A classical guitar, also called a Spanish guitar, is a musical instrument from the guitar family.
The classical guitar is distinguished by a number of features.
- It is an instrument. The sound is amplified by a sound box.
- It has six strings. A few classical guitars have eight or more strings to expand the bass scale, allowing lute music written for lutes with more than six courses of strings to be played.
- The strings are made from catgut (made from sheep intestine, despite the name), or much more commonly these days nylon, as opposed to the metal strings found in some other forms of guitar. These strings have a much lower tension than steel strings. The lower three strings ('bass strings') are wound with metal, commonly silver or bronze. Some less common stringings use a fourth wound string.
- Because of the low tension of the strings the neck can be made entirely of wood, not requiring a steel truss rod.
- The neck tends to be broader than with steel string guitars, making more complex work easier, but requiring a left hand position which ultimately makes the guitar less stable to hold.
- The strings are usually plucked with the fingers. Serious players shape their fingernails so that they contact the string in a certain way to achieve the desired tone. A collection of fine classical and flamenco guitars can be seen at the the Classical Guitar Museum http://www.granary-guitars.com
- Traditionally, the tuning pegs (or "keys") at the head the fingerboard of a classical guitar point backwards (towards the player when the guitar is in playing position). This is in contrast to a traditional steel-string guitar design, in which the tuning pegs point outward (up and down from playing position).
Classical guitars are normally played without amplification of any sort but they can be equipped with an electronic pickup, which is sometimes used by performers in noisy environments. Either a piezoelectric pickup is placed under the bridge, or a microphone is suspended within the body.
The first 'Golden Age' of the classical guitar repertoire was the 19th century. Some notable guitar composers from this period are:
Guitarist-composers of the 20th century include:
In the 20th century, many non-guitarist composers wrote for the instrument, which previously only players of the instrument had done. These include:
Guitarists also often play transcriptions of music originally written for other instruments. Lute transcriptions from the Renaissance and Baroque eras are common.
Some players of the classical guitar:
- Book on Amazon.com: The Classical Guitar: A complete history (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0879307250)