Cumpiano nylon-string Spanish & Classic guitars
Did you know that classic guitars were only
known as "Spanish guitars" before 1948? That is, according to the New York
Classic Guitar Society, nylon/gut string
guitars patterned after the 19th century Torres models were known simply as Spanish Guitars until the Society began to refer to Spanish guitars made in a
similar configuration to the ones preferred by Andres Segovia (Brazilian/Indian Rosewood back and sides, German spruce soundboards) as "classic." The name
caught on world-wide as the one conferred to all nylon-string guitars in the Torres configuration. So why do I still refer to a distinction between them? Because some
"classic" guitars are not used for "classic" music, and are not of the Segovia specification. Many of my customers prefer nylon but instead of classical music play jazz,
or ballads, or Latin American popular music like Boleros. So, I refer to those as "Spanish" guitars, and I feel that it's not a bad idea!
Cutaway Classic guitars
and Cutaway Spanish Guitars: a Cumpiano specialty
I've found a lively market for my classic guitars among players whose first instrument was a jazz or steel-string guitar and as a result, don't want to forgo the features that they have become comfortable with, such as narrow, arched fingerboards, low action, cutaways, stage pickups and distinctive aesthetic design.
This page shows some distinctive examples:
A dramatic Brazilian rosewood/ German spruce classic seen below, which features a compound cutaway (note how the side fairs seamlessly and comfortably into the heel). The guitar also features a Fishman dual pickup system (note the small mic in the soundhole). The noted jazz/fusion guitarist, Joe Belmont can be heard playing this instrument, accompanied with traditional South American zampoņas, or panpipes, on the following sound clips from the latest Viva Quetzal! CD Children of the Sun.
Wedge-cutaway Koa nylon-string:
Fairing the cutaway smoothly into the cheek of the tapered heel requires that the side be hand bent in two axes at once. A fairly difficult thing to pull off, but worth it for the unrestricted comfort that it allows when playing in the upper positions. This guitar is slightly wedged, and made from curly Koa.
An abalone/marquetry soundhole on a classic guitar? Outrageous? Not a bit ! Shell incrustation was the norm on European gut-string guitars during the nineteenth century, until Torres established the Spanish style which included only moorish-inspired wood marquetry decorations--but he was not loath to include pearl and abalone on occasion. When carefully blended within a marquetry frame and kept to a tasteful minimum, pearl incrustation can be give a classic guitar a unique, modern look.
Other Custom Classics
Guitarist Chris Berberet wanted a classic to fit his smaller reach better than on the Torres standard 650mm scale classic guitars. So he asked me for a 640mm scale guitar and specified the nut and bridge string spacings. Here are the results of his East Indian rosewood classic commission:
Here's his reaction upon receiving his
Several months later, Chris wrote again: