Classical Guitar Luthier Interview: Aarón García Ruiz (Spain)

Interview with classical guitar luthiers: Aarón García Ruiz (Spain)

I’m delighted to have Aarón García Ruiz from Granada, Spain.

Q1. Could you please tell us a little about your luthiery and its history?

I made my first guitar using a tin, a broomstick and strings made by fishing lines when I was 8. Since then I have never stopped building all types of instruments. In the same way, I made flutes, drums, other percussive instruments, and later bandurrias, key boards, violas da gamba, and finally guitars. My study at the University of Granada as musicologist and my broad collection of instruments from all over the world have provided me with knowledge of acoustics, histories, and determining aesthetics together with the advice of a guitar maker of Granada, Manuel Fernández who gave me key advice about traditional guitar making.

Q2. Please describe your idea of a good sounding guitar, and what you do to achieve it?

The two key aspects that I consider important in the sound of an instrument are tonal beauty and volume. Though it looks contradictory, some well-known guitars lack one or both of these components to a major or minor degree. The first one ,tonal beauty, is very subjective and difficult to explain while the second one, volume, has some technical parts which make it more achievable for a guitar maker. I start from the Granada school of guitar making and through trial and error I approach what I'm looking for: high volume, solid basses which are compensated by trebles at the same time; particularly warm and bright trebles. But never disregarding the aesthetic aspect of my instruments, and the life of the instrument (a high-end instrument should last for an entire life).

Q3. Please tell us about your idea of improving playability, and what you do to achieve it?

Playability is also a very subjective aspect for each musician, and each guitar school; what is comfortable for a classical guitarist could be unpleasant for a flamenco or jazz player. My personalised production allows me to discuss and select with each client the action of strings as well as the rest of the parts: length of the neck, thickness and width of the neck, timbers to use, ornaments and other technical specifications.

Q4. Please tell us your opinion about the traditional finishing method (French polish) and new methods (lacquer, catalysed finishing, etc).

Personally, the type of varnish that I like the most is French polish. It gives the finest coat on the wood among all the varnishes. Thus, it interferes the least with the sound of the instrument; it's very easy to repair in case of any flaw. I think the kind of varnish is not decisive in the acoustics of the instrument except in cases of a very thick coat applied using some varnishes such as polyester or Nitrocellulose. I have done some tests using water-based varnishes. They have some very interesting characteristics that I think shouldn't be dismissed in the future.

Q5. Please tell us your opinion regarding shorter-scale guitars such as 640, 628 and 615mm in terms of playability, design, sound quality and volume. Is there an increasing need to cater to smaller-handed or female players?

I have built a quite few guitars with 630 scale or smaller to respond the demand of clients who were looking for extreme playability. Surprisingly, the resulting sound is quite similar to one of a 650 scale instrument, it's just necessary to find suitable strings for such a short length from the saddle to the nut, and also the size of the instrument has to be adjusted to make it visually attractive. Because of my system of work, I can adapt myself to any scale that my clients require. Recently, there are many women, children, or small-handed players who place orders for these types of guitars.

Q6. Many readers say they end up being very confused after trying many guitars. Could you give us some advice on how to examine the guitars' sound quality and playability at a shop or luthier, from the guitar-maker's point of view?

I had been a buyer for guitars for many years before having become a seller; that's why I can perfectly understand my clients' questions and confusion. Sometimes, it happens that you fall in love with a specific instrument at first sight, and sometimes, you have to spend a long period of time looking for an ideal instrument. My advice is that you always look carefully for the best quality-price ratio when you place a bet on this important investment.

Q7. Do you offer any 'after-sales' service to customers - particularly customers who are nervous about making a substantial investment?

Possible building defects are guaranteed for life. When I make a guitar, I have the idea in my mind that a guitar should last for many years. The guitar should resist some reasonable changes of ambient conditions and an intensive use of it. On some occasions, I've had to repair guitars that suffered various kind of "accidents".

Q8. How does the increasing rarity of some woods, rosewood for example, impact on your methods, and the quality of the end product?

I don't use woods that have problems of exportation or importation in any country.

I am of the opinion that we shouldn't use endangered species when there are large varieties of legal woods that offer fantastic acoustic characters. The same thing occurs with the use of ivory, tortoiseshell, and some types of pearl oyster.

Q9. How do you see the future of this beautiful tradition in the 21st century?

The future of this profession is in the hands of guitar makers. If we are capable of responding to the demands of guitarists, and keep fulfilling all their expectations, we'll keep producing; if we don't, only factories in Europe and China will be selling them.

Anyway, I think there is always a type of guitarist who looks for excellence and personalisation that skilled handmade guitar makers provide with a guitar.