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CLASSICAL GUITARS

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The Classical Guitar

The terms classical guitar, concert guitar, master guitar, or Spanish guitar are different names for the same instrument. However, classical guitars are played with nylon strings or gut strings, whereas acoustic or Western guitars are played with steel strings. Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) is regarded as the pioneer of modern guitar building. He is regarded as the decisive pioneer of modern guitar building. His instruments became the starting point for the development of classical guitars in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The revolutionary significance of Antonio de Torres’ guitar creation lies in its size. Since the body of the current six-string guitar requires a larger volume, he enlarged the back and sides and designed at least five different top shapes to fit his guitar. Compared to production colleagues, almost all of these shapes have a larger range. Although Torres’ guitars are larger, he tries to keep the guitar’s weight as low as possible. With skinny boards, the cut at the thickest point is only 2.5 mm. To consider the fact that the top can withstand the string tension despite its lightweight and thin thickness, he used a fan bracing instead of the previous horizontal bars. This strengthens the top and distributes the vibration to the surface.
The scale, i.e., the length of the freely vibrating string, was adjusted to 65 cm, and the neck is assembled from several separate parts to prevent warping. Torres widened the fingerboard to give more room for the fingers of his left hand. To tune the guitar, he used a more accessible mechanic tuners instead of wooden pegs. The classical guitar is mainly used in classical music (especially chamber music), folk music, Latin American music, and flamenco dance.

The guitar head

At the end of the neck is usually the head or head plate, to which one end of the strings is attached to the rotating tuning pegs. Using the tuning mechanism (pegs) used since the 19th century, the strings are stretched and tuned by regulating the tension. The necessary pressure of the strings on the nut is created by angling the head plate relative to the neck or by suitable auxiliary measures such as string hold-downs or “staggered” tuning machines (pegs that become lower towards the end of the head plate).

The most common designs of headstocks include the window headstock (which is standard on classical concert guitars) and the solid headstock, which is mostly used on steel-stringed instruments or historical instruments and occasionally on flamenco guitars.

Many electric guitars have clamp saddles, where the strings are locked to the saddle to provide better tuning stability in conjunction with vibrato systems. There are also outright headless guitars (headless design, popularized in the early 1980s by Ned Steinberger). In both cases, the pegs are supplemented or replaced by tuning machines at the bridge. That is, the actual tuning function moves to the other string end on the body.

The guitar neck

A guitar has a neck over which strings are strung between the nut (on the head) and the bridge (on the body). The string gauge varies depending on the tuning and scale length. Since the guitar, a so-called crossbar instrument, consists of the body and a neck clearly separated. It is counted (in contrast to the simple chordophones such as the zithers) to the composite chordophones.

On today’s guitars, the neck is usually not made of a single piece but of several pieces of wood glued together crosswise and an attached fingerboard over which the strings run. This construction offers advantages for the dimensional stability of the neck (in case of drying out). Through the choice of different woods for the neck and fingerboard, the possibility of selectively influencing the neck and neck guitar’s sound and playability.

On classical guitars with gut or synthetic strings, a simple solid wooden neck has sufficient stability to withstand the pull of the strings without distracting deformation. However, many instruments with steel strings, especially acoustic guitars, steel guitars, electric guitars, and especially electric basses, have an adjustable truss rod embedded in the neck. This lies approximately in the middle of the neck in a curved channel and causes a pre-tensioning of the neck against the string tension.

Typical guitars have frets on the fingerboard. This helps shortens the string with pinpoint accuracy when picked to produce a specific tone when struck. Each fret generally corresponds to a (“tempered”) semitone step. There are usually markings on the neck at some fret positions (especially at the 5th, 7th, and 9th frets). Originally the frets were made of gut (gut strings tied around the neck) until the 18th century; later, they were also made of ivory or silver. Modern guitar frets are usually made of nickel silver (as fret wire). Frets made of solid materials (unlike gut frets) are hammered immovably into the fingerboard. This design does not actually allow intermediate tones to be created. However, with appropriate playing techniques such as bending, bottleneck (or slide), this is also possible.

The neck varies depending on the type of guitar. Classical guitars tend to have a wide and flat-arched neck, steel-string guitars tend to have narrow and almost semi-circular necks and arched fingerboards.

At the beginning of the fingerboard is the saddle. The most common saddles are made of plastic or bone. They are either set into a groove milled into the fingerboard or glued to the end of the fingerboard. Plastic saddles are manufactured industrially and are therefore less expensive. In bone saddles, a distinction is made between two different materials: boiled and almost white-bleached bone saddles and so-called fat saddles, which are made of non-boiled, unbleached bovine bone. The latter provides lubrication in the saddle notches due to the fat remaining in the bone, making it more difficult for the strings to jam. Due to their naturalness, fat saddles have a slightly yellowish color. Due to good workability and lubricating properties, various plastic-graphite blends are also used to make guitar saddles. The fingerboard ends on the top, usually ending with the soundhole. Some instruments have “floating” fingerboards that do not rest on the soundboard or rest only partially on it. Usually, such instruments are made with a fingerboard wedge, which allows a better playing angle for the player.

The guitar body

The body varies greatly depending on the design of the guitar. On acoustic instruments (as opposed to electric), it usually consists of a light, waisted wooden soundbox consisting of back, sides, and top. A purfling is inserted into the edge between the sides and top. The soundboard has a mostly circular soundhole, which was decorated with a rosette until the 18th century. As with the violins – in contrast to the viola da gamba and the double bass, for example – the guitar’s shoulders do not curve into the neck but at approximately a right angle. However, there are numerous other designs, especially in electric guitars, such as semi-resonant guitars and solid-body guitars (without a hollow body).

The bridge is located on the body. The other end of the strings is attached to this crossbar, which is glued to the soundboard in acoustic guitars or – usually in the case of electric guitars – to a tailpiece below it. For the bridge, too, there are numerous different designs with different adjustment possibilities for string position, an exact scale length of individual strings, or even special functions (for example, tremolo lever – actually vibrato). Flamenco guitars have thinner tops, backs, and sides, are lighter overall, and often have a flatter construction. Back and sides are usually made of very light wood. An intermediate position between the traditional flamenco guitar with backs and sides made of cypress (Flamenca Blanca or Guitarra Blanca) and the classical guitar is occupied by the Flamenca Negra or Guitarra Negra, whose backs and sides are made of rosewood, because of the woods used. Originally for cost reasons, but today more for tradition and weight, some flamenco guitar makers do not use threaded tuners and instead use wooden pegs, as are common on violins and found on pegboards of pegboards guitars from the Viennese Classical period.

The flamenco guitar sounds stronger in the upper registers, responding quickly and decaying quickly. This supports the hard and brilliant character of flamenco playing, which must hold its own against the other percussive elements of this music and the dancers. The string action is traditionally rather low, which creates quite desirable percussive noise. However, since flamenco guitarists today often maintain a concert style, a higher string action is sometimes required. Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) is considered the first builder of special flamenco guitars (around 1867). Especially flamenco guitars are often equipped with a golpeador, a thin, mostly transparent, formerly often white or black glued-on plastic layer. It surrounds the soundhole from three sides to the bridge and is intended to protect the guitar top from damage, especially when using the percussive technique. A golpeador can also be retrofitted to a guitar.

The Classical Guitar – Which wood is right for me and my sound ideal?

The choice of wood, especially for the top, the workmanship by the manufacturer, and the varnish are decisive for the sound characteristics and the quality of a classical concert guitar. For very high-quality instruments, mainly spruce or cedarwood with fine, evenly distributed, and narrow annual rings is used for the top. Other types of wood are also used, depending on the sound. The cedar wood produces a somewhat warmer timbre with complex overtones. The mahogany wood sounds warmer and slightly less rich in overtones than the spruce. So the choice of top wood is a matter of specific tonal preferences. Mahogany, rosewood, cedar, or even maple are used for the sides, top and back. The neck is usually made of Cedrela, mahogany, or another wood like rosewood, cedar, or maple. The preferred wood for the fingerboard is rosewood, less often ebony. Walnut, Indian laurel, and Micarta are also increasingly used for fingerboards, not least because rosewood has been included in CITES Appendix Two for species-protected woods since February 2017.

Back and sides of a classical guitar

About 30% of the total resonance volume is determined by choice of sides and backs on classical guitars. As a rule, mahogany, rosewood, and maple are used. With its very high wood density, Rosewood provides a very balanced sound when combined with a spruce top. In contrast, the same model with mahogany sides and back has a much warmer sound in the basses and mids, but less brilliance in the trebles. The maple sides and back provide an obvious sound with a direct response.

The top wood of classical guitars

Two types of top woods distinguish classical Guitars, each of which produces a different sound from the ground up. The widely used spruce top sounds brighter and more brilliant in the higher frequencies. It requires considerably more playing time to develop a fuller overtone spectrum than the much darker-sounding cedar top. The cedar top resonates much more voluminously and warmly than the spruce, but will not develop this clear brilliance in the trebles even after longer playing.

Do I need a pickup?

The installation of a pickup incurs additional costs in production, which are also reflected in the sales price. In the entry-level and mid-range segment of classical guitars, there are quite simple piezo pickups that are wonderful to use on stage because they have relatively little feedback. However, the body’s body resonance is hardly carried along because a piezo pickup is mounted under the bridge and thus transmits only the direct string vibration. The top pickups and the condenser mics in the body sound much warmer, more lifelike, and dynamic. These pickups are more likely to be found in the premium segment of classical guitars and are also ideal for direct recording in the recording studio. However, the aforementioned technology is also much more susceptible to feedback, since both the condenser microphone and the overhead pickup also transmit the body resonance. This problem is often countered with so-called built-in emergency filters, phase switches, or compressors. Modern pickups are usually connected to an active preamplifier, which boosts the rather weak output signal of the pickup and is often equipped with a built-in tuner and equalizer for individual sound control.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a cutaway?

The cutaway is a recess on the lower part of the body of a classical or acoustic guitar body and allows for more relaxed playing in the higher registers. Since the cutaway cuts out a small part of the sound body, it loses some acoustic resonance compared to a body without a cutaway. Basically, there are two different model forms of the cutaway. The pointed cutaway is called the Florentine cutaway, and the rounded cutaway is called the Venetian cutaway. The two cutaway shapes can be found in both, steel-string guitars and classical guitars.

The Classical Guitar as a beginner guitar

A Classical Guitar is a perfect introduction to guitar playing, as the much softer nylon strings are much easier for beginners to grip than the thin and stiff steel strings of an acoustic guitar or electric guitar. Classical guitars also come in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 4/4, and 7/8 sizes, so even the youngest players can find a comfortable and ergonomic instrument.

Why buy a classical guitar at Siccas Guitars?

At Siccas Guitars, all guitars are thoroughly checked and adjusted by our team of experts to ensure you get unlimited enjoyment from day one with your guitar. You can also have your guitar customized with us, and our luthier is ready to assist you! Due to the worldwide demand for top-quality instruments, many instruments are sold all over the world via the website. Unlike many other dealers, Siccas Guitars focuses on high-quality and rare guitars, e.g. of Hermann Hauser I, Hermann Hauser II, Hermann Hauser III, Daniel Friederich, José Ramirez, Paulino Bernabé, Santos Hernandez, Domingo Esteso, Enrique Garcia, which are presented on www.siccasguitars.com and via social media channels. The customer can watch lovingly produced videos on Youtube and the website. Videos of masterful musicians such as Ana Vidovic, Tatyana Ryzhkova, Isabella Selder, Julia Trintschuk, Stephanie Jones, Cyprien N’tsaï, Alexandra Whittingham, Carlotta Dalia, Julia Lange, Judith Bunk, Roman Viazovskiy, Valeria Galimova, Natalia Lipnitskaya, Edson Lopes, and many more are presented here. Siccas Guitars specializes in selling and buysing classical guitars, acoustic guitars, and historical guitars from around the world. In addition, we carry a large assortment of concert and student guitars from, e.g., Hanika, Duke, Raimundo, Altamira, and many more, to optimally equip young talents and hobby musicians. Together with their customers, we want to develop new ideas further and share experiences.

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