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GV Welcomes Manuel Rodríguez – Classical Excellence!

Adam Leaver: May 3, 2023
Full transcript available below!

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In this interview, Sam chats with Manuel – the man himself – about all things Guitarras Manuel Rodríguez. A celebrated luthier in the Spanish tradition and making some of the finest classical guitars in the world today, we take a deep dive into the history and romance of the nylon string guitar.

Full Transcript

Hi Sam from Guitar Village and today I’m joined by Manuel Rodriguez he’s going to talk to us a little bit about some of his guitars so first up welcome and uh would you like to tell us a little bit about the history behind the company before that I’m so blessed to be here I mean guitar Village this is an amazing building from 14th century I mean I feel myself like in a big old ship of all this old wood here so congratulations this place is The Prado Museum of the guitar so I’m very thrilled to be here thank you for this invitation oh no problem at all thank you very much yeah so your company you’re the second oldest manufacturer of guitars in Spain well not me it’s my grandfather it started but anyway it’s 118 years of history of this brand and uh uh it comes up from San Fernando Cadiz my grandfather had a before making guitars had a fishing store and in the first world war a big German sea vessel sank people were afraid to eat fish because a thousand soldiers pass away and then my grandfather went bankrupt and my great-grandfather los mareki was the park luthier at that time 1890s was playing Flamenco for the thought of Russia so they need a guitar maker to fix their guitars so my grandfather start making guitars thanks of that German ship I wouldn’t be here right now with you guys that’s like that’s that is absolutely so it’s so so after that my uh grandfather went to Madrid Madrid is the oldest school of the will of the classical guitar construction so he worked for Ramirez and he had a small Workshop in lavapiers downtown Madrid Minnesota Street and then the civil war came up and then he we didn’t have any wood so he was going to the main avastos Market they call it and getting this the coffee boxes from Brazil getting this amazing wood I’ll show you later the guitar so we are such an old brand and with this amazing Woods that it’s Unique that you cannot get anymore in the world and then my father started making guitar with my grandfather he went to the US in 1955 Just Married 100 bucks no English of small tools and went to LA to make guitars for the Hollywood industry I was born there and we lived there for 20 years I we still have the building there rented or real estate and from there Japanese competition like Yamaha and all these big Brands came in 1970s and then when Franco died dictatorship in Spain we came back from LA to Madrid and then in Madrid we start to make guitars there I was 18 years old uh and I said to my Dad hey Dad my guitar is not moving so I said okay uh and Valencia they make some cheap instruments for us I was making the expensive guitars I took my own car giving English classes I bought it with and I came to the UK in 1975 1980s and at that time it was marriage Summerfield with the classic guitar magazine guitar International England was amazing with the classical guitar we had John Williams David Russell all these big guys playing our instruments and um and from big orders came up and then my dad bought me a big truck and with that truck we’ve put a thousand guitars all around Europe Yellow Pages and maps that was like the Amazon time so you would just to clarify so you were driving around oh yeah and an old truck that’s right taking guitars to dealers that’s right making my own guitars and two months 20 000 kilometers all around Europe selling the instruments there was no we were not in the community in the European community so we had to pay the v18 on each border remember all the strikes in Dover Crossing from caleto door with my truck fantastic experience you know why because this industry is about people shaking hands is the contract and music is something that the human being needs and we’re so blessed and fortunate to work in this industry because I there’s still people remembering me in in Europe with that long hair that truck Yellow Pages and bringing the guitar so it’s a wonderful industry I wish some of our other reps would take note of that as well turn up with a van load of guitars and we’ll buy him yes it was wonderful and I’m here now to show you our instruments not like those day with a van but with my geba great sales team going to the best key dealers to explain you guys what we make the woods and the history of our brand brilliant well speaking of woods let’s talk about them so can you talk us through some of the options with the time which maybe the back and sides to start with okay uh do you mind we start with the more expensive ones and then we go down to the market style is that okay absolutely okay for example this guitar is the one I spoke before above the woods this is from the coffee boxes from 1936. you can’t get this wood anymore and um and it’s all handmade it takes about three months to make this guitar is signed by Jimmy Carter and uh we uh to help Humanity what I do is auction guitars with famous players Carlos Santana sting all these guys sign these instruments and then we auction them and they find which also Antonio Banderas and that’s the way we help Humanity I don’t have a hundred thousand dollars but I have the connection the musician I make the guitar and then we auction them and we help people around the world it’s a great thing today and then these guitars are about twenty thousand dollars uh or arrows more or less and uh we have a more cheaper version my own instrument about six thousand pounds same Woods for you to show to your customers brilliant this is an incredible guitar I am really worried about touching that signature on the back as well well you know the good thing of us is that we have about 500 sets of this wood and being such an old brand we can give this is our goal this is our bank yeah and that’s what we offer to our customers we want to make people happy make the best instrument for the best musicians brilliant and so can you tell us a little bit about this guitar we’ve got next to it yes

I want to make things different in the classical guitar world because it’s a very conservative Niche so what we try to do is make we call this Cafe Ole this means coffee is Cedar and milk is Spruce mixing this combination we get an amazing sound of uh very even trebles and bases with this mix no feedback because on stage they see the brand and then you listen when you play from this town hall and we put this fisherman pick up with Mike tuner and you can mix Four band and it’s a it’s an amazing guitar I mean this color Santana plays this guitar Jackson Brown even Stevie Wonder has one of these Flamingo guitars same shape so it’s something unique and it’s a big boom right now with this model that we would love you to have this in in your store absolutely we have versions of narrow body electric neck and this is a normal clock and we have all still string version of instrument so I’m always trying to invent new these scientific instruments because when you have Evolution the nylon string is just so conservative and yeah we have been great great success now just before you put this guitar down so we’ve got a combination here of spruce and Cedar how different uh Spruce tops and Cedar tops how much difference they make totally I mean okay Spruce tops is uh it’s like the violins it lasts long time I mean violins for example you have value for 300 years with screw stops and the spruce is always getting better Cedar is a great very fast reaction at the beginning for low price guitars but then in 50 or 60 years it dies because more soft the stiffness of the spruce is better and the more narrow the grain is the better it sounds so when the tree grows slow we get better quality sound if the grain is too wide the troubles in the business are not so even so it’s very important when you select a guitar see the grain of the tops the more narrow the better The Wider it’s worse okay it’s very interesting so that’s the top cover now can you tell us a little bit about some of your finishes okay we use water finish we’re very ecological we use falling trees we’ve been putting seeds on our guitars So when you buy an MR guitar you can plant a tree so we think in that in the future because we need more trees in this planet you know we we consume we kill we burn so many fossil gas so we need to get more green so we are very very uh uh sensible with the environment so we use uh water varnish this is an oil finish and it’s good because it sounds look at this finish it’s open pores so it’s light for the instrument and it gets better sound it’s free it’s and it’s liberal when you put this thick gloss finish you’re killing the sound and it’s more heavy the lighter the guitar is the better it sounds yeah that’s that’s what a lot of people will say now um can we just turn this around just have a quick look at the back again so this is Rosewood back inside that’s Rosewood slamming it back inside we have another version um in Spain with mahogany from 1930s also for my grandfather all solid so that’s the one we’re going to want to ship you in the future yeah so laminate and that helps uh cut back on some feedback yes yes absolutely absolutely and then we have this shape here why because more comfortable to put your thumb and to play down here it’s just sort of a small feature here but it really helps to play down here easy on The Trebles yeah and for Bossa Nova music Latino music this guitar is fantastic because they use a lot of trebles down here and the feedback because you play on stage and it’s good branding for the for the Mr um how do you find that different back and sideboards react tonally you know like say Rosewood versus mahogany for example it depends of the instrument you make I mean uh just to give it macaferry guitars Mega Fury has been always laminated back inside always never solid uh for a lower price guitar a decent price we recommend back-ends back in size laminate especially on cutaway guitars we found out that laminated back inside sound better than solid backend sides with the cuts away with the Cutaway and with a normal solid instrument you need to put high quality Woods back inside now the plan that we have in the future is that when you buy these solid guitars there’s no more wood so what you’re buying is a piece of art wood that’s going to disappear and the guitar lasts for 100 years so it’s like your second wife you have to make love with it play it grab it and you need to have that type of passion so I mean I’m um when you buy a decent guitar you have to go to a store like this play them try them because it’s very personal each single guitar sounds different it’s like a human being it’s different absolutely now let’s talk a little bit about let’s get under the hood a bit so talk a little bit about bracing okay um can you tell us you know how bracing affects the guitar well that’s the soul of the instrument I mean uh for example we put our top like two millimeters thickness and we have this fan bracing that crosses that my father invented we also have the mobile Bridge the mobile Bridge the same like the electrical guitar that each slot moves manually on the book that I gave you you have the explanation my dad invented this in 1962 and is the only mobile Bridge same like the electrical guitar system but manually so we get the best tuning so we use this cross fan uh fan and also in the lower price the Taurus style that’s the seven fan we like to make it simple I see the secret is more on the thickness of the top than these fancy bracing patterns okay so the thinner the better of course we have the wrist of cracks so we like to make it thin tops but have more reinforcement uh bracing another clue if you use Spruce top use cedar bracing okay because you have that compensation this consider bracing is more soft and the spruce is more stiff so you get that balance when you use a cedar top use Spruce bracing so that’s the way that’s my secrets I’m sharing it to everyone everything has been invented stop recording now no no no no no no go ahead so all these things has been invented but you know I share my secrets you know that will copy me I don’t care but people need to know these things when you you buy it in my guitar absolutely because being 118 of History I’m so fortunate to know these secrets yeah it says all been passed down through the generation that’s right that’s right and you come with a few ideas of yourself now let’s take a look at one of the limited models sure just behind us

so this is a limited edition model what can you tell us about it okay this is wood from The Wine Cellar of my grandfather it’s amazing is we did only 100 limited edition and um there’s only 400 guitars and they’re all sold out in just six months and the the interesting thing is that it’s a very light instrument we use this water finish open pour and beautiful German machine heads with this logo there as I try to explain we make all European we must protect our European industry okay especially nowadays because we need to keep this I mean Europe is the I would say the place that the guitar was invented Spanish guitars Christopher Columbus went to the U.S with a viola similar as a guitar and then Martin start to make guitars but Spain is the seed where we invented this guitar and then the evolution came up with Fender Gibson my dad worked with little fender in LA in 1955 because they shared things in the industry and it was very interesting you know how my dad went there with very few resources not knowing any English right yeah so from his passion he passed me this so I’ve tried to make these beautiful limited editions with Puma binding all this wood 12 holes Bridge why do we do this because we get more pressure angle on the on the bone so when there’s more pressure here we get more volume on the sound of the instruments these are vintage cow bone saddles so just more vintage style ebony the more dog the ebony the older the ebony is when you see an ebony finger with white spots that’s a young tree so the older the tree is the more black is the is the ebony and this piece of wood takes a hundred years to grow and Ebony is the heaviest wood in the earth it sinks it’s so dense so we need to get the most darkest Ebony and we do it with Bob Taylor in this and is madeinta resources in in Africa and Cameroon yes yeah I’ve spoken to uh Bob about this actually quite a bit so what are we going to do when the ebony runs out then do you think that’s realistic uh you know what what Bob is doing is fantastic because he’s creating all this resources for the future and that’s what I’m doing with the seeds we need to plant trees I mean um that’s the reason why we use falling trees I have a project with ukeleles and Yucatan we’re going to use plastic from the sea like Ovation back and sides using Plastics we’re going to use uh cocoa leather with coconuts because we’re going to give jobs to the Yucatan woman because they need to have jobs and we’re going to teach them to make ukuleles using their waste wood and clean their beaches so that’s the ideas we need to do to protect our planet as he’s doing with the ebony so thank God Bob got this project we won’t be here but for the next Generations will have ebony because it takes a long time it’s very slow growth brilliant let’s um let’s have a look at the back and sides just really quickly on this because this is an incredible thank you looking guitar so this is Walnut back inside that’s right the tree was first harvested in 1954 that’s right that’s right um and you can see the amount of figuring on there as well it just looks uh looks absolutely incredible just like the the old building here you have here in the woods so it smells very good but we’re making more limited editions so next year we’ll be doing like with other Woods that we’re trying to to Resource and I select the wood myself so it’s a very very Personal Touch instrument that I do everything on on the flexion of the wood now let’s take a look at the magistral series

There’s lots of options with these top Woods back and side words let’s talk about an interesting feature actually we’ve seen on the last guitar the armrest yes well this armrest it’s very interesting because it’s good for when you’re playing many hours no stress on your arm plus it’s not glued on the top it’s glued on the edges of The Binding okay so we give we leave it free the vibration of the top all right and as I said before we want to change a little bit the classical guitar will when you see the guitars on the wall oh that’s an MR because we have the armrest and we have the Mr logo that it’s wood inlaid not sticker wooden laid and again the same Moreno uh Bridge 12 holes more pressure on the top with the Vintage uh Saddles bone saddle and compensated on the third string for the tuning so this option is Spruce top from Romania and cedartoff from Canada oh brilliant something I noticed the headstocks are different on these two models can you tell us about that yes that’s my grandfather headstock from the 90 1930s and 1905 before that so this is our personal made guitar we made the sensor with our hands these are made with our luthiers so to get to give the differences that the guitars that we make with our own hands and the team of luthiers we do this headstock both headstock are trademarked in a in 60 countries so no one can copy this headstock why because each guitar maker has its own design and when you see on stage these head stops ah it’s an MR guitar so that’s the reason why we protect our headstocks it’s important absolutely so let’s have a look at the backs on these really quick and you’ll notice on it when when I flip that round so the front is is a satin finish that’s right and the back is a glossy finish what made you decide to do that well because the medicine is so thin it’s good for the sound of the instrument the thinner the the finishes the better will sound and that is like French polish matte finish and it’s water also by varnish same like the back and sides about the mahogany this mahogany is the omohani of my grandfather that I have about five thousand sets and this is the guitar will be coming also the cafe Olay back inside same wood but with with matte finish and these are all solid throughout yes which is incredible this you know at this price as well you can you can make a guitar and it’s all solid but made in Europe I mean um okay I like the China guitars but what I don’t like from them they copy what I we do and we I mean I I try to say hey guys we have the same price as China almost made in Europe with very old wood and with the legacy of a brand of 118 years so I need your help to spread this to your customers like this video right now to get this message of the wood and the history and the passion absolutely so what brand of strings do you use we use Hana rug strings made in Germany why because we found these strings are very high quality and heart tension other brands use more cheap strings we like to put a higher quality string because when you start playing the guitar more In classical guitars you need a good reaction on the strings and a good selling point as it sounds it’s like when you buy a car you need good Wheels well this is the same thing you need good strings especially at the beginning when you get the cell done that’s incredible thank you so much for joining us reputation fantastic God bless you too


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