Summer wrote: Do you know how it "killed" the guitars? I would think a B string would snap before it tuned up to pitch. But even if it didn't break, how did it mess up a guitar? Did the bridge rip off or something? I'm just curious.
My teacher has heard from several sources that Segovia used a B string for the first string. Richard Brune even wrote that one time when he returned a repaired guitar to Segovia, he saw a guitar in a corner strung up with B strings. My impression was that Segovia was pre-stretching the strings to see which would not break at the higher tension. Brune is under the impression that Segovia stopped using his Hauser guitar because it developed a weakness in the first string. Brune then postulates that maybe that weakness developed from using the B string for the first string. Jose Ramirez III in his book, Things About the Guitar, says that there was always a wolf-tone on the Hauser first string and Segovia got tired of dealing with it.
Summer wrote: And if he used a B string for string one, did he use a G string for string 2, a D for 3, an A for 4, an E for 5 and maybe a thicker string from a viola/cello or some other stringed instrument for 6?
No, he didn't...just the B string for the 1st string.
Segovia's goal was to make the guitar a recognized classical instrument worthy of being part of the orchestra. One of the biggest faults of the guitar (also one of its endearing strengths) is its quietness. So Segovia was looking for whatever he could do to increase the projection...as long as it didn't kill the tone. Also, during Segovia's early years he was not paid a set sum for his concerts. Basically he arranged a concert when he could, or influenced someone to arrange a concert, after which he paid off the hall rental and whatever else he owed, and what was left over was his. Obviously he wanted as many people as possible (to pay) to hear him. There are stories of Segovia playing for his meals during the first few years.
Segovia's lush, deep tones are from a combination of factors, two of which are: 1) The guitar he used...he always preferred one that had the deep, spanish tonal quality to it; 2) the technique that he developed to ensure the deep, mellow tones ... unfortunately Segovia was not much of a (technique) teacher and today few know how to teach that style. There was also a backlash in academia against Segovia's popularity that seems to have peaked during the 80's...and many have rejected out of hand anything to do with Segovia.