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:
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
Concert Model by Enrico Bottelli
John's guitar made by Angelo Vailati
A 1980 instrument by British luthier Bryn Jones
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.
Chin Tan and his beloved Ramirez 1a
The beautiful 1a close-up
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.
Ramirez 130 Años
The Yamaha Silent Guitar, assembled (L) and packed for the holidays (R)
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.
Ricardo Sanchis 3AF
Stuart Christie, our resident luthier plays a Stuart Christie. More about his fine hand-made guitars elsewher on the SCGS website...
A Stuart Christie Romanillos model
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
The Amalio Burguet
Cordoba Iberia Series LE
Wall Hangings - left to right the Taylor fake classical, the Green Monster Gretsch, The Martin Steel String, Joe Pass Epiphone.