Spanish guitar incorporates flamenco music’s vibrant and catchy sounds with other disciplines, like jazz or classical music. Traditional Spanish guitar players use a classical guitar with a standard wooden body and nylon strings. As a result, the sound is mellower and easier to manipulate as opposed to more modern versions or electric guitars. Modern guitars have metal strings, not nylon, which produces a more ethereal sound.
These thirteen famous Spanish guitar players are classical, flamenco, and Spanish guitar giants. All of them have shaped art as we know it, and some continue to contribute their brilliance to this day.
1. Paco de Lucía (1947-2014)
Paco de Lucia, also known by his given name Francisco Gustavo Sanchez Gomez, was one of the most prolific and influential Spanish guitarists, producers, and composers ever to put his mark on the art form.
He was most famous for his flamenco style, which he promoted as a new wave of Spanish guitar music.
Paco de Lucia didn’t just stick to flamenco music, though. He famously dabbled in jazz and classical music as well, influencing guitar greats like Eric Clapton with his innovative sound.
It’s certainly not an exaggeration to claim that Paco de Lucia is one of the modern world’s most influential and diverse guitarists.
2. Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
Next, we have Andrés Segovia who influenced many modern classical guitarists and is famous for reinventing or putting his own spin on baroque and classical music.
Segovia was a larger-than-life virtuoso whose personality shone through his music. His performances were as much about showmanship as they were about musical talent.
He played in his signature style by strumming and plucking with his nails rather than his fingers. This lent a fresh appeal and sound to the music and opened up his guitar’s range in exciting ways.
3. Tomatito (1958-)
Tomatito is one of the few famous Spanish guitar players on our list that is still around today.
Tomatito, or Jose Fernadez Torres, specializes in Spanish Roma flamenco style, composing and playing incredible intricate Grammy Award-winning songs.
He’s pretty prolific, with six albums under his belt and plenty of collaborations too.
Like a lot of the greats, Tomatito blends flamenco with jazz and other styles and has even paired up with other great artists like Paco de Lucia on some of his compilations.
4. Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Fernando Sor is one of the earlier Spanish guitar players on our list. It’s no exaggeration to say that he likely pioneered some of the techniques that make the Spanish guitar and flamenco style compelling today.
Fernando Sor was a true jack-of-all-trades, creating gorgeous flamenco pieces, as well as an opera, several symphonies, and even a Mass.
He was also a fan of ballet, writing the music for a rendition of Cinderella.
Fernando Sor was in a class of his own while he was alive, and he’s still lauded for his visionary talent and an enormous body of work.
5. Vicente Amigo (1967-)
Vicente Amigo has collaborated with some of the best Spanish guitar players, singers, and composers on inspired pieces that brought Spanish music mainstream.
He is a native Spanish artist born close to Seville, and the sounds of his hometown shine through in all of his work.
Vicente Amigo performed with Luis de Córdoba, Camaron de la Isla, and Jose Merce. He’s also won several awards, including a Grammy in 2001 for Best Flamenco Album.
Vicente Amigo shows no signs of slowing down, and we can certainly expect great work from him in the future.
6. Sabicas (1912-1990)
Sabicas fused flamenco and Romani styles together for a unique sound that still remains popular to this day.
A native of Pamplona, Spain, Sabicas was a uniquely gifted child who began performing at seven.
He also came from a long line of musicians and grew up with flamenco guitarists and performers who no doubt helped him solidify his style.
Sabicas lived in Spain, South America, and finally New York City and enjoyed a successful career performing all over the world.
His style was influenced by some of the jazz performers in New York City, evolving and getting better as he aged.
7. Carlos Montoya (1903-1993)
Madrid native Carlos Montoya was very famous during the 1920s and 1930s, bringing his flamenco style all over the world helping to take it more modern and mainstream.
He performed extensively abroad until WWII, when he toured the United States, performing at large venues for audiences of all ages.
Major labels picked up Carlos Montoya’s sound. You can hear his work on RCA Victor and Folkways.
Although Carlos Montoya always stayed true to his flamenco roots, he did work in some folk, jazz, and blues in his later years.
8. Pepe Romero (1944-)
Pepe Romero came from a highly musical family. He is one of Celedonio Romero’s sons and was brought into the musical realm at a very young age.
Romero started playing concerts when he was seven, first as part of a group, then as a solo artist.
He is known for his technical skill and unique style. He is so proficient in playing and understanding the intricacies of flamenco guitar that he even wrote a book about it in 2012 called La Guitarra and is included or stars in 60 albums.
9. Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)
Narciso Yepes is widely considered to be one of the best Spanish guitar players of the last century.
He started playing classical and Spanish guitar when he was four. These early lessons were the bedrock for a lifelong love of guitar and music and propelled Yepes forward in his career as a famous Spanish guitar player.
One of his most significant contributions to the art is his AMI playing technique which uses three fingers instead of two.
The addition of the third finger added a whole new depth to the music and allowed Yepes’ students to play fluid music that almost mimicked the piano.
10. Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Francisco Tarrega was one of Spain’s Romantic Period’s most influential composers.
Although he specialized in Spanish guitar, many people think that his style laid the groundwork for what we consider to be excellent classical guitar work today.
In addition, his style elevated the work of other 19th century composers and guitarists by expertly blending genres and techniques to create both new and familiar music.
During his life, he often performed for intimate crowds and produced 80 pieces of original music, although less than 20 were published while he was alive.
11. Miguel Llobet (1878-1938)
Miguel Llobet of Barcelona, Spain, paired up with another great on our list; Francisco Tarrega. Miguel Llobet studied under Tarrega for several years, enhancing his signature technique with new styles of his own.
Like many of the best famous Spanish guitar players, Llobet built his style by using existing methods and making them all the better.
At twenty years old, he started playing small concerts, moving up to larger venues as he gained more fame.
He later went to Paris and even played for the Spanish royal family before his death.
12. Laura Almerich (1940-2019)
Catalan classical Spanish guitarist Laura Almerich was a guitarist on her own, but fantastic she’s most famous for her work with Lluis Llach.
The duo performed all throughout the 1960s, perfecting and honing the art of classic Catalan music.
Almerich certainly put her stamp on the Catalan Nova Canco style, propelling it into the mainstream.
She was not only a guitar genius; She was proficient in piano music as well, having studied at the Barcelona Conservatory.
Her partner, Lluis Llach, wrote several songs celebrating her talents, including “Laura” and “Rosas Blanques.”
13. Paco Peña (1942-)
Paco Pena is a modern-day maestro and one of the most prolific and celebrated Spanish flamenco guitarists and composers of our time.
He is primarily credited with elevating Spanish guitar and giving it a modern twist to appeal to contemporary audiences.
As with many of the composers and guitarists on our list, he started playing when he was a young child and began performing at twelve.
Paco Pena performed both in a group and as a solo artist. He also had some pretty famous company, once playing alongside Jimi Hendrix.
Summing up Our List Of The Greatest Spanish Guitarists
As you can see from our list above, Spain has produced some incredible musicians.
Whether they’re playing classical, jazz or flamenco, they’ve all made their mark on the music world and have inspired many generations of guitarists to take up the instrument.
Have we missed anyone off this list? Let us know and we’ll be sure to add them.