Tuesday, May 15, 2012

History of Barbero Guitar

Hi All,  The purpose of tonights post is to chronicle the history of L's guitar, that is the original maker of the guitar which was measured for the plans used to make L's guitar.  Let's start at the end and then I'll do a flashback to the original maker. 

The end is that access to the guitar used for the pattern (also called the plantilla) was obtained by a luthier and guitar historian, Richard Brune'.  Richard has studied the history of the modern classical and flamenco guitar such that he is recognized as a world expert.  He has a workshop/store/museum in Evnston, IL, where I understand, he has a pretty sizable collection of historic instruments. Richard obtained access to, measured and drew up the plans and wrote a history of the instrument, which I will summarize for you here.  In add.ition he restored the instrument to near original condition at some point.

On the plan, Brune' refers to the instrument as Sabicas' (sic) 1951 Marcelo Barbero guitar.  In actuality, the guitar was made specifically for Carlos Montoya.  In fact, it was inscribed inside by its maker, Barbero:  "a mi amigo, Carlos Montoya.  M. Barbero".  Brune' was introduced to the instrument by its owner at the time, a Dr. Rober Schultz.  I was apparently in pretty bad shape.  Shultz had owned the guitar for some 40 years.  He had obtained it from his teacher Fidel Zabal, in 1953.  Zabal was a Spanish Gypsy who came to the US with his wife, a flamenco dancer.  They performed in the US using this guitar for a short time before Shultz obtained it from him.

Zabal had been given the guitar by the famous flamenco player Sabicas, who had used it during the recording of a couple of albums entitled "Flamenco Puro."  It was given to Zabal in exchange for some written transcriptions.

Until looking inside, Brune' had no knowledge of the fact that the guitar had been made for Carlos Montoya, from whom Sabicas obtained it. 

About Marcelo Barbero:  he is described as one of the most extraordinary guitar makers of the 20th century.  He had learned much of his craft from the legendary Ramirez family.  Barbero was reputed to have a practice of buying old wood furniture and using the wood for guitars.  He apparently threw little of this away and it was used randomly in various parts of his guitars.  Brune' considers this guitar to be the "defining" flamenco guitar of the 20th century, with the "perfect flamenco quality" sound. 

Whether the guitar I've made for L measures up in any way to the original will remain to be seen as the guitar "plays in," matures and maybe gets some adjustments over time.

I've copied the Barbero guitar, as represented in Brune's plan, as truly as possible, but with some obvious and some not-so-obvious, but necessary exceptions.  The most obvious is the use of Spanish Cedar for the neck, instead of mahogany.  The purpose of this is to limit somewhat, the sustain, which should give the guitar a more flamenco like sound and should also provide for better balance, as it is lighter than mahogany.  I will be providing the full specifications as well as a copy of this history, when I deliver the guitar.

Why don't you post some more pictures?  Aaah yes, well there are some details I don't want to reveal yet.  In due time.


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