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  1. #1

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    Okay, non-jazz content, but I know some of you will find it interesting.







    Four days ago I got a phone call from a man saying the local guitar store had given him my name, that he had an interesting guitar, and that he would like me to see it. "Okay, bring it round". I didn't expect much, as this had happened a few times in the past, and it was an education to me to realise that most people think antique = the 1960s. This time was different.





    Iain Adam presented me with a guitar from 1870s Madrid, with a label carrying quite a bit of interesting information. The instrument was made by "Antonio Carlos Garcia, Fabrica de Guitarras y Mandolinas, Madrid"; that he had won gold medals is all expositions; and that the instrument was made for the Alban Voigt company of London. I quickly discovered that said Alban Voigt was an importer of all sorts of musical instruments, with offices at 14 Edmund Place, Aldersgate Street, London (near the Barbican).
    The guitar model was called, "La Madrileña", which I assume means a girl or woman from Madrid.
    Iain said the guitar came down through his grandmother, who possibly played it, to his mother, who certainly didn't, to himself, who used to "bash around on it" when he was a kid. There is evidence that the latter is true:





    Apart from the faded bling, the first thing I noticed was that it had its original tornavoz intact:





    The tornavoz is a brass cone attached to the edge of the sound hole, reaching deep within the instrument, almost touching the back. Its purpose seems to have been to lower the cavity resonance of the instrument, in other words giving a very warm bass, and consequently a mellow tone. The great luthier, Antonio de Torres of Almeria, used such things in most of his instruments, including the two he made for Francisco Tárrega.

    I played a few few pieces by Tárrega on it, and was pleased to hear a beautifully romantic sound, clearly aged, yet still sounding quite strong. The neck is true - it is not bent or warped, so playing in tune is possible without surgery to the instrument. And the original tuners work perfectly. The bridge looks original, yet had clearly been moved. Iain informed me that local violin maker, Brian Rattray, had shifted the bridge to correct the intonation, some time in the 1970s. Well, it plays in tune very well.

    It has some features of the Valencian school, and might possibly have been made there for a Madrid-based exporter. If so, did Antonio Carlos Garcia really make it, or did he even exist at all, with a Spanish name being used for the British market? More research is required.
    At this point I was feeling two things: that I wanted the instrument, and that I probably couldn't afford it. I asked Iain how much he wanted, and he said that he wanted it to go to someone who knew how to play it properly, and offered it to me for a mere £400. Deal! And thanks.

    I have since found that prices vary widely and wildly for these instruments, from around £400 up to over £2,000. No one seems to know what to charge for them. They are not top-level instruments, such as those by Torres, Manuel Ramirez, etc., but they have excellent timbers - a solid good-quality Brazilian rosewood back, for instance, and a good (German?) spruce sound board. The inlay is a little rough overall, and the bling is not to my taste, though thankfully time has been kind to it, fading the excess to a golden memory of a past age.













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  3. #2

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    what a story & what a fantastic piece to have in your hands...may it continue to inspire you....lovely playing


    hopefully new strings and continued use will work out any intonation problems...guitars need to vibrate to come alive...years under the bed isn't good!! hah

    congrats & enjoy rob

    cheers

    ps- tuning buttons have to be ivory!

  4. #3

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    Well done to all involved!! I have a feeling this guitar found you , as the right person for it to be with at this time of its life )

    Will

  5. #4

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    Rob, thank you for sharing your story. Very interesting indeed. You did buy it? It's probably worth 400 as wall art
    Or As historical artifact. If you went to a jam session with it, you'd be the only one in the room with an instrument like that!

  6. #5

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    And to think... that guitar had to wait all those years to finally meet Rob MacKillop! Lucky lumber!
    Jazz isn't dead. It just smells funny. FZ

  7. #6

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    Wow Rob,

    Speechless here.

    Shit.

    I mean really wow.

  8. #7

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    That back! Haaaah! That sound!

    How long is the string length?

    Is that antique pitch? Did you tune down out of caution?

    Lucky person. Wonderful tale. Play more!
    "Don't worry about that. Everybody talks about finding your voice. Do your homework and your voice will find you." - Branford Marsalis

  9. #8

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    Rob,
    Great story and a fantastic sounding guitar. I just love the low frequency timbre imparted by the Tornavoz. Your playing of the Llobet composition was excellent.....thanks for sharing. If you ever get tired of it - let me know .

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Okay, non-jazz content, but I know some of you will find it interesting.







    Four days ago I got a phone call from a man saying the local guitar store had given him my name, that he had an interesting guitar, and that he would like me to see it. "Okay, bring it round". I didn't expect much, as this had happened a few times in the past, and it was an education to me to realise that most people think antique = the 1960s. This time was different.





    Iain Adam presented me with a guitar from 1870s Madrid, with a label carrying quite a bit of interesting information. The instrument was made by "Antonio Carlos Garcia, Fabrica de Guitarras y Mandolinas, Madrid"; that he had won gold medals is all expositions; and that the instrument was made for the Alban Voigt company of London. I quickly discovered that said Alban Voigt was an importer of all sorts of musical instruments, with offices at 14 Edmund Place, Aldersgate Street, London (near the Barbican).
    The guitar model was called, "La Madrileña", which I assume means a girl or woman from Madrid.
    Iain said the guitar came down through his grandmother, who possibly played it, to his mother, who certainly didn't, to himself, who used to "bash around on it" when he was a kid. There is evidence that the latter is true:





    Apart from the faded bling, the first thing I noticed was that it had its original tornavoz intact:





    The tornavoz is a brass cone attached to the edge of the sound hole, reaching deep within the instrument, almost touching the back. Its purpose seems to have been to lower the cavity resonance of the instrument, in other words giving a very warm bass, and consequently a mellow tone. The great luthier, Antonio de Torres of Almeria, used such things in most of his instruments, including the two he made for Francisco Tárrega.

    I played a few few pieces by Tárrega on it, and was pleased to hear a beautifully romantic sound, clearly aged, yet still sounding quite strong. The neck is true - it is not bent or warped, so playing in tune is possible without surgery to the instrument. And the original tuners work perfectly. The bridge looks original, yet had clearly been moved. Iain informed me that local violin maker, Brian Rattray, had shifted the bridge to correct the intonation, some time in the 1970s. Well, it plays in tune very well.

    It has some features of the Valencian school, and might possibly have been made there for a Madrid-based exporter. If so, did Antonio Carlos Garcia really make it, or did he even exist at all, with a Spanish name being used for the British market? More research is required.
    At this point I was feeling two things: that I wanted the instrument, and that I probably couldn't afford it. I asked Iain how much he wanted, and he said that he wanted it to go to someone who knew how to play it properly, and offered it to me for a mere £400. Deal! And thanks.

    I have since found that prices vary widely and wildly for these instruments, from around £400 up to over £2,000. No one seems to know what to charge for them. They are not top-level instruments, such as those by Torres, Manuel Ramirez, etc., but they have excellent timbers - a solid good-quality Brazilian rosewood back, for instance, and a good (German?) spruce sound board. The inlay is a little rough overall, and the bling is not to my taste, though thankfully time has been kind to it, fading the excess to a golden memory of a past age.

















    wow, what a beautiful instrument. In fact, I think it’s the finest I’ve heard you sound on your videos. The tone on that guitar is just sublime.

    what is the scale length? Sorry if I missed it in the vid.

    CONGRATS!!!

  11. #10

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    A stunning instrument. Congratulations Rob. Your playing complements it naturally.

  12. #11

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    Thank you so much for the edification.

  13. #12

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    Wow -- that straight-grain Brazilian back! Love it!

  14. #13

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    Rob,

    That's a heck of a story. And the sound...

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Best to you.
    Archtop YT Channel: www.youtube.com/+FredArchtop

  15. #14

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    Wow, guys, thanks for all the great comments. I'll try to answer your questions.

    Yes, the buttons are ivory, so I won't being taking it out of the UK. Actually, two or three of the buttons are rattling when I play loudly, so I'll have to get them fixed. I have a luthier friend visiting me on Wednesday, so I'll get his advice on how to go about that.

    The string length is 643mm.

    The pitch is low for two reasons, one being historical pitch was lower than today, though possibly not quite as low as it is at the present. The second reason is that it arrived with super-high-tension strings on that the guys at the local guitar store put on when the owner sought to restring it before selling. So I immediately lowered the pitch about three-quarters of a tone. I found two used gut strings for the B and G, and have now ordered a set of Gut and Silk strings from Aquila.

    The Brazilian rosewood back is of the highest quality. Another luthier friend seriously suggested salvaging it, discarding the rest of the instrument, and allowing him to build a new guitar. As if!

    And, yes, I bought it! Not sure how I'll get a Charlie Christian pickup on it, not to mention a whammy bar, but where there's a will there's a way!

  16. #15

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    What a find! Congrats!
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  17. #16

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    Hi Rob!

    That instrument has an incredible projection of the sound and an unique evenness of tone and volume between strings and notes, from what can be heard in that video. Truly remarkable. And you know I'm not a fan of old things, mind you.

    Well...?
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

  18. #17

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    But you are an old thing yourself...

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    But you are an old thing yourself...
    I'm young at heart, Rob... that's all that matters!
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy
    https://soundcloud.com/theodore-koja...hy-bro-project
    Hy-Bro Test Sound Files

  20. #19

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  21. #20

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    One of the coolest threads here in quite some time: great guitar (oh my !!), great playing and wow what a story... Kudos to you Rob...

    Big

  22. #21

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    Cheers, Big, and not a b5 in sight!

  23. #22

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    Great story, great playing and wonderful sound. It's like the past speaking to us in the present.
    “Without music, life would be a mistake”--Friedrich Nietzsche

    Current lineup: Gibson ES-135 ('02), Peerless Sunset, Harmony Brilliant Cutaway ('64), Godin 5th Avenue, Alvarez AC60 A/E classical, Kay K37 ('56), Fender Squier VM Jazz bass, several ukes. Amps: Fishman Artist, Fender SCXD, Pignose 7-100.

  24. #23

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    Cheers, Jeff. The ghosts in the machine heads...

  25. #24

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    Awesome guitar and background, what a full, deep tone! Would love to hear La Catedral on it

    My old anonymous piece is not as nice, but interesting nonetheless. When I first got it and reached in to explore the bracing, I discovered a nickel bag taped to the underside of top.

    Spanish Guitar From c. 1870!-img_0943-jpg
    Spanish Guitar From c. 1870!-img_0944-jpg
    -- Isn't it crazy that "archtop" and "luthier" are spelling errors on this forum?

  26. #25

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    How strange, the nickel bag. Must have been for tips.

    Your guitar looks really nice, Woody. How does it sound?

  27. #26

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    hey, does that thing have a rosette? i can barely make it out from here in outer space. i kid. that is a fascinating guitar. i've never seen anything of a similar aesthetic, let alone the brass cone thing. i'm glad you shared it with us. thanks! doesn't sound half bad, either.

    ps- your translation of the label checks out.

  28. #27

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    Now that you point it out, it DOES have a rosette! I really am most unobservant

  29. #28

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    Perfection!
    MG

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    How strange, the nickel bag. Must have been for tips.

    Your guitar looks really nice, Woody. How does it sound?
    Beautiful sweet tone, but not a lot of volume. I don't know its history at all, it's obviously more related to 19th cent romantic parlor guitars. Panormo, etc. It seems that at some point someone replaced the tie bridge with a pin bridge. (And misplaced, the intonation is way off.) But then again, maybe not, see the examples below, lots of pin bridges. I wonder if they tied ball knots at the end(?) And probably, the original black neck was stripped and refinished. When I get around to it, I'd like to get a proper bridge installed again. Or at least, this one placed properly.

    Here are some examples:

    Builders of the early 19th Century

    19th century romantic guitar - Google Search
    -- Isn't it crazy that "archtop" and "luthier" are spelling errors on this forum?

  31. #30

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    Yes, pin bridges have a long history, and yes, players had to tie knots in the end of the string. Sometimes it's hard to tell at first glance an early 19th-century gut-strung guitar from and early 20th-century steel-strung guitar.

  32. #31

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    Seeing as some of you have shown an interest in this, I recorded an album with the guitar, and here it is - download only:

    Rob MacKillop | The Romantic Spanish Guitar, Vol. 1: 19th Century | CD Baby Music Store

    It's also on iTunes, Amazon, and a hundred other places. Have a listen to the extracts at the linked page.

    Make sure to click the Read More... link at the bottom of the page for the "booklet" notes.

  33. #32

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    I missed this the first time around. What a great story, and what a cool instrument! Beautiful playing Rob. The instrument has finally found its proper home in this century. May it continue to make music for centuries beyond!
    Best regards, k

  34. #33

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  35. #34

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    Robster,
    i could listen to you talk and play all day long.
    You hit EVERY harmonic. You played that old guitar sweetly. You soothed the ghosts that guitar.
    The lighting in your video helped make the “old bling” sparkle.
    I so thoroughly enjoyed that video. Thank you buddy.
    Joe D

  36. #35

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    Cheers, Joe. Always supportive, always kind. Appreciated, my friend.