Classical guitar luthier: Carlos Ruiz Gallardo (Spain)

I’m delighted to have Carlos Ruiz Gallardo (Guitarras Gallardo) from Barcelona, Spain.

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

I've been playing the Spanish guitar since I was 15. I suppose, as well as many other luthiers, the curiosity of making an instrument has its roots in a passion for playing the guitar. After many years, I started to gather information about guitar making from books and the internet. I achieved making my first instrument when I made a trip to Cádiz to study with maestro Don Rafael López Porras.

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

A guitar is a mixture of following elements: it has to be harmonious, well-balanced in weight, comfortable to play, and, in particular, to have a good projection. To achieve these things, it´s not enough to have good timbers and exact measurements; it's necessary to have skills learnt from long experience.

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

There are certain elements such as low action of strings, a neck which is not too thick, and making a light-weight instrument. But most importantly, playability has to be defined by guitarists according to their personal preferences.

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

The traditional way is by using French polish. It's enjoyable for guitar makers to finish a piece of art after many hours of work by applying the best finishing method.
In terms of the vibrations and the possible fixing of future problems, it's the most responsible way.  The disadvantage of French polish is its fragility. That's why many guitar makers apply French polish on the top,  and use other kinds of more resistant varnishing for the rest, to protect against possible scratches.

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 was interested in making a small guitar to see its sound response. I referred to an instrument by maestro Don Antonio de Torres (SE02 model) with a 630mm scale. The sound of Torres was amazingly warm, and its volume was more than I had expected. It was a true surprise for me. I think those instruments are ideal for classical music and many guitarists would be pleasantly surprised when testing them.

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?

It's true that one ends up being exhausted and losing perspective a bit after assessing many guitars. The first thing I check is the weight, whether it's comfortable and easy to play. Then whether harmonics are clear, if so, it's a sign of a good guitar. The response of the notes near fret 12 reveals a lot about a good instrument. These should be clear and bright. Poor sound in this area is synonymous of a bad guitar. Then I observe the physical aspect, if the guitar maker did a good job, eg. the quality of the finishing, etc.

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

The guitar has a guarantee always when the defect originates from the imperfection of the building process, but not an accident caused by guitarists.

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

It's true that we have to be very respectful of nature and to verify that the timbers to be used are regulated and sustainable.
Woods like palosanto of Brasil are no longer available. This was as a result of indiscrimination and carelessness which ended up putting the species in danger.

It's clear that the age and quality of woods nowadays are not the same as they were in the 19th century. However, we have to do our best using the available materials, and by improving building systems.

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

I see the tradition as more lively than ever. The guitar enjoys an international prestige. There are infinite guitar makers who love their job and guitarists who need their instruments. It's something that will never die.