Frequently Asked Questions
Care and maintance of my guitar
Why are your prices are so much less than other retailers? Are these really the same instruments?
How come you only sell guitars priced under $1000 wholesale?
What are the differences between a classical and flamenco guitar?
What are the differences spruce between cedar tops? Is one better than the other?
What are the differences Rosewood from Brazil and Indian rosewood? Is one better than the other?
Is French polish really better than a lacquer finish?
How do the guitars from Madrid and Granada schools differ?
What is your opinion of the concert guitars being made in Mexico?
How can I determine how much my guitar is worth?
Care and maintance of my guitar
Most damage to instruments is caused by careless acts. Being aware of some of the following typical handling hazards may prevent accidents from happening:
- The lid dropping down on the instrument as it is being removed from the case. Develop an absolute habit of holding the lid with one hand as you remove the instrument with the other.
- The soundboard or back being cracked when squeezed at its waist. Always hold or pass the instrument to another by its neck only.
- Buttons, belt buckles, tie clips, fingernails, etc. cause nicks and scratches. Be aware of yours and of those to whom you pass your instrument.
- Be sure to close at least one latch of the case lid when putting the instrument away for even a short period of time. Many instruments have been damaged when dumped out of an unlatched case.
- Using a card mask below the bridge when changing strings and melting a ball on the ends of the treble strings will help avoid scars and nicks to the soundboard.
Always put the instrument back in its case after use, preferably a hard case. If you wish to store your instrument for a long period, it is advisable to loosen the strings a bit, storing it in its case, with a bag of silicon gel to absorb moisture. It is also advisable to wrap the instrument in cloth, preferably natural silk or fine wool, the latter being less desirable.
Temperature and Humidity
Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity. Extremes of humidity or dryness represent the greatest danger to an instrument, especially sudden change from a humid environment to a dry one. Rapid evaporation can cause instruments to crack no matter how well cured the wood may be. Similarly one should avoid leaving an instrument close to air currents, sources of heat, in the direct sun, close to radiators, chimneys, stoves etc.
Wood is a hydroscopic material, that is to say it loses and/or absorbs humidity from the environment that surrounds it. Radical changes of environmental humidity and temperature can cause great damage to a guitar. In an environment of moist air, wood swells. In a drier environment, wood shrinks. The temperature of the air determines the amount of moisture the air will hold. These cycles of change are normal and your guitar will tolerate them as long as they are not to the extreme. The ideal temperature for a classical guitar is a comfortable room temperature-about 70 degrees. The ideal relative humidity-about 50%. These are the ideals. However, a well constructed instrument should handle reasonable periods of time at 25% and 75% relative humidity without too much strain. Extended periods of exposure below 25% or above 75% should be avoided.
Under chronic conditions of low humidity, there is a risk of cracking. Continued exposure to conditions of high humidity may cause the instrument begins to loose its sonority and volume. As well, glues soften, and joins may come unglued. Excessive dryness or humidity will also affect action of your guitar. Too dry, and the action becomes high, too humid, and it may become too low, and strings will begin to buzz. As a result it is not advisable to hang the instrument on the wall since the guitar will absorb whatever humidity wall may contain and cause discoloration and warping of the woods. Heating systems create an atmosphere that is extremely dry. An inexpensive hygrometer can help keep the owner aware of the environment in order to make adjustments when necessary. To ignore such conditions could result in deterioration of the instrument and led to expensive repairs. The only protection against dryness is to add moisture in the air near the instrument. The simplest way is with a case humidifier. In areas of extreme dry climates and homes heated during winter months, a room humidifier or vaporizer is recommended during long playing sessions.
Never expose an instrument to any extremes of temperature that you would not find comfortable. Typical hazardous areas to avoid include the trunk or interior of a closed automobile in hot weather, hot sunlight, or proximity to a heater. Freezing cold air, at the other extreme, should also be avoided.
Travel and Transportation Precautions
With respect to transportation, an instrument should be stored in its case, in a cool dry area. If you are traveling by plane and you are required to check your guitar-- always in a hardcase-- it is essential to slacken the strings. If you must check your guitar, the hardcase should be placed into an additional carton for added protection during shipping or airline travel. A makeshift handle of rope will facilitate handling. Fully insure the instrument against damage or loss during transit. Avoid direct rays of the sun or heater during transport or storage. An instrument should never be transported in the warm trunk of an automobile in the summer high temperatures can cook your instrument-- causing cracks, melting the varnish, etc.
Polishing and Care of the Finish
The finish on better instruments are invariably done by hand and with great care. This finish, however, is susceptible to damage by water, alcohol and perspiration. Wipe regularly and carefully with a soft clean cloth to maintain its luster.
Cleaning your instrument should be done with fine gamusa leather dampened slightly with water. You should never apply furnish polish or other products that contain alcohol as these will damage or remove the guitar's fine finish. I have seen a couple of fine guitars ruined by scrupulous owners who "polished" their vintage guitars with Lemon Oil or Pledge.
French polish is a very delicate finish that is very susceptible to fingernail scratches and direct hits especially to the soundboard. When tying the strings behind the tie-block on the bridge, you should use caution not to damage the finish with your fingernails. One way to protect the finish from this kind of damage is to place a piece of cardboard behind the bridge before beginning to tie the strings. Light masking tape can be used to keep it in place, but is not necessary. In fact, just being aware of the problem normally is adequate to prevent damage behind the bridge, even with very delicate French polish finishes. Buttons and buckles will similarly damage the finish of French polished guitars and need to be avoided. General caution when playing your instrument is recommended.
French polish may dull when exposed to sweat. If your finish becomes dull at or near the point of contact with your body, this is normal. To prevent this, we advise people not to expose their bare skin to a French polish finish because it dulls over time. If you are wearing a short sleeve shirt, wear a sock over the portion of your right arm that makes contact with the guitar. When wearing short pants, use a soft cloth on your left thigh.
Maintenance and Repairs
Avoid if at all possible blows and scraps, since any blow to the instrument can cause irreversible damage. In case your instrument is cracked, you should have it expertly repaired as soon as possible. If a crack develops in the top, near the bridge, it is advisable to quickly loosen the strings.
Ebony fingerboards are also a hydroscopic material. If they become too dry, shrinkage may cause frets to stick out beyond the edge of the fingerboard--feeling rough. While humidity will often reverse this process by expanding the fingerboard this may take time, and it is sometimes necessary to file these edge of these frets. This should be done only with downward strokes in the same direction in which the frets are fitted, filing upwards may dislodge the frets. This may easily be done with a fine file, although it is desirable to have an expert do it.
In the event that the varnish deteriorates, it is always preferable to place another coat of varnish over the original coating. French Polish can be restored to its original luster by an expert repairman with very little difficulty and expense (if he is familiar with the method of finishing). New finish is normally applied to the old without removing it. Only in extreme cases should the French varnish be scraped off in order to place a new coat of varnish. This is one of the great advantages of French Polish over more common lacquer or catalyzed finishes. Normally these need to be removed completely before refinishing. Refinishing a fine guitar whether it is French polished or lacquer is a skilled art, and should only by done by someone who has vast experience in refinishing fine guitars.
If strings buzz when strummed without fingers pressing on the fingerboard, this is due to wearing out the groves in the bone nut. This may be easily remedied by placing a small strip of thin cardboard under the nut. This usually is sufficient to compensate for the loss of bone in the groves of the nut. The alternative is to have a new nut made.
It is also advisable to keep your guitar tuned to the same pitch. When changing strings, change one at a time, tuning each up to pitch as you go. This maintains the stress to which the soundboard has become accustomed. If all strings are removed at one time, there may be a short recovery period before the instrument returns to its accustomed sound.
Never put strings for a steel string guitar on a classical or flamenco guitar. The lighter construction of these instruments will not tolerate the higher tension of steel strings-- and expensive and irreversible damage may be done to the instrument.
The fundamental nature or quality of the strings-from the raw materials to manufacturers specifications-will be coloring every nuance of tone derived from the sound box.
SELECT STRINGS WISELY!
No matter how excellent your guitar may be, it will be below its potential without the right strings. Specific types of strings can further enhance the instrument for your needs. Experiment or consult the maker for recommendations on string choice or problems which may be related to strings.
Strings need changing when they become dull, heavy or out of tune. There are no rules that dictate how often strings need to be changed. General hand cleanliness, perspiration and acid producing characteristics of the hands as well as the strength of attack of the player effect string life. The longevity of strings will vary from performer to performer.
BASS strings, in particular, contribute greatly to maintaining the liveliness of the guitar. The vitality of the treble tone will respond in direct sympathy with that of the basses. When the guitar becomes dull and heavy sounding, changing the bass strings only, will revive this lost vitality.
The TREBLE strings need not be changed as often as the basses. A good-true set of treble strings will outlast bass strings 4 to 10 times.
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.
We only sell guitars priced under $1000 instruments wholesale, because it simply does not pay to import one lower end-guitar. Due to shipping costs, we would have to price the guitar too high to be a good value. Shipping costs, however, go down significantly per unit when guitars are purchased in quantity. So I only wholesale these guitars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although a lot of cheap, poorly made guitars are produced in Mexico, the quality of the workmanship of concert level guitars made in Paracho, Mexico has increased markedly since the 1980s in good part due to workshops given by makers such as Felix Manzanero and Jose Romanillos among others. The problem with Mexican guitars is one not so much a matter of the luthier's skills as it is access to fine woods. I have not seen really first rate woods being used by Mexican makers. As a result, their concert guitars do not compare well to those made in Spain.
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.