Nylon-string guitars that are traditional yet embrace the versatility of today’s players
By Jon Chappell, Senior Editor, Harmony Central
Tim, what is your background as a musician and as a nylon-string guitar expert?
I was trained as a classical guitarist from the age of eight, and I bought my first Spanish guitar in Madrid when I was 13. In college, I studied classical guitar with the Romeros, and they introduced me to the finest classical guitars available, both modern and historical. This really piqued my interest, and later I became a dealer of fine guitars for many years before founding Cordoba.
What was the inception of Cordoba Guitars?
After creating and running Guitar Salon International for many years I was asked by Jose Ramirez to be their distributor in the U.S. The Ramirez family were old friends from my years as a dealer, and I decided to change direction and focus to become a distributor. Within a year or so we realized that there was a market for high-quality Spanish guitars at a lower price point than Ramirez, and we founded Cordoba Guitars.
Tell us about Cordoba’s current philosophy and approach to making nylon-string guitars.
We have tried to take the essence of the Spanish guitar and capture it in a variety of instruments which reach a broader audience. It is not enough to make a traditional classical or flamenco guitar anymore. The market demands development and innovation. Many years ago, we pioneered the first Spanish-made thin-body cutaway electric in cooperation with the Gipsy Kings. Today we make a Fusion Series, which combines the character of a traditional Spanish sound and a thin steel-string-style neck. To do this, we have hired some of the world’s leading luthiers to be part of our team, including Edmund Blochinger and Kenny Hill.
Why do you feel it’s important to cast your instruments as “nylon-string” guitars vs. “classical” guitars?
Classical guitars are for classical musicians, whereas nylon-string guitars are for everybody! We can make very traditional instruments including most of our España and Iberia Series. However, thin-body cutaways and Fusions are quite different and appeal to different players and personalities. We want to offer a traditional sound when required, but have the flexibility to provide instruments to working musicians who need to amplify and record, and who may not be comfortable with the wide neck typically found on classical guitars.
The classical/nylon-string guitar hasn’t changed much, at least not outwardly, for over a hundred years since the standard form was established by Antonio Torres. What aspects of the tradition do you observe, and what improvements have modern manufacturing methods allowed you to employ?
As I said, we have some guitars that follow this tradition precisely, including body size, weight, and scale dimensions. I personally own a Torres, and we used this guitar as a model for some of our designs. We use typical fan bracing as perfected by Torres. Some of our thicknesses are nearly identical. We also use features and characteristics from other famous instruments of the last century. For example, the all-solid C9 and C10 of the Iberia Series use a rosette design that comes from a 1921 Domingo Esteso in my collection.
However, we introduced a very lightweight truss rod in all our guitars, which stabilizes the neck and allows for quick and precise adjustment. This is common in steel-string and electric guitars, but almost nonexistent in our world. Many of our customers write in thanking us for this feature, and nearly all of our dealers do too.
Can you describe a couple of the distinctive models in the line that Musician’s Friend readers should know about?
Among the most distinctive are the GK Studio and GK Studio Negra, which combine traditional flamenco sound with very low action, super light weight, and a built-in pickup. We also have the entire Fusion Series, which all feature a 48mm neck at the nut and very low action for a steel-string feel with a Spanish sound. Their ease of playability is second to none among nylon-string guitars. We make these in a variety of wood types including very dramatic quilted maple.
You have quite an interesting artist roster, including many rock and pop musicians.What attracts them to Cordoba guitars?
I’m delighted about this, since it demonstrates that we can make nylon-string guitars for more than music-conservatory students. We still do that, of course, and it remains a primary focus, but we also make guitars that can be played onstage, at gigs, and in any musical context.
For a quality nylon-string guitar at any level—from student model to the concert stage—check out Cordoba Guitars. Order today from Musician’s Friend and get our 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.