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Me and my guitar

SCGS's equivalent to Through the Keyhole
Here we take a quick look at some of the instruments our members play. We have inveterate guitar collectors, beginners and intermediate players on a limited budget, and advanced students and professionals who aspire to an excellent hand-made instrument. Here's the page index - click on an entry to go there:

John Plunkett

Romsey-based SCGS member John Plunkett, recently returned to playing classical guitar after a 25 year break. John says...
 
I'm very lucky to play as my main instrument a Concert Model made in 2020 by Italian luthier Enrico Bottelli. This is based on a traditional Spanish 7 struts symmetrical top construction with an under-bridge reinforcement. I think this is the best guitar I have ever played and I wouldn't swap it for anything!
 
I also play a guitar made by another Italian luthier Angelo Vailati to a similar design but very different in character, also a terrific guitar. You can here a recording of La Catedral by Barrios on this instrument here.

I bought these instruments recently after starting to play classical guitar again.  Before that I played a guitar by Bryn Jones (Edward B Jones) made in 1980, one of the first he made after leaving the Rubio workshop.
 
What I'm looking for in an instrument is quality of sound above all else, then clarity, response and balance. I've had opportunities in the past to play some great guitars (for example Fleta, Rubio, Hernandez y Aguado and Daniel Friederich) belonging to other players I met at competitions and courses. So I might be interested in something like that if I can save up enough money in future. I was also very impressed with a guitar of Oren Myers I saw recently.

Click on the maker's logo to open their website or Facebook page

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Concert Model by Enrico Bottelli

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John's guitar made by Angelo Vailati

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At  rest...

A 1980 instrument by British luthier Bryn Jones

John Plunkett and the Italian Job

Chin Tan

Chin lives in Lincolshire and joins our lockdown meetings via Zoom. He says this about his current guitar...
 
I was playing an Admira Dolores Super guitar for years until I heard my teacher’s Ramirez 1a, which impressed me with its bold, projecting voice and was responsive to a more nuanced playing than I could get out of my old Dolores.  After trying out similarly-priced instruments I finally made the plunge and bought my Ramirez 1a cedar top, telling myself I would just have to work harder to get used to the long scale length and slightly wider string spacings. A poor student then (it was 1980), it cost me all of 5,100 French Francs which I had saved up from teaching a weekly guitar at the Institute Catholique in Lyon.  Since then, I have owned other guitars but the Ramirez remained my favourite. 


Strings-wise, I went several years with high-tension strings for their brilliance and projection.  Lately, I have started experimenting with lower tension strings and find them more responsive to subtle changes in the fingering.  Or maybe it’s just age and the loss of ambition to make a big projecting sound.
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Chin Tan and his beloved Ramirez 1a

If your Spanish is up to it  click on the Ramirez logo to go to their website. Otherwise check out a modern 1a at The Classical Guitar Centre. Start saving!

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The beautiful 1a close-up

Chin Tan and a fine Ramirez

Denis Gibson

Our web editor, Denis Gibson, says...
 
I play a Ramirez 130 Años guitar. It is a studio guitar at the lower end of the Ramirez price range and mine was a pre-owned instrument. The guitar is a cedar top with an asymmetrical 6 top-strut fan brace pattern. The 130 Años is no longer made, replaced by the Ramirez Guitarra Del Tiempo. You can see it, and other studio guitars from Ramirez, at Guitar Village in Farnham. This guitar was a step change from my previous beginner's instrument. Better tone, better intonation in higher positions on the fretboard, more comfortable action. I enjoy playing it. But is it too mellow? Not bright enough in the trebles? Particularly that third string at the second fret, or even the fourth? You see what I'm doing? Talking myself into buying something better!
 
I also have a Yamaha Silent Guitar (SLG200NW) for use when the household can stand my practicing no longer and I have to retreat into the world of electronics and headphones. The instrument has a conventional classical guitar neck (52mm width at the nut and 650mm scale length) and, of course, nylon strings. It can be taken apart easily. In its bag, it fits in the overhead locker on most flights. I would say this guitar is convenient rather than inspiring.
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Ramirez 130 Años

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The Yamaha Silent Guitar, assembled (L) and packed for the holidays (R)

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Denis Gibson and a modest Ramirez

Penny Candlin

Penny Candlin has been the lucky beneficiary of guitar donations from friends. She says...
 
My first classical guitar is by Giannini, a Brazilian manufacturer. It was given to me by a friend. He used to play for the homeless in Southsea. It has a somewhat shady past as he swapped his acoustic guitar plus £10 with a homeless lass for the Giannini. It has a mellow rounded sound. 
My second is a flamenco guitar, a Ricardo Sanchis, model 3AF. Built in 1990 with a solid spruce top, cypress back and sides, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard. It was given to me by another friend after her husband, a former SCGS member, past away. It has still got the receipt in the box - £370 in 1992 from the Spanish Guitar Workshop, Salisbury. It is a more brighter sounding instrument. Lighter to carry and easier to play. 
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Penny's Gianini

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Ricardo Sanchis 3AF

Penny Candlin's gifted guitars

Stuart Christie

Stuart Christie, our resident luthier plays a Stuart Christie. More about his fine hand-made guitars elsewher on the SCGS website...
 
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A Stuart Christie Romanillos model

Christie plays Christie

Chris Thompson

Our Chairman, Chris Thompson, introduces us to his eclectic guitar collection...
 
I usually play a guitar by A. Burguet from Valencia, made in 2004. It has a rich middle range with creamy overtones around the 12th fret. I have a feeling it’s a bit past its best (although maybe that’s me) and I am now looking for another, to the great annoyance of my pianist wife, who feels one instrument is enough. I agree with her where pianos are concerned, but guitars take up less room. My teacher, Mark Eden, has agreed to help with the search for the ideal guitar for me, probably English. But this time I am really going to be careful. When I bought the Burguet it was sitting all forlorn on a bench in the now defunct Spanish Guitar Studio near Leicester Square, having been left out of its security case for a music student who had failed to return for several days with the required cash. So I offered the same amount and they took me up on it. I have been very happy with it, though.
 
When I started playing duets amplified, with Chris Nash, I needed something as like a natural classical guitar sound as possible, but with a golpe plate for tapping. We tried a lot of supposedly classical guitars with on board electronics. I already have a Taylor that was supposed to be classical but it even has a thin neck with a curved fret board (yuk) so the only classical thing about it is nylon strings. We found the best natural sound was a Cordoba Iberia Series, limited edition. Unusually, the limited edition tag does really seem to make a difference. It has a cutaway body and is a bit smaller than a full size classical so its easy to play but unamplified it doesn’t have the tonal range of a proper classical guitar.
 
I also own a guitar made for me by Chris Martyn, an old colleague from the university who now makes beautiful guitars some of which are owned by several SCGS members. It has a 20th fret, as I requested in a moment of over-confidence, thinking I would be playing Sueno en la Floresta every day. Hasn’t happened. My Martyn (not to be confused with the steel string Martin guitars ,of which I also have one) has a slightly “dry” sound to my ears and I am afraid has been superceded in my affections by the Burguet ( for now anyway).
 
I also have a green Gretsch for Country and Western (I know - what was I thinking?) and a more sensible Joe Pass signature Epiphone. I don’t play any of them much and I keep thinking of selling them but guitars do furnish a room don’t they?

Click on the maker's logo to open their website or Facebook page

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The Amalio Burguet

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Cordoba Iberia Series LE

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Wall Hangings - left to right the Taylor fake classical, the Green Monster Gretsch, The Martin Steel String, Joe Pass Epiphone.

Chris Thompson's eclectic mix

Sten Stovall

Sten joined the Society in 2021. He says...
 
I have two classic guitars. One, which I played at my inaugural SCGS session, was constructed and bought by me in 1992. It's made by the Yorkshire-based luthier Peter Barton.

The other, a recent purchase which I played on at the August SCGS meet-up, is a 'smart' HyVibe 30 CHV30E classic nylon guitar by France-based Lag that can amplify itself, generate its own effects, or even turn into a bluetooth speaker, all without cables, pedals or amps. Its functions are controlled by a built-in processor.  
The HyVibe is a great addition to my upstairs guitar range at home. 'Horses For Courses', as the saying goes. 

Click on the maker's logo to open their website or Facebook page

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Sten's Peter Barton guitar

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A pair of HyVibe guitars

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The upstairs

guitar collection

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Control panel on the HyVibe

Sten Stovall - 'smart' and other guitas

Bill Hayter

Long-standing SCGS member Bill Hayter has a rather special guitar. Bill says...
 
Daniel Friederich was one of the most famous French luthiers. He died a few years ago. My guitar, No 169, was built by him in 1966, fairly early in his career. I bought it from my Singapore guitar teacher, Robert Luse, when I was living there. He had been given a top of the range Khono guitar and I suspect was quite pleased to get shot of the Friederich as it kept on developing buzzes

When I subsequently left Singapore for Australia, the difference in humidity was too much for it and the whole of the front face buckled and had to be replaced. In hind-sight I should have sent the guitar back to Friederich in Paris to get him to replace it but instead I asked an Australian guitar maker, John Hall, to make an exact replica of the face, which he did and also re-used the original rose.

It looked great but sadly the sound was disappointing, very flat. So I bought a new guitar and lent the Friederich to my niece in England, who was beginning to learn the guitar. Two or three years later, when back in England, I visited my niece and asked how she was getting on, she replied she had given up, so out of curiosity I gave the guitar an outing. What a revelation - it was transformed. Presumably the timber had had to take time to get bedded in. My niece was happy for me to take it back and the sound has been getting better ever since.

A few years ago I noticed that Kent Classical Guitars were selling two Friederich guitars of about the same vintage as mine, so I rang him up and explained about the new face and asked if I could compare the sound of mine with his guitars. He was very dismissive but was quite happy for me to try. In fact I was delighted that the sound was very similar. I asked him how much he was selling his Friedrichs for - £16,000! Sadly, my non original guitar will only be worth a fraction of that but, as I don't intend to sell it till my fingers are worn out, it makes no difference.

Stuart Christy recently re-polished the face and whilst doing so, took the opportunity to examine the lattice work, which he said was quite unusual. I believe Friederich experimented with all sorts of bracing but whether mine was a one off or not I don't know.

Read more about Dabiel Friederich at www.guitarsalon.com/luthier/daniel-friederich

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Daniel Friederich (1932-2020)

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The top and back view's of Bill's guitar

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The Friedrich lablel

Bil Hayter and his Daniel Friederich

Daniel Clark

Daniel joined the Society in its 50th anniversary year (2022). He writes this about his guitar....

The Alhambra, Granada’s Moorish palace of the Nazrid kingdom, has inspired many sentimental stories over the centuries. So, here is another…..
 
Daniel’s guitar was made in 1999, the centenary year of the publication of Recuerdos de la Alhambra, in a street of renowned luthiers at the foothill of the Alhambra, Cuesta de Gomerez. It is made of mulberry wood that was reclaimed from a house renovation in the old Moorish Albayzin district of Granada by the luthier, Germán Pérez Barranco.
 
Mulberry trees used to populate the Alpujarra hills surrounding Granada and were used to feed the silk worms that were the foundation of the thriving Granada silk trade in the Nazrid kingdom. When the moors were expelled from the Alhambra in 1492, the Spanish kingdom cut down the mulberry trees to eliminate the silk trade.
 
The darkness of the wood in Daniel’s guitar indicates that the wood has aged for hundreds of years since new mulberry wood is typically light in colour. It is possible that a third life has been given to this wood: first as a contributor to the Nazrid silk trade by feeding the silk worms, second as foundation materials for a house in the Albayzin, and third as Daniel’s guitar.
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Daniel Clark with his guitar made by Germán Pérez Barranco

Read more about Germán Pérez Barranco at https://sites.google.com/site/granadaguitar/Home

Daniel Clark and Germán Pérez Barranco
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