Frequently Asked Questions
Why are your prices are so much less than other retailers? Are these really the same instruments?
We offer exactly the same makes and models of guitars that other retailers sell. We are able to sell them at wholesale prices because as a guitar dealer we do not have the expenses of a store, employees, and other similar costs. Because our overhead expenses are lower, we can afford to pass the saving on to our clients, often saving them hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
What are the differences between a classical and a flamenco guitar?
The primary difference between a flamenco guitar and a classical one are:
1) Flamenco guitars traditionally were built using cypress for back and sides and spruce for the top. Classical guitars usually are made with rosewood back and sides, spruce or cedar tops. In recent years, a high-bred between a classical and flamenco guitar has emerged, the so-called "flamenca negra" which has its back and sides made of rosewood, but is otherwise built like a flamenco guitar.
2) Flamenco guitars are more lightly constructed than classical instruments-- and weigh almost nothing. The top on the flamenco guitar is generally thinner, and there may be differences in the bracing patterns used. The thin top gives the flamenco guitar its characteristic snare drum like rasp when strummed. As well, because the top is thinner, flamenco guitars have less sustain than their classical counterparts.
3) Another common difference is that the body of a flamenco guitar is often shallower than a classical guitar.
4) The strings of a flamenco guitar are also set much lower than on a classical instrument. This makes for a much faster action. Usually flamenco guitars come with tap plates to protect the top. As well, traditionally (although seldom today) they used tuning pegs rather than machines.
The result is a sound of a flamenco guitar that is vastly different from a classical one.
What are the differences spruce between cedar tops? Is one better than the other?
Although there are many factors that go into the quality of a top (such as straightness and tightness of grain) given premium grade wood, master luthiers are able to make outstanding guitars with either spruce or cedar, so the question of which is better is in good part a matter of taste. In general, the tone of spruce is brighter, and the tonal envelop has a more defined edge and better separation than cedar. Cedar produces a darker tonality, with a more rounded, enveloping tone than spruce. Each type of spruce and cedar, however, have different characteristics and tonal properties. German spruce (Picea abies) has a very rich, bright, and clear tone. Its noble, focused voice and rich overtones offers a wide range of color. It has a woody sound that ages into a very powerful tone. Englemann spruce (Picea Engelmannii) is very similar in tonal character to German spruce. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) has a bright, neutral tonal quality. Because of its strong fundamental, it has less tonal complexity and a narrower range of color than either German or Englemann spruce. Although it is not widely used to make classical guitars, it is often the preferred wood for steel-string guitars. Although the overtones of Canadian or Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) and redwood (Sequoia Sempervirons) are rich over a narrower range than spruce, their full tone, darker coloring, and warm enveloping sound is enchanting. Cedar and redwood are also more responsive than spruce at least initially, but they do not improve with age to the degree that spruce guitars do. Spruce, because it is a more resinous wood than cedar, takes more time to break in. With age resins become increasingly brittle, and with play, as these resins are fractured by sound, the guitar becomes increasingly responsive and mellow. Guitarist talk about this in terms of a "green" guitar "opening up" with time. How fast this happens depends on how much one plays and the age of the woods used in the top. The more aged the spruce used in making a top is, the more quickly it opens up. Again, there are some difference between types of spruce. Some open more quickly than others. German spruce takes one to two years open up, and will continue to improve though out its life. Englemann spruce being a less resinous wood opens more quickly. Sitka like German spruce takes more time to develop.
What are the differences Rosewood from Brazil and Indian rosewood? Is one better than the other?
Rosewood from Brazil, (Dalbergia nigra) of course, is renowned for its beautify and spectacular figured grain-- but straight grain may also be found, and is especially prized. Indian rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) is more typically straight grained. Figured Rosewood from Brazil is especially more apt to warp and crack than straight grained rosewood. In terms of tonal quality, Rosewood from Brazil being a slightly harder, denser wood than Indian rosewood produces a clearer, brighter, more focused, punchy sound that projects a bit better. By comparison to the warmer, darker tone of Indian rosewood, guitars built of Rosewood from Brazil may sound somewhat hard, even metallic. As to which is better, again, the bottom line is, it is a matter of taste. Brazilian (Dalbergia nigra) has been listed as an endangered species since 1992 on Appendix I (the most protected), and requires special permits for CITES to import, proving the wood was harvested legally prior to that date, therefore guitar made with Brazial rosewood are present many difficulties that must be considered. There a number of alternative woods in the dalbergia family (true rosewoods) that makers are now using. These include Madagascar rosewood (Dalbergia maritima) and Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) which have similar appearance and tonal qualities to Brazilian rosewood.
Is French polish really better than a lacquer finish?
Although traditional wisdom has it that French polish is more conducive to sound, hence is better, the issue really isn't that clear. More to the point, the question is how hard and thick the finish is, especially on the top. Although thick, hard finishes will dampen sound, lacquer may be applied just as thinly as French polish, and if properly applied seems to work just as well. There are other considerations as well that should be kept in mind. French polish is notoriously delicate-- scratches easily, and does not tolerate heat well. Exposures to moderately high temperatures (120 plus degrees) will soften and may even ruin the finish. Perspiration will dull it. Such factors cause the finish to deteriorate. So, in time, the guitar may need to be refinished. On the plus side, although applying French polishing is an art, and not a do it yourself job, it is very forgiving. Scratches can be repaired by applying new coats over the existing one, and even where the finish has dulled, the old finish can be simply refreshed with a new coating.
How do the guitars from Madrid and Granada schools differ?
The difference between the Madrid and Granada School is primarily one of the size of instrument. The Granada school has continued to build a smaller bodied, Torres-style guitar. Madrid school guitars tend to have both larger and deeper bodies. As a result, Madrid guitars tend to have a deeper, darker, and more refined tone. The Granada sound is brighter. While some claim that the Granada school guitars do not have the power or volume of the Madrid school, this has not been my experience. The smaller-bodied Granada guitar now being made project very well. As to costs, guitar makers in Madrid have higher overhead costs than those in Granada, and generally their better quality instruments cost more than comparable guitars in Granada.
How can I determine how much my guitar is worth?
One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how much is my such-and-such guitar worth. It is also one of the most difficult questions to answer, especially sight unseen, as so much depends upon condition. By far the best way to determine worth of your instrument is to have an it professionally appraised, especially if you think it may be valuable. There are, however, a couple of methods one can use to get into the right ball park. First, you need to be sure of what you have. For example, people will tell me they have a José Ramirez. Yes, but which Ramirez? After all there have been four generations of José Ramirez. And, which model? The firm has produced many models over the years. So, knowing year and model is important. It is also helpful to know what woods were used to build the top, back and sides, and fingerboard. These may provide some indication of the quality of the instrument. As condition is important, one should examine the guitar not only for cracks, repairs, dings and scratches, but also in terms of playability. Is the neck warped? Is the action high etc? Once you are sure about what you have, and have assessed its condition, there are a couple of simple ways to determine value. One way is to find comparable instruments for sale. While retail price may give you some indication of value, asking price is not the same as selling price or fair market value. A better indication of fair market value is the selling price at recent auctions. If the guitar is still in production, another method is to start with replacement costs, and deduct about 20-60 percent depending on condition. A guitar in "mint" or "almost" new condition is worth perhaps 80 percent of retail. In average, good condition (some scratches, and normal wear) but no repairs is worth perhaps 60 percent of current retail price. A guitar in fair condition--still playable guitar, but perhaps with some repairs-- might only fetch 40 percent of the new price. It should be noted since other factors such as demand may be involved, these percents should not be used as a strict formula. They are simply a rough and ready guideline to consider condition and price. In the end, how much your guitar is worth is really determined by how much a buyer is willing to pay, and how long you are willing to wait for someone to meet your price.