Posts from ‘Feature Articles’
Only the most rare and highly-reputed guitars from across eras of the past receive great attention to the extent that players, recording artists and collectors share a common language in expressing just how valuable a guitar is – not in a monetary sense, but in the way that particular guitar’s presence fills the room, in the way its presence inspires a player and in the way the character of the guitar is simply like none other encountered before. Such guitars that come to mind are very special in our books, for example: the famous Antonio de Torres “La leona” (see Fritz Ober’s replica), the 1927 Francisco Simplicio SP/CSAR and the 1957 Hermann Hauser II (ex. Julian Bream) to name very few. However, one very special guitar made an appearance in our showroom recently amongst a legendary, rare and astonishing collection, and it has received attention in ways we could not have imagined.
We currently have two guitars from the Manuel Contreras shop that happen to span 48 years of Contreras guitar making – a perfect 1968 Manuel Contreras peghead flamenco blanca and a brand-new 2016 Manuel Contreras II “10th Anniversary Premium Series” – and this got us thinking that one of the constants in the Contreras shop for over 25 years now has been Victoria Velasco. If you visited the Contreras shop in Madrid while Manuel Sr. or Pablo Contreras were alive chances are you’ve met Victoria.
Written by: Finn Wandahl | Photos by: Kenneth Brögger
The Danish luthier Kenneth Brögger was the fortunate owner of an original Antonio de Torres guitar from 1890, number SE 144, for five years – the exact one that GSI had in their showroom. This provided him the opportunity to study and examine this magnificient instrument in every possible detail, and in the process Kenneth learned a great deal about Torres and his work. Actually, Brögger has studied and copied a number of other Torres guitars, but this particular model interested me because of its simple, elegant style and outstanding sound. I therefore ordered one of Kenneth’s replicas of this lovely instrument. It is a little bit smaller than a modern guitar, but it is really no problem once you are playing. This Torres (and Kenneth’s copy) actually feels very nice and easy to play. GSI has seen many of Brögger’s Torres replicas pass through their showroom – check them out. This particular guitar is yet another special addition to Brögger’s masterful legacy.
The latest issue of Orfeo magazine is out in English, and it deals with the French School of luthiery. Focusing on Dominique Field, Jean-Noël Rohé, Olivier Fanton D’andon and Thomas Norwood, the magazine asks the question: “Is there a unified French School of luthiery?”. As always, the photography is gorgeous. You can check out the entire issue of Orfeo Magazine #7 here.
Spruce or Cedar? Which is better?
It seems as if every time the topic of classical guitar comes up in conversation, this question seems to spring up as well. We can all agree that both materials have their respective advantages, and furthermore, that some players simply prefer the sound and look of one tonewood over the other. However, there seems to be a lot of myth surrounding this age old question. We decided to create a list of 5 distinct features that distinguishes spruce from cedar.
If you had an opinion about the mic challenge last week you’ll probably want to hear about the results, which as a mic geek I found pretty interesting. The key is as follows:
A – Oktavamod ($829 for a new pair)
B – Neumann km84 (Approx. $2400 for a vintage pair)
C – Neumann km184 ($1600 for a new pair)
D – AKG 451e with ck28 capsules (Approx. $1500-2500 for a vintage pair if you can find one)
Guitarist Yuri Liberzon called to arrange a video shoot and we got to talking about microphones. Yuri has a pair of Oktava mk012 modded by Michael Joly at OktavaMod and he wanted to see how they stacked up to a real pair of Neumann km84’s, which we use here for the videos we shoot. So rather than stop there we decided to compare a bunch of pairs of small-diaphragm condenser (SDC) mics. In the end we used Yuri’s OktavaMod mk012’s, a pair of Neumann km84’s, a pair of Neumann km184’s and a pair of AKG 451’s with ck28 capsules (rather than the much more common ck1 capsule which most people associate with the 451). And since we could, we decided to use Segovia’s Ramirez that he owned and played from 1969-1981, and which is part of the Russell Cleveland Collection.
We wanted to take a minute to thank Apogee and AEA (Audio Engineering Associates) for all of their help recording the Cleveland Collection guitars. In addition to letting us use their Berkeley studio and the great gear there, Apogee have been letting us use one of their Ensemble interfaces. For the bulk of the GSI videos we use the Apogee Duet interface and mic pres (Andrew York’s Yamour video, below, is a great example of what the Duet can do), and the Ensemble gives us more channels and more mic pres in a unit not quite as portable as the Duet but perfect for a live rig and definitely a few steps up in terms of features.
For most of the GSI videos we use a pair of vintage Neumann km84’s, which are as close to industry-standard as it gets for recording guitars, but there’s something that happens with ribbon microphones that can be kind of magical, so it’s been amazing to be able to use some of the great AEA ribbon mics for Andrew York’s ‘Equations of Beauty’ shoot as well as some shoots with Scott Tennant and Billy Arcila (coming very soon). As you’ll hear, the ribbons capture what you might describe as the wood of the guitar in a unique and beautiful way. Their 44ce is an update of the classic RCA 44 – you’ll have seen Sinatra, Bing Crosby and thousands more singing through these in movies – which is still considered one of the best microphones ever made. Their N22 is a modern phantom-powered design that somehow feels like a combination of the best qualities of the 44 and the Neumann km84. Check out the Fret-X video below to hear the N22s through the Apogee Duet mic pres recording a guitar duo.
Also be sure to check out Andrew York’s new piece The Equations of Beauty, recorded at Apogee’s Berkeley Street studio with their flagship Symphony interface (recorded just before the new Mk2 Symphony was launched) with AEA’s 44ce and N22 microphones.
Our good friend Felipe Conde posted a list of his top 10 classical guitar CDs, and we instantly disagreed with everything, then realized there were some great CDs there, then thought of better ones, then realized those couldn’t really be the best, right? I mean you have to have some Segovia, but which one? Any box set? Anyway, there’s no answer, of course, but we’ve been having some fun with it, so here are Felipe Conde’s choices, followed by David Collett’s. Let us know how wrong we all are and which 10 CDs you’d take to a desert island. Forever.
We are thrilled to announce that GSI has just acquired the Russell Cleveland collection, made famous in the book Classical Guitar: A Complete History. As you’ll see in the press release below, this collection includes Segovia’s Ramirez, Bream’s Hauser, an 1888 Torres, Bouchet’s very first guitar and 59 other historically significant guitars.
Our first priority was to get the guitars safely from Texas to Santa Monica, so David Collett, JohnPaul Trotter and Andy Lee flew out to Dallas, and then JohnPaul and Andy embarked on a pretty epic road trip with a U-Haul full of amazing guitars. They drove straight through and we all got a chance to see and play these incredible instruments, as you can see in the photos.
In coming weeks we will begin to record these guitars for posterity, and we will do our very best to get the best players possible and make some great videos that will stand as records of these historic instrument.
You can see guitars from the Cleveland Collection here, and in coming weeks we will be posting all of them.
Read on to see the press release and some inital photos of these guitars.