Can't afford an original Torres?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
RobMacKillop
Posts: 3720
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:24 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by RobMacKillop » Wed Oct 31, 2018 10:21 pm

For many, the modern classical guitar started with the work of Antonio de Torres, sometimes referred to as the Stradivari of the classical guitar. He made guitars for Tárrega, Llobet, and many others who came to define the late 19th and early 20th-century guitar.

Buying an original Torres is almost impossible - they rarely come up for sale, and when the do they cost a fortune. What to do?

There are many modern-day luthiers who will make you a copy, or something Torres-inspired. In my experience, many of these instruments are too heavy, and just don't sound like a genuine Torres - I have had the fortune to play one belonging to James Westbrook. Some luthiers make great Torres copies, but they can be prohibitively expensive.

Here's my solution:

Buy a light flamenco guitar, raise the action a little,
and string it with gut and silk strings.


That's what I did. It doesn't have to be an expensive flamenco guitar, but the better the quality, the better the result - but you can get decent results from inexpensive instruments.

My wife bought me a Camps Concierto Negra Amazonia for my 60th birthday - an unbelievable gesture, although it has created for me the problem of how to reciprocate on HER 60th!

I put two thin pieces of card under the bridge saddle, raising the action to an acceptable height. And then I found a set of Aquila gut and silk strings in a drawer - they must have been about four years old. Here it is - it arrived this afternoon, so I haven't had it long. I have to say this is the easiest guitar to play I've ever experienced, and is very light. I've fallen in love with it.




Negatives: the nut grooves and bridge holes, while absolutely fine for nylon, are too rough for gut, and I broke two first strings, eventually putting on a Savarez White Card first string. I'll get the string contact points smoothed to perfection soon.

So, what do you think?

Buster

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by Buster » Wed Oct 31, 2018 10:29 pm

It sounds great but very hard to get the subtle differences across in a video. How do you feel it compares to your Hernandez guitars ?

RobMacKillop
Posts: 3720
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:24 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by RobMacKillop » Wed Oct 31, 2018 11:16 pm

Very different from the double-top guitars I have from Juan Hernandez. All three are very good guitars - my "Luthier" model from Juan Hernandez is in the For Sale section. They are both very modern instruments - I wanted to show what a no-nail technique sounds like with modern construction. But at heart I prefer the traditional sound. This Camps negra has very quickly become my favourite guitar.

I'm not the first one to do the gut on flamenco idea. Check out Carles Trepat - who owns a Torres - playing his 1970s Conde flamenco with gut and silk strings: https://youtu.be/FMj65AIgRWI By the way, his mic costs as much as my guitar...just saying.
Last edited by RobMacKillop on Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
CarbonElitist
Posts: 437
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2018 8:51 pm

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by CarbonElitist » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:29 am

Your modded flamenco guitar sounds great and it definitely has a Torres-ish sound. The tone reminds me of the 1888 La Italica Torres Guitar Salon was selling, which is a winner for me because IMO, it's the best sounding Torres (and guitar) I've ever heard. You should definitely post some more recordings after your guitar has had some time to open up.
"If at first you don't succeed, don't go skydiving."
"When I want expert advice, I look at the comment sections on DIY videos."

cgratham
Posts: 137
Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2016 7:12 am
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by cgratham » Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:20 am

Hi Rob,
:bravo:
Another wonderful video from Mr MacKillop. Your new guitar sounds great - well when you play it especially :D. It think it, and the set-up, really suits your style and technique to a "T(orres)". What do you think it is about the flamenco design that sounds so close to the Torres? Small size, bracing, light weight? All of the above probably? Yours has rosewood back and sides, right?

And thanks for sharing that video of Carles Trepat on his Conde flamenco - I've never heard that concert before nor most of the pieces. I listen to the Teatro Colon A Coruna concert a lot, so It's great to hear another one. He sounds very similar in both videos to my ear. Perhaps there is a bit more of the high-end finger noise stuff here than in the Torres one, but that could also just be the recording parameters and not the guitar for all I know.

You've definitely got me thinking of trying this. After watching your videos before I put some gut strings on an old guitar I used to have. I really liked the feel of the strings, but it wasn't such a great guitar and the strings didn't suddenly make it sound like a Torres (nor me like Trepat, or MacKillop). One of my good guitars has smaller body and is very light weight. It's not flamenco but definitely more traditional than my other two. I love it with nylon strings and think it sounds fairly Torres-ey as it is. I'm tempted to string it up with some gut strings next to see what the result is.

Congratulations and happy birthday!

Chris
2014 Douglass Scott; 2010 Martin Blackwell; 1989 Daryl Perry

Dofpic
Posts: 1426
Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 6:14 pm
Location: Whitefish, Montana

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by Dofpic » Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:25 am

Two suggestions Simon Ambridge Torres made copy Really light and great or my Fritz Ober for sale here.

Bargain Price.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=123194
2006 Greg Byers(fan)2009 Eric Monrad(maple) 2018 Simon Ambridge Model 40 Satinwood. 2003 Tacchi Simplcio satinwood 2017 E. Bottelli 52 Hauser, 2002 Jeff Elliott spruce, 2017 Richard Reynoso, spruce/maple, 2015 Herman Hauser III(Cedar)2005 Tacchi Coclea

User avatar
tateharmann
Posts: 1816
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:31 pm
Location: Saint Paul, MN

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by tateharmann » Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:28 am

I've been tossing around the idea of how to get into a Torres-esque sound on the cheap as well. Your idea is a great one. Here's where I'm at:
1. Yairi T series. They aren't super popular here in the US but they are guitars modeled after Torres'. The 5 and 6 have laminated back and sides and the 10 and 15 have solid back and sides. A T10 just sold on reverb for $800.
2. Burguet Andante model. This is a smaller bodied classical guitar also built after Torres...it's even available with walnut back and sides which would be nice and light. I see a brand new one available for €1,350.
3. I've just started researching guitars made by a Swedish company called Levin. Their whole line was all solid wood and their "concert" size is smallish like a Torres could be. Reviews on them are good and they are reported to be nice and light. Prices vary.

Any other suggestions?
Last edited by tateharmann on Thu Nov 01, 2018 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."

MessyTendon
Amateur luthier
Posts: 1983
Joined: Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:33 am

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by MessyTendon » Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:52 am

You should have polished everything before even considering ruining those expensive gut strings...you of all people I would think would know that gut require that extra care :)

I trashed 3 bow brand gut trebles without considering the requirements...thanks to you :) A few minutes of polishing and the next set was good and didn't break.

User avatar
tateharmann
Posts: 1816
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:31 pm
Location: Saint Paul, MN

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by tateharmann » Thu Nov 01, 2018 3:30 am

Hmm strange I've never even considered that it could be a problem. Since day one my Joseph Redman guitar took gut strings perfectly. On the last set that was on there the G and B strings lasted over a year. And they actually never broke - I changed them out to give some other strings a shot.

Another thing I've been toying with is a removable tornavoz to get that sound that many high-end instruments of the era had. More info here: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=67245&p=1286558&hi ... z#p1286558
"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."

madrilla
Posts: 174
Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:50 pm

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by madrilla » Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:21 am

tateharmann wrote:
Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:28 am
I've been tossing around the idea of how to get into a Torres-esque sound on the cheap as well. Your idea is a great one. Here's where I'm at:
1. Yairi T series. They aren't super popular here in the US but they are guitars modeled after Torres'. The 5 and 6 have laminated back and sides and the 10 and 15 have solid back and sides. A T10 just sold on reverb for $800.
2. Burguet Andante model. This is a smaller bodied classical guitar also built after Torres...it's even available with walnut back and sides which would be nice and light. I see a brand new one available for €1,350.
3. I've just started researching guitars made by a Swedish company called Levin. Their whole line was all solid wood and their "concert" size is smallish like a Torres could be. Reviews on them are good and they are reported to be nice and light. Prices vary.

Any other suggestions?
I was going to say the Burguet Andante also but you beat me to it. It was recommended here before and it's probably the cheapest option. Other than that there are Torres models from Juan Hernandez, Martinez, Milestones. I wonder how the Yairi sounds. I found a Yairi Torres on YT but it's a high end one for Sting's guitarist.


lux
Posts: 47
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:33 am
Location: Medford, Oregon USA

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by lux » Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:44 am

RobMacKillop wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 10:21 pm
There are many modern-day luthiers who will make you a copy, or something Torres-inspired. In my experience, many of these instruments are too heavy, and just don't sound like a genuine Torres - I have had the fortune to play one belonging to James Westbrook. Some luthiers make great Torres copies, but they can be prohibitively expensive.
There's no inherent reason for a dimensional copy built from a Torres plantilla to cost more than any other guitar plan. In fact, the FE19 ("La Suprema") is one of the commonest first-build guitar projects out there (thanks to Neil Ostberg's photographic tutorial and free plans). And it's a great design. It really spans the gap between romantic guitars and modern guitars, leaving many to wonder if modern "concert-size" guitars are too big and heavy for the average player who doesn't typically perform in capacious venues.
Many have been built for less than two hundred bucks in material costs. The historical replicas cost a fortune due in large measure to slavish adherence to historical detail with lavish rosettes and time-consuming binding work. But if you want a player's guitar? You can certainly get something built on a Torres plan for far less than the cost of a Camps Concierto...so long as you're not asking a famous luthier to make it for you. But thinner woods are more prone to split as the years go by, so there is some risk in going with thinner and lighter plates. These guitars can also be built with a wider neck and shorter scale lengths, both of which you might want for playing without nails. The best guitar I ever played in my nail-free days was a Hans Schmidt guitar with a 54mm nut that fanned out to a 65mm string spread over the saddle. The extra fraction of a millimeter between strings is really helpful when you don't have the knife-edge locus of a fingernail to lock in your right-hand finger placement. Hmmm...finessing the ultimate nail-free guitar design. That might be an interesting thread.

vesa
Posts: 808
Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2016 12:52 pm
Location: Sulva, Finland

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by vesa » Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:01 am

I think one thing that is problem when building Torres are the sides.
The top should be very thin but the sides are and should be extreme, scary (from builders perspective) thin, about 1 mm in thickness.
That is so thin that the side will flex a bit if you push it slightly with your finger and it will crack if you press it with your thumb.
The overall lightness means that they are very fragile (I do not mean that any concert guitar is a ¨strum chords by bonfire instrument¨)
and people using ergoplays with suctioncups are not something a luthier want to see with these guitars.
You want to give some guarantee for the instrument but will it be treated in proper way after it leaves the shop.
Vesa Kuokkanen

Antonio Marin nr. 813 1995 (Bouchet)
Vesa Kuokkanen 2016

RobMacKillop
Posts: 3720
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:24 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by RobMacKillop » Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:10 am

All interesting comments. Yes, my guitar has rosewood back and sides, as did some Torres instruments, though his were largely Brazilian. Yes, you can find cheaper instruments, of course, and some will sound very good. Dominic Miller (Sting's guitarist) is a no-nail player. I wish he would explore gut strings, as he would sound a lot more interesting than he does on that video.

Polishing nut grooves is a relatively easy business, but not so bridge holes. I have a luthier friend coming to visit later in November, who has promised to bring a bag of tricks with him to help out.

Played the guitar this morning - it's so easy and beautiful to play. At half the price of the Ambridge I used to have, I would be hard pressed to choose between them. By the way, there's a new Ambridge on sale, a copy of Torres's La Superba, going for a mere £10,500...yikes!

Buster

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by Buster » Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:42 am

Will you replace the saddle with all bone? The cardboard shim will dampen the sound between string and top.

RobMacKillop
Posts: 3720
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:24 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Can't afford an original Torres?

Post by RobMacKillop » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:05 pm

Hardly. I doubt if I or most people would notice if the shim was in or out. The saddle leans into the front of the bridge - that's where the vibrations are mostly transmitted. I've no plans for the moment to change anything. If it ain't broke...

Return to “Luthiers”