or rejects from the concert guitars. This is now no longer the case due to the popularity of flamenco, but the guitars are still lighter in the face plate and have a distinctly different sound.

So depending on your viewpoint the guitar as we know it is a relatively modern instrument from the late 19th century, or it could be as old as several hundred if not thousand years BC if the Ancient Eqyptian instrument was one of its forbears, of course there have been many variants and similar instruments such as the Lute of early England the French guittara the balalaika the zither and others too numerous to mention.

The instruments that are my favourites are the modern Classical Guitars of the Ramirez family.

The picture is of the 1a Ramirez Concert Guitar as used by Segovia. Picture from plans for sale on Amazon.

The Ramirez Collection

For anyone interested in Classical Guitar this is a must read the Ramirez family have been the dominant force in the development and refinement of the modern instrument known as the concert Classical Guitar. This was no doubt greatly helped by the fame of some of their customers. Andres Segovia, George Harrison, etc.

Great Guitars And Books On Amazon

The Ramirez Collection: History and Romance of the Spanish Guitar
The Ramirez Collection: History and Romance of the Spanish Guitar

This book gives the history and development of the Spanish Guitar , which owes no small part to the Ramirez family


Jose Ramirez III's Things About Guitars

Jose Ramirez III was probably the Worlds greatest luthier and in this book he discusses the things he learned about guitars in all the years he spent making them. This is a must read for the serious classical guitar enthusiast.

Things About the Guitar
Things About the Guitar

This is the book by Jose Ramirez III who was probably the best luthier in the Ramirez family to date.


Ramirez Flamenco Guitars

As stated earlier the Flamenco Guitar is actually a different instrument than the Classical (Spanish) Guitar. It has a balsa support which makes the instrument lighter for carrying around. Flamenco Guitarists tend to walk about as they play.

Ramirez FL2 Flamenco Nylon String Acoustic Guitar
Ramirez FL2 Flamenco Nylon String Acoustic Guitar

For the Flamenco enthusiasts Ramirez also make very fine flamenco guitars.


Ramirez Student Guitars

Especially for students who do not know if they will develop to become great guitarists Ramirez have a student range, which is much cheaper than their concert grade guitars. These are probably no longer made in Spain, most makers use China now for their cheaper models.

Ramirez S1 Classical Guitar
Ramirez S1 Classical Guitar

For the student guitarist there is the Ramirez student range guitars still excellent value, but way more affordable.


You Can Save By Buying a Great Guitar on eBay

Always fun for those that like the thrill of an auction eBay often has great guitars such as the Ramirez on offer for great prices. Just make sure you know what the price range should be before you bid (i.e. watch a few auctions to completion first) after that make a fair but low bid and set your limit before going in so you know when to stop.

One Of The Best Value Guitars Available

To celebrate their 130 year anniversary Ramirez made 130 commemorative guitars with a rosette that remembers the Japanese Tsunami victims, an event which coincided with their anniversary year. This will be an appreciating collectors item as well as one of the Worlds finest guitars.

My Personal Favourite Guitar From Amazon

Jose Ramirez 130 Anos SP/IN Classical Guitar
Jose Ramirez 130 Anos SP/IN Classical Guitar

This guitar is the anniversary model and only 130 will be made. It is great value as the wood was specially hand selected by Alamira Ramirez. Your chance to own a great guitar at a very reasonable price!


Test Your Guitar Knowledge

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Place To Have Your Say About Classical Guitars

Submit a Comment

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    I agree totally, of course a lot depends on the technique of the player. I really think Classical is the best place for any player to start though as they will gain that ability to be so expressive.

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 

    4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Classical guitars produce the most beautiful music I have ever heard. I just love listening to it. As if it is more able to express deeper emotions.

  • travel_man1971 profile image

    Ireno Alcala 

    4 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

    I've seen that monument in Algeciras, Spain near the Las Palmas Church, just a stone's throw away from Malaga Beach where Antonio Banderas owns one of the bar-hubs there. :)

    Note: Well, I don't know if HP staff can recover it. I concentrated on HubPages than in Squidoo.

    Then, a merger happened. I might as try writing at the latter site this year.

  • Dressage Husband profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen J Parkin 

    4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

    The old module below lost all of its comments. I am hoping HO analysts can recover it?


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