Interview with classical guitar luthiers: Jose A. Perez-Menchaca (USA)

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I’m delighted to have Jose A. Perez-Menchaca from Florida, USA.

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

I started at early age, growing up when child at my uncle's Jose Yacopi house playing at his bench watching him making guitars.  About 1968 my father Agustin become Uncle Jose's silent partner and developed Yacopi's manufacturing facilities.  Also, all those years I accompanied both, my father and uncle to select woods to be used into manufacturing teaching me all about woods selection and recognize all the acoustics properties of such.  My first instruments were assembled when I was about 10 years old and my father and uncle encourage me to build them (under their supervision).  As you see, my experience of more than 50 years is reflected into my art today.

 

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

My idea of a well sounding guitar consist in playability, depth of sound, accuracy in its frets board, wood selection, sustain, well-proportioned acoustic body, etc.

 

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

My consideration of improving playability consists in making a guitar light in weight and producing a fret board and arm playable and ergonomically acceptable for small hands.  I achieved this dilemma making extremely thin arm/neck/fret-board assembly thanks to carbon fiber rods inserted and radiused fret-board.  To the point that such combination already avoided carpal tunnel surgery to a guitarist friend of mine (Alejandro Kartal) which had a show every night playing at Universal Studios.

 

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

My preference of finishing instruments varies to the type of instrument itself, for concert guitars I use only French polish (shellac), use of non-toxic, non-flammable water base catalyzed alkydic varnish such as KT9 to finish acoustic guitars; I would never use catalyzed finishes due to its toxicity.

 

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?

Shorter-scale guitars are necessary to cater individuals with small handed players females or children, of course is essential to consider its design, acoustics and sound quality.

 

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?

Selecting an instrument should be based upon of playability first, then audible and finally visual.  To put it in better words:

  • Check that hand does not strains when playing.

  • Depth of sound.

  • Sustain.

  • Scale accuracy.

  • Finish.

 

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

My after sales service consists on life of the instrument full guaranty with the exception of accidents for which client should purchase its own insurance against accidents.

 

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

Although the increasing rarity and disappearance of some exotic woods is affecting temporarily to luthiers art we must think into the future either using some exotic materials, substituting for species of same characteristics or just waiting until ban of protected species cutting ends.

 

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

Lutherie will persist through time due to the continuous increase of Luthiers and guitar maker's community, I've seen a tremendous growth in the last 30 years; there are more Luthiers today than in 1970.

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