Interview with classical guitar luthiers: Nicolás García from Guitarras García (Spain)

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I’m delighted to have Nicolás García (Guitarras García) from Málaga, Spain.

Q1. Could you please tell us a little about your luthiery and its history?

I started as an apprentice in the Workshops of my father, renowned luthier Joaquin Garcia, at the age of fifteen.

At first I worked with timbers of low quality until I learned to use the tools, to make the correct angles and the precise thicknesses; then I started the construction of my first instrument at 16 years of age.

Later, at the age of 20, I became an independent luthier, working alone in my own workshop, but still with my father’s supervision and analysis of my finished instrument.

 

 

Q2. Please describe your idea of a good sounding guitar, and what you do to achieve it?

1. A good guitar sounds good when the artist feels comfortable with it and can achieve the range of sounds which he desires and even those unexpected discoveries.  Many people don’t realize that there are guitars which have “duende”, and others that are completely lifeless and without colour.  Of course, technically the guitar must tune properly, should not buzz on the frets; there should be good sustain in the notes; a good volume of sound, with a projection which reaches the back of the hall, without being amplified.  This is many luthiers’ dream.  The instrument should be harmonically balanced and not have some notes which sound more than others along the whole length of the fingerboard.  The bases and trebles should be balanced in the level of volume.

2. Many years of experience, listening to guitarists, attending to their needs with their instrument, are necessary to achieve this.

3. By modifying the internal construction and analysing the results, one can make interesting advances.

 

 

Q3. Please tell us about your idea of improving playability, and what you do to achieve it?

1. A guitar which is easy to play is one which is smooth for both hands, left and right; that is a soft instrument, depending also on the necessities of each individual artist who plays the guitar.  The sound needs to respond rapidly to the impulse of the strings.

2. This is difficult, because, in theory: the looser (softer) the sound board, the looser and softer the strings: so the volume can be diminished.

3. The thickness of the neck, within the standard measurements has it’s influence too.  But all hands are not the same!

 

 

Q4. Please tell us your opinion about the traditional finishing method (French polish) and new methods (lacquer, catalysed finishing, etc).

For me it is very clear that French polish is the queen of varnishes for the optimum sound. Let us not forget that the varnish forms a surface which covers the whole guitar.

For a mirror like finish there are many synthetic varnishes like nitro cellulose, polyurethane etc.

 

 

Q5. Please tell us your opinion regarding shorter-scale guitars such as 640, 628 and 615mm in terms of playability, design, sound quality and volume. Is there an increasing need to cater to smaller-handed or female players?

The luthier is there to help the guitarist, not the reverse, for this reason he should do what the guitarist needs in whatever way possible.

If the guitarist has a small hand and needs a shorter string length, then the luthier does it.

The shorter string length does not necessarily affect the sound; for example listen to a good charango like those made by my father recently, and you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

 

Q6. Many readers say they end up being very confused after trying many guitars. Could you give us some advice on how to examine the guitars' sound quality and playability at a shop or luthier, from the guitar-maker's point of view?

I would recommend to go in the company of a guitar teacher or concert guitarist who understand the instrument.

  1. Construction:
    The hand of the luthier can be seen from the outside in the finish of the instrument.  The filets, the rosette, if it is handmade, not factory produced etc. Recognising the materials and their quality also helps, but this must be learned from experience.
     
  2. Sound:
    A good guitar sounds good when the artist feels comfortable with it and can achieve the range of sounds which he desires and even those unexpected discoveries.  Many people don’t realize that there are guitars which have “duende”, and others that are completely lifeless and without colour. Of course, technically the guitar must tune properly, should not buzz on the frets; there should be good sustain in the notes; a good volume of sound, with a projection which reaches the back of the hall, without being amplified.  This is many luthiers’ dream.  The instrument should be harmonically balanced and not have some notes which sound more than others along the whole length of the fingerboard.  The bases and trebles should be balanced in the level of volume.
     
  3. Facility to play:
    A guitar which is easy to play is one which is smooth for both hands, left and right; that is a soft instrument, depending also on the necessities of each individual artist who plays the guitar.  The sound needs to respond rapidly to the impulse of the strings.

    I recommend the buyer to always go accompanied by a teacher or concert guitarist.

    I would avoid factory made guitars.

 

 

Q7. Do you offer any 'after-sales' service to customers - particularly customers who are nervous about making a substantial investment?

The best guarantee is to offer to change the guitar in the future, if the client is not satisfied for one with similar features, always considering that the client has looked after the guitar. 

What’s more, as I have already stated, the luthier is there to help the guitarist weather he be client or not.  The luthier should not be a trader who profits from buying and selling guitars, but who aids the guitarist however possible, without commercial gain.

 

 

Q8. How does the increasing rarity of some woods, rosewood for example, impact on your methods, and the quality of the end product?

No comment.

 

Q9. How do you see the future of this beautiful tradition in the 21st century?

The future of this beautiful tradition in this XXI century and those to come, is a hopeful one because there will always be those who have the courage to search beyond the traditional and the guitar is in constant evolution and will be for as long as good guitarists exist.

Writen by: Nicolás García.

Video: 

Five Swords at the Crossroads - English Version
Five Swords at the Crossroads - English Version

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