also called a Spanish guitar, is a musical instrument from the family of
musical instruments called chordophones. This instrument is most
commonly used by classical guitarists playing classical music, but is
also used for folk music.
The history of the classical guitar and its
repertoire span over four centuries, including its ancestor the baroque
guitar. The popularity of the classical guitar has been sustained over
the years by many great players, arrangers, and composers.
By using the fingers to pluck instead of a
plectrum or bow, the performer can play polyphonic music. It is common
to encounter classical guitar music that sustains two, three, or four
musical lines or voices.
Using the right hand fingers to pluck the strings
requires more space between the strings over the sound hole which in
turn necessitates a fingerboard that is slightly wider than other
guitars. Classical guitarists hold the instrument by raising the left
leg (with a footstool), placing the guitar on that leg and holding the
guitar in place with the right arm. Alternatively the left foot can be
placed on the floor and a small support placed between the left leg and
the guitar. Either of these positions support the guitar in a way that
gives the player greater mobility and access to the strings and the
fingerboard. The right hand is a classical guitarist's voice similar to
that of a string player's bow. By using a combination of flesh and
fingernail to pluck the strings, a classical guitarist is able to
generate a wide variety of sounds.
The classical guitar's most characteristic
physical feature is the use of nylon strings (which have, largely,
supplanted the use of gut strings), although since the mid 1990s carbon
fiber or composite treble strings have gained popularity for their
nylon-like sound and significantly better reliability. Nylon strings
give the classical guitar a unique, varied and rich color palette. The
size and shape of the classical guitar have been nearly standard for
over 100 years. The finest guitars are built with a solid Western red
cedar or spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides, traditionally a
Spanish cedar or more recently a mahogany neck and an ebony fingerboard.