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  1. #1

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    I play a Cordoba GK studio and I am quite unhappy with it. The action is terrible. I have had it setup numerous times. And the intonation sucks; always sounds out of tune to me. I replaced the tuning pegs with Schallers and I use the heaviest strings I could find but I am starting to think that it is time to sell it and get a better classical guitar. My budget is of course limited. I was in Andalucia last year but felt that I didn't have the knowledge to drop 1 to 2 thousand dollars on a guitar. I feel a little more confident now but still not feeling that I have the skills to make a good choice. Any recommendations? I pretty much play bossa and jazz on the guitar.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    is the action high? why does the intonation suck?

  4. #3
    The action seems to be higher now than in the past. The problem is mostly up near the 8th or 9th fret. I was told that the top is bowing.

    why does the intonation suck? I can't seem to get it in perfect tune. I am very sensitive to proper tuning. I think it is due to the action being so high.

  5. #4

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    Rich, I can't speak for a specific upscale model, but my experience with Yamaha classicals has been rather good. I have a Yamaha that I bought in Italy back in the early Eighties that still sounds and plays well after all this time with true intonation and holds its tuning very well. I think they are frequently underrated. Of course, do you want a cutaway or a standard classical model?

    By the way, I actually detest some of the hybrid models that attempt to get a very low action on the classical. In my opinion the standard classical action, which is higher than typical electrics, is important to provide the rebound on the string which is important for optimum playability. Others may disagree.

  6. #5
    I am running about 4 centimeters at the 12 fret from the top of the metal bar. Makes sense to my engineering brain that when you press down farther (than you should) on an in-tune string it raises up slightly in pitch to above what it should be. Of course this would be taken into account when building the guitar.

  7. #6

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    I'm hoping you mean 4 milimeters!

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by richb2
    I am running about 4 centimeters at the 12 fret from the top of the metal bar. Makes sense to my engineering brain that when you press down farther (than you should) on an in-tune string it raises up slightly in pitch to above what it should be. Of course this would be taken into account when building the guitar.
    Blimey! Is your action at the 12th fret really 4 CENTIMETRES? 4 millimetres would be more like it.

    4 cm is Freddie Green territory!

  9. #8
    Yes, 4x10-3 (that is minus third power). Sorry for the confusion

  10. #9

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    Rich, I'm thinking you might dig a hybrid...although i thought the cordoba studio already was?

    3-4mm is pretty common for a classical. If the neck's straight, you could sand the bottom ofcthe saddle to lower the action.

  11. #10
    It is the tuning thing that gets me. When I hear Romero play it always sounds in tune to me (plus you can hear every string). When I am playing chords sometimes it doesn't. I wonder if I am slightly stretching the strings on hard to finger chords? BTW, this is a chord thing, not a soloing thing. Or maybe my right hand is pulling too hard on some of the strings? Jeez I just don't have any idea.

    I actually am using Extra Hard strings in an attempt to resolve this tuning (and buzzing) thing. I have some Medium Hard strings. Maybe I will try those again.
    Last edited by richb2; 07-02-2015 at 10:41 AM.

  12. #11

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    4 mm is normal for classical. Might buzz on the bass strings if you go much lower than this?

    I use medium tension on my classical guitar, it's much easier to play.

    When did you last put new strings on? Intonation can suffer quite a lot on old classical strings.

    Have you checked the intonation at the 12 fret playing the fretted note compared to the harmonic at the 12th? If they're the same, you shouldn't really have an intonation problem with the guitar itself (assuming the frets are correctly positioned).

    Pay attention to the left hand - are you pressing too hard? Too much tension in the left hand is bad - it's easy to push nylon strings out of tune, even pressing straight down onto the fingerboard.

  13. #12
    That might be the issue Graham. I am going to move back to the slightly lighter strings this afternoon and I will let you know.

  14. #13

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    A video would speak several thousand words here.

  15. #14

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    My experience with guitars and tuning issues is that it has nothing to do with the brand or price range. Although, I'm just talking about the ones you find in a guitar store. You can always go to a guitar luthier and order up a custom job if you have 4k+ to drop on it. I've learned over there years that a perfectly tuning instrument doesn't exist. I've played maybe one guitar in the last 25 years that was about 98% there, but that's the best I've ever seen. The guitar in question was an off brand electric guitar with 24 frets and it had possibly the best intonation I've ever heard. It was ugly as f*** with a terrible paint job and it had only one bridge pick up, and the tone was horrible. But it played so well in tune. It was one of the guitars for sale at the music store I taught out of, so I would grab it and play it often and use it for lessons. It had clean octaves on all pairs of strings all the way up to the 24th fret, it was truly amazing. I'm sure it wasn't perfect intonation though, as I believe that is physically impossible to achieve on an instrument with straight frets (hence the fretwave and other similar systems).

    Richb, I also am very sensitive to tuning issues. But I've learned not to let it get in the way and I just have learned to be happy with an imperfectly tuning instrument. There are certainly some guitars that tune pretty damn well, but most in my experience are quite noticeably flawed.

    I'd recommend you don't look to a specific brand, or price range to solve your problems. And definitely don't buy one from a remote source. You must physically test out guitars in person and do your best to test the intonation and make your decision there.

    I had a guitar student once who wanted to get himself a Les Paul guitar, and he asked me to come with him to the guitar store and help him choose one (because I always warn my students when they buy a new guitar they need to check for certain things like intonation, action, buzzing frets, etc..). So I happily went with him and I sat down next to the amplifier and told him, ok, bring them to me one at a time, and don't tell me the price. I tested about 15 different Les Pauls for him, I made a point of not looking at the headstock to see if it was an Epiphone or a Gibson. He brought me some of both. Ironically, the absolute worst intonation was on the most expensive model. It was not even a hard selection for me to make, 1 guitar out of the 15 stood out far beyond all the others: it had great intonation, the action was perfect, it played beautifully. I told him without hesitation, it's not even a competition, buy this one it's the best by far. Only then did I realize it was an Epiphone, and it cost ~$400. Several of the ones I tested were the high end Les Pauls, he was prepared to spend much more than $400, but he took my advice and bought the one I told him too. Later on he took the guitar back into the store he bought it from to get serviced (a wire came loose or something), and he told me "All the salesmen (they were of course all guitar players too) were amazed at my guitar and told me it was the best Les Paul they'd ever played on. They just couldn't believe it was an Epiphone." True story.

    I actually have another similar story, and it was actually when I bought my first classical guitar. I needed to buy a "student grade" classical guitar (which you were talking anywhere from $1000-$2000, at that time anyways in 1999). I hooked up with the guitar teacher at the local university a few months before I started going there (transferring over from a community college). He was nice enough to go with me to look at some guitars in another city even...We drove like 100 miles to San Francisco to look at some guitars. The first place we went to was a luthier's studio in Berkeley (Marc Silber). We tried out a couple guitars and one really stood out as having a great tone. We then went to Guitar Solo in SF, which is a pretty well known classical guitar store. We tried out some guitars there and some we tried out were even from world famous guitar luthiers (not like I was actually going to buy one of those haha). Some of the guitars we tried out were like $5k+ and from famous luthiers in Spain and Germany etc...At the end of our trip we all were in unanimous agreement that one guitar stood out above all of the ones we tried (my teacher's wife who was a clarinetist with an M.M. in music, gave her opinion too, she judged the guitars purely on sound). Guess which one we all agreed sounded the best? The first one we tried out at the luthier's studio that was also, ironically, the cheapest one we tried out the entire day. It just had the most beautiful tone I had heard the entire day. It had the nicest richest bassiest tone of all the guitars due to the cocobolo wood used, and being a jazzer at that time, I had a preference for a bassier tone. My guitar teacher, who had a D.M.A in guitar performance btw, told me "If you ever decide to sell it, call me first ok?". The moral of the story: buy a guitar based on your testing it out, not based on the price or the brand.

    I still have that guitar today, but I admit I rarely play it because it's a bit harder to play than my cheap crappy electric acoustic. My $300 electric-acoustic with cut-away has a terrible tone compared to the other one, but it's so easy to play on I can play for hours. Whereas the nice one I have I get fatigued from playing even a short amount of time. I have lingering problems from tendonitis issues I had several years ago and my hands and arms get fatigued easily, so even the slightest difference in action, string tension, or scale can make a huge difference to me. The action is not bad on it at all, but it has a slightly longer scale at 66 cm (which is why I think I tire on it faster). I still play it from time to time and I am planning to do some recording with it in the near future.

    One last note: I tried a Taylor electric acoustic not too long ago and it was pretty freaking nice, I don't know the exact model though...And it was noticeably nicer than any of the Cordoba's I have tried. You might want to look into those.
    Last edited by Guitarzen; 07-02-2015 at 02:05 PM.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by richb2
    That might be the issue Graham. I am going to move back to the slightly lighter strings this afternoon and I will let you know.
    The lighter strings will probably be better for the top bowing issue and maybe action will be a bit lower. These GK guitars have thinner tops than a regular classical. I've been using medium or light gauge strings on mine.

  17. #16
    Well the extra strings are medium hard instead of extra hard. Is that enough to make a difference?

  18. #17

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    Every bit helps. I have a D'Addaro EJ43 light set now on mine. I've heard that Flamenco strings are pretty light too and may try them in the future.

    Btw I have a student who has an old japanese classical from the 70s. He has to put light tensions on or the top sinks down, even medium tensions won't work on that guitar, and there's no issue like loose or broken bracings. it's just a delicate guitar.

  19. #18
    Well I put the medium strings on and it is definately easier to play. I need to have a lighter touch with the right hand and by having lighter strings, in order for them not to buzz I need to turn up my amp.

  20. #19

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    Don't the Cordoba nylon string guitars have truss rods?

    I remember trying a C10 I think the model is....spruce top straight up classical guitar.
    It really impressed me for volume and balance ....I had not heard of the brand before
    and was astonished when I looked at the label and saw it was made in China.

    There was definitely a truss rod in that model ....why don't you have a look inside
    your GK and see if it also has an adjustable rod.
    Of course I realize that a truss rod adjustment may not fix the issue you're experiencing.

    One thing I have noticed about the Cordoba mid range models C10 etc ...they are very consistent
    in tonal quality.
    However they set them up with high tension Savarez Alliance strings which imposes quite a stress on
    the top.
    Those KF [Alliance] strings help to brighten up the trebles....particularly on the dreaded nylon 3rd string.

    I noticed the tops on Cordoba are quite light and feel lightly braced.

    Anyway...worth taking a look to see if the top has actually "dipped" in front of the bridge due to string tension
    and inside to see if you have a truss rod.

    Good luck.

  21. #20
    Yes it has a truss rod.

  22. #21

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    If you have a chance, try the various Godin nylon-string models. The Brazilians and Africans really like them, and my relatively new 7-string Multiac is quite excellent in terms of intonation, ease of playing and amplified sound. For bossa and jazz, it would be very hard to beat the price points ($1200-1600).

  23. #22

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    If you want better intonation, you may want to look for a longer scale. Typical scale length for a classical is 650mm. Look for a spruce top Kohno with a 660mm scale. These can be found with a little effort for significantly less than a 664mm Ramirez 1a or 2a.

  24. #23

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    Longer scale is not the answer; my Lester Devoe concert flamenco guitars are 650, and the intonation is faultless, but Lester pays attention to all of that. I thought for many years that nylon-string guitars were meant to be out of tune, but the DeVoe experience changed that. I think it takes a true master builder to get that result, I don't know why that is.

  25. #24

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    I've only owned 2 decent classical guitars. The first one was a Fender (yes they used to make them back in the 70s, don't know if they do now), which was a decent copy of a Ramirez. Now I have a Camps SP 6 (it is a Spanish maker though the name doesn't sound like it). Both these guitars have good intonation, especially the Camps, so I've never had problems with tuning really.

    An interesting thing about the Camps is that it has a truss 'wire' in the neck similar to a truss rod, unusual in a standard classical guitar. I believe it is more for preventing humidity affecting the neck, rather than for relief adjustments. I have not touched it. But it means they were able to make the neck a little thinner than usual, which I find more comfortable. Makes it a bit easier to play jazz or bossa too.

  26. #25

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    Actually one little tuning trick I've always found with classical guitars is when tuning the G string, it's better to err slightly on the 'flat' side. I know this is common to most guitars even steel string, but I always found it more pronounced on nylon strings for some reason. I'm only talking about a minute adjustment, i.e. tune G string to pitch, then I just nudge it a tiny bit down, just enough not to sound flat at the open string. This makes it sound 'sweeter' all the way up the neck, at least in my experience.

    Just found the Camps website, looks like they make electro-acoustic models too. The thing I liked about mine is it only cost about £600 so it's really a 'student' model, but the quality approaches a 'concert' level guitar.

    Guitarres Camps. Guitar makers since 1945


    By the way here's a clip of me playing jazz on the Camps guitar, gives some idea of how it sounds.


  27. #26

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    NUAGES.......Awesome

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by voxss
    NUAGES.......Awesome
    Thanks very much! Now if I could just get some more time to learn some CLASSICAL pieces on the damn thing, it would be great!

    I do play some classical pieces but not perfectly enough to record them to my satisfaction.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Guitarzen
    I actually have another similar story, and it was actually when I bought my first classical guitar. I needed to buy a "student grade" classical guitar (which you were talking anywhere from $1000-$2000, at that time anyways in 1999). I hooked up with the guitar teacher at the local university a few months before I started going there (transferring over from a community college). He was nice enough to go with me to look at some guitars in another city even...We drove like 100 miles to San Francisco to look at some guitars. The first place we went to was a luthier's studio in Berkeley (Marc Silber). We tried out a couple guitars and one really stood out as having a great tone. We then went to Guitar Solo in SF, which is a pretty well known classical guitar store. We tried out some guitars there and some we tried out were even from world famous guitar luthiers (not like I was actually going to buy one of those haha). Some of the guitars we tried out were like $5k+ and from famous luthiers in Spain and Germany etc...At the end of our trip we all were in unanimous agreement that one guitar stood out above all of the ones we tried (my teacher's wife who was a clarinetist with an M.M. in music, gave her opinion too, she judged the guitars purely on sound). Guess which one we all agreed sounded the best? The first one we tried out at the luthier's studio that was also, ironically, the cheapest one we tried out the entire day. It just had the most beautiful tone I had heard the entire day. It had the nicest richest bassiest tone of all the guitars due to the cocobolo wood used, and being a jazzer at that time, I had a preference for a bassier tone. My guitar teacher, who had a D.M.A in guitar performance btw, told me "If you ever decide to sell it, call me first ok?". The moral of the story: buy a guitar based on your testing it out, not based on the price or the brand.
    I have a GREAT Yamaha CG-160S. Supposedly, it’s a beginner’s guitar, from what I gather. But it’s not really…...

    I returned from National Guitar Summer Workshop " in Summer, 1987, from studying jazz, but they had also had a Classical Guitar Seminar going on at the same time. They played every day in a little campus stone chapel, and the natural sound in the room was (pardon the pun) heavenly. I dropped in a few times that week just to soak up that sound. Ahhh…

    So I returned home and decided to get myself a classical, just for fun. My friend and I went out on that hot, dreary, damp day in August, went to maybe five stores, and literally every nylon sting we tried seemed to sound like crap, dull and thick, little resonance, plus most had neck issues with all the humidity. Buzzy-fret City everywhere. I almost gave up, but at the last store we stopped in, they had this cheap-but-minty Yamaha, hung waaaay down back with their “rejects” in the used section, and I figured: why not try one more?

    I can recall the moment like it was just yesterday: I strummed a chord, played a few lower notes…… and a snare drum parked but ten feet away resonated with the guitar! I kid you not. And somehow, there were zero neck issues, too, every fret ringing clearly with great intonation. Plus it had a wonderful tone (and even on THAT day). It was only $169 in dead mint condition, and I bought a case for another $50. (That was a long time ago, but even then, that was stupid-cheap money.)

    I have since had three outright 'official' classical players either offer me really stupid money for that guitar or (being poor themselves) they were at least in total awe of it. One guy wanted to trade me his $1,200 guitar for it, in fact.

    In all my years, the one conclusion I've come to with guitars is that it's really all down to that one "magic" guitar that one can come across at just the right time.