You get what you pay for - this time a lot more
The story of my Antonio Picado model 60 guitar
My search for an instrument with this “Spanish Sound” has been taking a very long time. What is “Spanish Sound” is already a subject for divagations and of different opinions.
Many Wise People point out, that it depends on personal sonic preferences. And it is possible for really good player to make most if not all good guitar to sound “Spanish” . So such search may be a kind of never-ending story, and, when one of contemporary top luthiers - my virtual friend James Frieson, who has kindly helped me a lot by sharing his knowledge and giving me his priceless advices (thank you, Jim !), titled one of his letter to me: ”Onwards Rocinante” I felt encouraged by these words to continue my search. Well, with my deep respect and full understanding of many different opinions and after test playing a number of different guitars I found some of them sounding more “Spanish” in my ears then others.
My own benchmark for the guitar with the sound that I look for has been for years the very good Jose Ramirez 1A, that many years ago I had a chance of playing. Today I do not take under serious consideration search for 1A, as the older models are known of high action and long scale thus are rather demanding, and my fingers are not as operational as before. The other aspect is this of a financial matter. And I do not need now big volume, I do not play loud, just in privacy of my apartment for myself, my wife and grandson.
We have very poor supply of better guitars at home and I do not take longer travels anymore, so I have been testing a lot of different instruments including available in Poland Jose Ramirez lower models. They are very good guitars in their category and their sonic characteristics enforced me in the direction of my search. Then out of the sudden on the second hand market in Poland appeared Kenny Hill model Madrid vintage 2002, made in Paracho, Mexico. It is as we know inspired by Jose Ramirez 1A. Despite poor condition of this guitar I took a risk and bought it remotely. The two good luthiers were working for over a month restoring this guitar. Finally in my modest opinion it sounds better for me then known to me some other guitars including these made by manufacturers of very high reputation. It is type of sound that I am for. But it did not prevent me from continuing my search, because I want to have two guitars - two, as guitars are delicate instruments, and it may suddenly happen that one of them would be in need of visiting luthier for several days, and I want to play every single day. Well, I already have two guitars, but my trusty Artesano Juan Orozco Revisada, 1985, made in Valencia, Spain, is really good in it’s category, and I would prefer to have the other guitar of quality at least comparable to my Kenny Hill.
Then I found at Delcamp forum the thread by Jonny Mosco.
Visit to Antonio Picado's workshop, Berga, Spain
Jonny tells there on his trip to the Picado workshop in Berga and by this occasion tells the beautiful, detailed story on Master Antonio Picado, his crew, Master Luthier Angel Genis, workshop in Berga north of Barcelona, finally - on the Picado guitars. Jonny’s story is well illustrated with pictures that also show details of constructions etc. Unfortunately it is not available now. I really understand that Jonny was being overwhelmed with requests for further information, but after exchanging more emails with him I stay with hope, that his beautiful story will return someday. After reading Jonny's story when it was available back in Summer 2015 I have exchanged emails with him and I thank him so very much for his email letters to me with advices, informations etc. It is him who contributed a lot to happy end of my story !
I have immediately found in internet the Antonio Picado pages and some other sites containing information on the Picado guitars. Everything that I saw, read and listened to in internet made me to became seriously interested in the Antonio Picado guitars.
But it has been a big technical problem: shipping. I do not take longer trips anymore, and I have bad experiences with shipping guitars even in Hiscox Pro II cases. And the shipment adds extra costs. Fortunately my dear cousin Witold with his wife Maryla were going to spent the Autumn vacations in Spain, driving there by their car to see many different places on the way. And they kindly offered to collect and bring the guitar to me in Poland. When the problem of delivery was solved I made a wide and deep investigation on as many as possible opinions on the Picado guitars, in particular on model 60 - IRW/Cedar. This model was once advertised as concert, later it is described as student model. When I raised up this matter, David Picado informed me patiently that model 60 is the top model with Indian Rosewood. And suggested that I should not worry much about 'categories', they are a bit of a convention. Yes, he was absolutely right.
I would like to extend my special thanks to Maestro Eliseo Fresquet Serret. Maestro Eliseo in his kindness has made two hours long Skype session for me, presenting and playing his Picado guitars and sharing his opinions etc.. I also read a plenty of opinions from different places of the world. All of them were very positive. So I wrote to the Picado luthiery and soon I received kind answer from son of Don Antonio - David Picado. He said that yes, it would be possible to have a model 60 Cedar/IRW ready for me at the time when my cousin will be in area of Barcelona and will collect the instrument. Then David has been patiently answering my numerous letters to him. I really admire, David, your patience with me ! Thank you so much !
The Great Day occurred on October 4, 2015 when my cousin with his wife arrived to Berga. They were met in most friendly and kind way there by Master Luthier Angel Genis. My cousin was allowed to make a kind of photo report showing Picado Luthiery; here is the link to these photos:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/serty24tgmea ... Tazwa?dl=0
This set of photos begins with photos of Master Luthier Angel Genis presenting my Picado guitar. In the background we see the portrait of Señor Antonio Picado.
The New Guitar Day was for me on November 4, 2015 when I drove to Warsaw and I have finally collect the guitar. My first impressions are as following:
- Sound-wise it is simply superb for me. Deep, warm, singing; it really sings ! if I want - sounds are "dark" and "thick", if I want - guitar sounds sweet but not as "cheap" candy but it reminds me a cup of hot "thick" chocolate, it is not too bright or "glassy", with good depth and great tone separation. It is what I was looking for. The sound is great all the way down the neck to the lowest positions, the sound is not thin but sort of "solid", 'substantial", the guitar sounds "with dignity", with depth, all tones are well balanced and harmonics are bell like ringing. In short words: it is a hell of a good or very good Spanish guitar. I hear and feel far but "readable" reminiscence of "Madrid School" that has been a part of inspiration for the Picado guitars.
- Playability: the neck is very comfortable. And shorter 640 mm scale that I have been asking for makes stretches easier for my LH fingers. The action of the strings specially in higher positions was a little too high for me as I am today
, but known to me good luthier Adam Lewicki in neighbouring town is real master in adjusting string settings what he has been doing previously with my other guitars. So Adam masterly adjusted strings setting, making new saddle and nut from bone and leaving intact the original saddle and nut just for a case, if in the future somebody would like to install them again. String spacing at nut is 43.4 mm. exactly what I feel comfortable with, the width at nut is “standard” 52 mm., and there is larger distance from high E string to the edge of the fretboard to avoid string slipping over the edge of fretboard. By the occasion of string adjustment we put the new set of Black Augustine Imperial strings; long live the RALTSFC - Ramon Amira Low Tension Strings Fan Club ! and the joyful process of finding the best for this instrument strings begins.
- The workmanship is splendid, it is a pleasure to look at and to play this instrument. Cedar and Indian Rosewood look really nice, look like high quality wood. The top cedar plate is thin in comparison to other guitars by other makers, what makes good resonance, sound etc. Body resonance is G. Bracing is shown on the picture taken by Master Luthier Angel Genis on my request and is to be seen between pictures presented in the link below.
- the tuning machines are Der Jung; they work very well and smooth.
- the rosette is beautifully made of tiny pieces of wood, other models 60 are also often constructed with rosettes of this pattern. Between pictures taken in the Picado workshop there are shown the mosaic models showing different patterns for rosettes that are made in the workshop in Berga. The label is signed by Master Luthier Angel Genis who builds higher end guitars including model 60 in the Picado workshop.
- The guitar was packed in Berga and has been travelling all the way from Berga to Poland in simple styrofoam guitar bag, but it is already kept by me and will be kept in Hiscox Pro II hard case. I use two OASIS humidifiers and the humidity inside the case is monitored by an electronic OASIS hygrometer. I keep the humidity inside the case on the level of 50 - 60%.
Here is link to pictures of this guitar, sorry for not perfect quality of these pictures.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tvgrusa0rbsf ... 24eGa?dl=0
To end with: it seems that my Rocinante took this rider to place of destiny, and may have a rest now. But who knows, maybe other windmills will appear on the horizon ?
I would like to extend my words of gratitude to all who in different ways have been of help, thus made my dreams about good Spanish guitar becoming true. Thank you all, Dear Friends !
Antonio Picado, model 60, 2015, Cedar/IRW. Scale 640 mm.
Kenny Hill, model Madrid, 2002, No. 2019, Cedar/IRW. Scale 650 mm.