Arpegio is one of classical and flamenco guitar techniques that can not be played with the pick or on a steel string guitar even remotely in the same way. The extremely powerful right hand technique with properly formed nails allows us to perform very dense time measurements, all up to simultaneous quadruples. Arpegio is primarily played tirando, although the bass notes or the soprano leading voice melody can be performed apoyando as well. It is for to accent and differentiate the melody tone color from the rest of the arpeggiated music text. Arpegio technique on string instruments evolved together with the natural transition in music in the 18th century, from polyphony to homophony, and with the appearance of the “harmonic blocks” – chords.
When we start perceiving the guitar as a harmonic opposed to a melodic instrument (electric guitar is a harmonic instrument, but because of it’s weak possibilities to superimpose notes, the musicians end up “thinking” like on a melodic instrument), the arpegio is the most important technique we will use. The classical guitar actually started using arpegio technique sooner, because a clear arpeggiated music text appeared first in classical guitar works of Fernando Sor, in the early 1800’s. Arpegio in flamenco didn’t come until the 1950’s; in fact, flamenco was quite rudimentary all up to the 2nd World War, when fascist regime made the culture turn inwards, and flamenco became the unique ethnic culture that evolves during the modern era.
From the beginning of the 19th century in Spain, with the classical guitar coming to the world music stage and being played more and more in the elite society, the gypsies rapidly adopted this new 6 string instrument as their own. Started populating western Europe from the east during the Moz-Arabs ruled in the 12th century, these gypsy “guests” that remained after the 15th century Christian conquistadors in 1492. (Castilla and Toledo alliance expelled (almost) all Jews, Arabs, and Gypsies), were still traveling nomads that were now spreading their spirit of freedom over just the Iberian peninsula. Their nomadic freedom ideology under years of repression created the very essence of the Flamenco culture.
Flamenco guitar playing style came from their different approach to this newly emerged and perfected 6 string instrument. Instead of performing it plucking the strings by pulling and releasing them with the fingers (like classical guitarists, which would require a certain level of precision and fingernails hygiene); their approach to it was much more crude. They started using the whole body of the guitar as a percussion instrument, hitting the front board to create sound and playing the “golpe” hit, paving the way for the “golpe” protection plate to appear. But the most important is that they invented a whole new technique from scratch, hitting the strings with the top of the fingernails with circular repetitive motion; using as a pivot base both the wrist, and the finger base joint with the anchored thumb. Therefore creating the base of the “Rasqueada”, as opposed to “Punteada” guitar, (today being the flamenco and the classical guitar).