Flamenco guitarists: The best guitarists in flamenco history
The Spanish guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments, and the best flamenco guitarists are recognized for their talent all over the world. Who does not love the sound of Paco de Lucia, Tomatito, Sabicas, Vicente Amigo, among so many other famous Spanish guitarists who have, in many ways, influenced the history of such a beautiful instrument.
On this occasion, we will select what we consider to be the best guitarists in the history of flamenco. These lists often leave many people dissatisfied, because they exclude musicians who are considered more relevant, or include others who may not be as important to some people. That is why, in Culturasonora, we try to be as objective as possible, using some selection criteria that we believe must be met for a musician to be considered one of the best Spanish guitarists of the genre.
In order to be faithful to our commitment to objectivity, we have based our selection on three criteria that will make it possible to make the fairest possible selection. These criteria are : musical contribution, historical contribution and technical mastery.
This aspect has two angles. One of them is legacy in terms of the evolution of flamenco, and the new ways of interpreting it through harmonic evolution. The other angle refers to their contribution to making it universal, and guaranteeing its continuity through the promotion of competitions, teaching institutions or the projection of new talents.
It refers to the mark they have left on the world as flamenco guitarists and how flamenco is increasingly present in the musical culture of the world.
It is simply the level of control these musicians have over the technique of the flamenco guitar: the mastery of the alzapúas, the picados, the tremolo, the chords, rasgueos and the general caliber of the technique.
Best flamenco guitarists in the world:
- Paco de Lucía
- Ricardo Child
- Manolo Sanlúcar
- Victor Monge Serranito
- Ramon Montoya
- Niño Miguel
- Rafael Riqueni
- Vicente Amigo
- Gerardo Nuñez
Paco de Lucía
It is unquestionable that Francisco Sánchez Gómez, immortalized as Paco de Lucía, is one of the best flamenco guitarists of all time. We think everyone would agree with our saying he was the best.
His great friendship and guitar accompaniment to the great Camarón de la Isla is one of the great historical legacies he has left us. Likewise, throughout his life he was in charge of promoting performers such as El Niño Josele, among others.
His pieces received countless awards, such as Latin Grammys, and many other national awards, such as the Prince of Asturias of the Arts. He also received two Honoris Causa from the University of Cadiz and the Berklee College of Music. Thanks to his work, flamenco was universalized as never before, largely due to his collaborations with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.
His technique is impeccable throughout. So much so, that on one occasion Sabicas himself praised him for his dexterity, while Paco de Lucia was still young.
Guitars used by Paco de Lucia
There were many others, but these were his great companions :
- Felipe Conde FC 28: Made of Madagascar rosewood, cedar and ebony. This was the one he used most in public and, according to him, the most hated and best lover.
- Mariano and Faustino Conde : It was his first guitar, and was made of Spanish cypress, German spruce, ebony, cedar and wooden pegs.
It can be said that Sabicas shares, together with Paco de Lucía, the first place among the best flamenco guitarists in the world. His real name is Agustín Castellón Campos and he was born on March 16th, 1912 in Pamplona.
Sabicas' contribution to the history of flamenco guitar is enormous. He experimented with and expanded harmonic forms, but he was also the first guitarist to export flamenco to the rest of the world.
From jazz to flamenco rock, Sabicas did everything we can imagine musically. Regarding his technical contribution, he was the creator of the alzapúas on one string and the three-finger strumming.
A further contribution of his to the history and internationalization of the genre, was having Paco de Lucía as one of his students, and it was thanks to Sabicas’ influence that the world was able to get to know this guitar genius.
Guitars used by Sabicas
- Lester Devoe 1982 : It was the guitar most appreciated by maestro Sabicas.
- Santos Hernandez : With cypress wood body and cedar top.
- José Ramirez 1-A : Made of cypress.
Manuel Serrapí Sánchez, better known as “El Niño Ricardo”, was born on July 11th, 1904. His contributions to flamenco were mainly in the area of composition, as he expanded in many ways what was known up to that time as falseta.
His innovative harmonic lines opened up an unimaginable field for the flamenco singers of those years. He was also the teacher of other great Spanish guitarists such as Paco de Lucía and Monge Serranito.
He shared international stages with Sabicas and la Niña de los Peines, among others. The ‘Niño Ricardo’ International Flamenco Guitar Competition was created in his honor.
Guitars used by Niño Ricardo
He had many others, but these were his usual companions :
- Domingo Esteso: It was the guitar most appreciated by Niño Ricardo.
- Conde Hermanos Sobrinos de Esteso: Of rosewood, cypress and cedar.
Manuel Muñoz Alcón was born on November 24th, 1943 in Sanlùcar de Barrameda, with flamenco in his veins. He learned his first falsetas under the guidance of his father, don Isidro Muñoz, whom the young Manolo considered his greatest influence as a teacher and guitarist.
His most important contributions are divided into two areas. Firstly, he was a great teacher : at first of Vicente Amigo, David Carmona, and then of many who to some extent sought his approval before going out into the world. His second great contribution is in composition, as his pieces regale with a harmonic and rhythmic richness that can only be compared to those of Paco de Lucia and Sabicas.
In this regard, Manolo Sanlùcar himself said that he, Paco de Lucía and Serranito realized what flamenco guitar was lacking : harmony. This is how this giant began the delicate task of creating new ways of expressing flamenco. His musical compositions are alive in the culture of Spain, and for this he was recognized with the awards “Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts” and “Favorite Son of the province of Cadiz”.
Guitars used by Manolo Sanlùcar
- José Ramírez : Created with cedar and rosewood.
Victor Monge Serranito
Born in Madrid on the 16th of July, 1942 and self-taught with a vocation for the guitar and flamenco. This great guitarist is part of the golden generation that includes Paco de Lucía and Manolo Sanlúcar.
He is considered one of the best Spanish guitarists and one of the most prolific flamenco composers of the last century. His compositions stand out for their harmonic complexity and the exploration of new ways of accentuating the compasses or flamenco palos.
His technical grace was of such a high level that Maestro Andrés Segovia invited him to listen to him play and gave him his written and signed critique. In it, maestro Segovia praised him for being the only flamenco guitarist who did not irritate him and who pleased him the most.
He also contributed to the dissemination of flamenco. He is recognized as the first guitarist to bring flamenco to India. He has also been awarded the “Premio Nacional de Guitarra Ramón Montoya”, the “Cátedra de Flamenco” in 1978 in Jeréz and the “Medalla de Oro al Mérito Artistico” by the city council of Madrid. He has accumulated more than a dozen awards and recognitions as a flamenco guitarist, composer and master of the art.
Guitars used by Serranito
These are the guitars he mentioned in an interview but did not specify the series, nor the characteristics of their construction.
- José Ramirez
- Felipe Conde
- Domingo Esteso in 1922.
The gypsy Ramón Montoya Salazar, one of the best flamenco guitarists in history, was born on November 2nd, 1880 in a province of Madrid.
His love for the guitar began when he was only twelve years old. At that age, little Montoya diverted funds to pay for a horse and instead bought his first guitar.
His contributions in this instrument are centered on the composition for singing and the development of the picado technique for up and down. In this, the guitarists of the time considered him almost unsurpassed, and he was a harmonic musician who knew how to express his rigorous techniques in his compositions.
His work had a great influence on musicians such as Sabicas, El Niño Ricardo, Paco Peña, Paco de Lucía, Manolo Sanlúcar, Victor Monge Serranito, Niño Miguel, Gerardo Nuñez, among others.
Guitars used by Ramón Montoya
It is only known that the guitar was called “Leona”, but details of it were apparently lost in oral history.
- Santos Hernández “Leona”.
This is one of the least mentioned names among famous flamenco guitarists, but the truth is that Niño Miguel was one of the best interpreters of the genre in the last century.
Baptized with the name of Miguel Vega de la Cruz, this distinguished guitarist was born on January 27th, 1952 in the city of Huelva.
His greatest legacy is his virtuoso compositions, full of technique and harmonic mastery that embellish flamenco. He is also recognized as a great inspiration for Paco de Lucia and Tomatito.
He was awarded the prizes “Concurso Nacional de Guitarra de la Peña” and the insignia “El Gallo de Oro” in Morón de La Frontera. All of these awards were in recognition of his artistic legacy and musical influence on the great young guitarists of the time.
Unfortunately, Niño Miguel was overcome by his heroin addiction, a condition that led him to wander the streets of Huelva with the sole company of a three-stringed guitar. Even so, he was a master and one of the outstanding Spanish guitarists.
Guitars used by Niño Miguel
El Niño Miguel played almost any guitar he could get his hands on. He didn’t have a preference, and because of his lifestyle he couldn’t afford to be picky.
He was born in Seville on August 16th, 1962 under the name Rafael Riqueni del Canto. At the age of eleven, he began learning from the school of Niño Ricardo and then followed Paco de Lucia on the guitar. Finally, he came under the tutelage of Manolo Sanlùcar and it was at that moment when his creativity expanded.
At less than twenty years of age, he had already won four national awards. But his training as a musician was not limited to the guitar, he also devoted himself to music theory and academic knowledge. His contributions to flamenco have been significant in musical notation.
Rafael Riqueni has been one of the greatest promoters of the immortalization of flamenco compositions through musical notation. He has also dedicated much of his life to teaching flamenco as an art and lifestyle. Among his students we find Gerardo Nuñez and Antonio Rey, in whom his legacy continues unquestionably.
The awards are countless and his legacy is indelible. That is why he is one of the best flamenco guitarists in the world.
Guitars used by Rafael Riqueni
- Francisco Barba : Created with rosewood and cedar wood.
- Conde Brothers : Rosewood and German spruce.
José Fernandez Torres is the name of the great guitarist known as Tomatito. This distinguished flamenco musician was born in Almería on August 20th, 1958.
His love for the guitar began at a very young age thanks to the influence of his father, known by the artistic name of “Tomate”. However, his greatest idol was his uncle: Niño Miguel.
His most outstanding performances as accompanist were with the great Camarón de la Isla. However, it was not until Camarón’s death that Tomatito would begin his solo career, accompanying artists such as Frank Sinatra and Elton John.
His greatest contribution to flamenco is the dissemination of this art with the band of pianist Michel Camilo. In these tours he traveled to France, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Cuba, Italy, among other countries. His career accolades include two Grammy Awards. He has also received awards as co-author of soundtracks, as well as the Medal of Culture in Madrid and the Flamenco Award from Canal Sur, among others.
His genius lies in technical and harmonic mastery. He is capable of creating compositions of high melodic and harmonic richness. He also combines them with genres such as jazz, bolero, salsa, to name a few. For these reasons we consider him to be one of the best Spanish guitarists today.
Guitars used by Tomatito
He uses many others, but these are his great companions :
- Conde Brothers : Rosewood and spruce-pine.
- Manuel Reyes : Cypress and German spruce.
- Juan Miguel González : Rosewood, red cedar and cypress.
A student of Sanlùcar and one of the best famous guitarists of flamenco.
Vicente Amigo has expanded flamenco into complex but clear harmonic forms, less jazzy and more flamenco. His compositions stand out for maintaining a completely flamenco guitar, but accompanied by instruments with a classical, Celtic, Caribbean harmonic air, among others.
In addition, he has taken his flamenco playing to almost every country in the world, and for this he has received multiple national and international awards. His brilliance as an architect of harmony led him to create Poeta, an album based on the work of the master Rafael Riqueni. Maestro Leo Brouwer and the Cuban Symphony Orchestra participated in it, exploring passages never before dreamed of by other flamenco guitarists.
In his work Tierra, he explored the Celtic airs, but without ceasing to be flamenco. His most recent piece, Memoria de los sentidos, is a tribute to Paco de Lucía and is loaded with the purest flamenco touch.
His technical prowess is indisputable, as he has a powerful touch, solid fingering and a sound rich in harmonic modulations. Vicente Amigo has inspired new generations in ways few other musicians could. For all these reasons he is, without a doubt, one of the best guitarists in the world of flamenco.
Guitars used by Vicente Amigo
He loves to try out guitars, including a Francisco Bros 40th anniversary guitar made of Madagascar rosewood. His favorites are :
- Manuel Reyes : Spruce and cypress wood.
- Lester DeVoe : Red cedar, spruce, cypress, rosewood.
Born in Jeréz de la Frontera on June 29, 1961. Gerardo Nuñez is one of the greatest and most misunderstood flamenco guitarists.
His most significant contribution to flamenco are the flamenco guitar training classes that he has taken to every corner of Spain. But he also carries out important work from his home recording studio, created to help new flamenco artists who do not have the resources and are not supported by the major record labels. This legacy as a teacher and promoter of new artists led him to produce the first recorded work of the now master Antonio Rey.
As far as his technique is concerned, we can say that it is perfect, although he suffers from a condition in his right hand that took away the mobility of his index finger. However, his knowledge and technical mastery is so extensive that he modified his compositions and managed to adapt them to his new way of playing, and if we listen to him playing, it would seem as if nothing has changed.
Guitars used by Gerardo Nuñez
He mentioned these guitars in an interview, but did not specify the series or the characteristics of their construction :
- Eladio Fernandez
- Conde Hermanos
- Marcelo Barbero
- Andres marvi
- Robert Ruck.
Up to this point, we have named the greatest flamenco guitarists according to our criteria. We would like to include more, for example names like Paco Peña or Pepe Habichuela, who deserve a place, but they do not fit into this small list. However, we did reserve a space for some honorable mentions with musicians you were surely waiting for.
The musicians that follow are some of today’s flamenco guitarists who have a lot of life ahead of them to make a bigger mark. That is why we list them among the honorable mentions, as they will continue to forge an ever richer path in flamenco.
No one can doubt the mastery and impressive legacy of this Madrilenian who still has a lot to give. From his tours, the desire to take flamenco everywhere ,and from his classes, a legacy that will be passed on to the next generations is accentuated. Natural composer, technical genius and flamenco from the heart, that is Antonio Rey.
Another one of the most misunderstood guitarists in flamenco. His harmonic structures are of another level and he has a lot more to offer. Someday, the world will understand the genius of this musician.
Diego del Morao
Dieguito is one of the guitarists most often mentioned by the new flamenco adventurers. This artist has a dynamic style, rich in new harmonies and a brilliant technique, characteristics that place him as one of the best flamenco guitarists who still has a lot to give.
Just when we thought that flamenco could not be taken to the electric guitar, Jaco Abel appears to demonstrate that this genre goes far beyond the nylon strings. From his website, www.flamencoelectrico.com, he communicates his way of observing, consuming and transmitting flamenco. Today, it is one of the most important pages of the Flemish educational panorama.
Jorge Berges is a great composer, guitarist and teacher. He has reached the most unexpected places in the world thanks to his charisma, acting ability and impressive quality as a teacher.
Samuel Rouesnel, at only 27 years old, is recognized as one of the great Spanish guitarists of today. He is one of those promising youngsters that you know will do something epic at some point. He is currently collaborating with acoustic guitar prodigy Luca Stricagnoli and other impressive young musicians. Listening to him is an adventure.
This young virtuoso performed the compositions of the great Paco de Lucía at the age of ten. Paco himself dedicated these words to him: “Amos, if you keep playing like that, you’re going to send us all to the bricklayers”, the same words that Niño Ricardo dedicated to Paco when he was still a child. Watching him play today, at 19 years of age, we know that he will conquer the world and become one of the greats in flamenco guitar.
Vicente Gimenez “Tarrito”.
This is another one of the youngsters in whom flamenco has placed its hope. He has everything to be one of the best flamenco guitarists: impeccable technique, high-level harmonic knowledge and an impressive ability to communicate the history of the genre. We know that when he stops emulating the greats and seeks his own path, Tarrito will impact the world of flamenco and we will never forget him.
We recommend you to visit our article about the best guitarists in the history of rock and blues.