Carlos Blanco Ruiz

Remember this guitar?  Well, Carlos has just used it on another recording and I have now received my copy of the cd, very nicely played and well recorded.  You can get it here although I am not sure if they ship outside of Spain.  On the same page you can download the booklet and listen to quite a few tracks.


Carlos Blanco Ruiz

Manuel Ramírez, 1911
Instituto de Estudios Riojanos, 2014
The Instituto de Estudios Riojanos published in 2005 the book and CD “Francisco Calleja (1891-1950): Música original para guitarra. Edición Crítica” and in 2012 a second cd “La guitarra de Francisco Calleja: nuevas obras y transcripciones”, both authored by Carlos Blanco Ruiz.
The first project contained a biography, editions of the known pieces and a cd of this music.  The second contained new music both originals and transcriptions.
We now present a third recording with music that is related to Francisco Calleja.  There are a few things that justify this new publication:
On the one hand we have the appearance of new repertoire, recently discovered.  On the other hand is the possibility of displaying the aspect of performer through Calleja’s transcriptions and other pieces which are not his but were often present in his concert programmes in his almost 40 years of performing.
  Several of them are mainstays of guitar repertoire from the beginning of the twentieth century.  Finally, but no less importantly, the possibility of studying and recording these pieces on a historical instrument, a guitar made by Manuel Ramírez from 1911 which belonged to the maestro and still retains the sound of these increasingly appreciated instruments.  The so-called historical guitars have a characteristic “spanish sound” which allow us to understand the music of the period (in which they were built) in a different way.  Our challenge was to ensure that the recording captures those special timbres in an attempt to offer a complementary vision of guitar music from the essential first decades of the twentieth century but seen through the eyes (or ears) of Francisco Calleja (from La Rioja).  LA GUITARRA DE PRINCIPIOS DEL S.XX BAJO EL PRISMA DE FRANCISCO CALLEJA was recorded in June of 2012 in Studios MECA, San Asensio and the sound technician was Javier Rojas Ruiz.

Below is a video from the recording sessions.

Manuel Ramirez 1911

I was recently asked to restore a Manuel Ramirez from 1911 that had once belonged to Francisco Calleja.  This guitar has a long and lively history of concerts and accidents, restorations and modifications.  Here you can find more information, in Spanish, about this guitar.  Some time between 1955 and 1966 the Banchetti brothers modified the guitars from a 7-string to a 6-string and there were extensive repairs made later by Hilario Barrera between 1966 and 1968.


My first task was to decide with the owner Carlos Blanco if we should undertake a complete restoration (and surely change the sound) or rather limit ourselves to what was necessary for the conservation and playability of the guitar.  Often what is so appreciated in older instruments is the sound that comes with age, so we decided that we didn’t want to change that.  There is something to be said for architectural renewal of an instrument and giving it new acoustic life but the sound does change often for the better but it does change..  One reason that we decided not to do that is that it had already been done in one of the repairs that it had undergone and the result was not what I am sure they had hoped for.  Most of the bracing on the top was “new” and this new bracing had failed to support the doming fo the top.  P1030636



Although I had to change the machine heads, file the fret ends and stop the bridge from coming up the most critical part of this job was to repair a new crack in the soundboard and to immobilize some old loose bits.P1030631  One thing that happens often with old guitars is that the top next to the  purfling or the rosette will pull up and vibrate.  On this guitar there were loose parts of the top in the lower bout and near the rosette.  This sort of problem is difficult because you can’t just put a cleat on, there is usually some sort of re-inforcement too close by.  In the second case I put the re-inforcement on the bar under the rosette so as to mitigate the added mass.  As for the crack that needed fixing I wanted to use as little mass as possible and to centre the cleats on the crack as closely as possible.  Pyramid-shaped cleats are easy to make if you take the back off and can work un-encumbered to give them that shape after you glue them on.   In order to achieve the same effect I prepared them all at the same time and then cut them all the way through. making diamonds Of course then I needed a caul to glue them on with.  At the same time I wanted to make sure that the grain was correctly oriented so I made something that would be easy to control as I worked blind.  P1030736What I used to centre the cleats was a combination of two methods, one being the thread which I pulled up through the crack and the other being two temporary guides which I placed inside the guitar. P1030728 This is common in restoration, you spend a lot of time preparing so that everything goes smoothly but then when you start working it goes more quickly.  Speed is important as we are obliged to use hot hide glue on instruments which were built with it in the first place.  It is also relevant that vestiges of this glue will not impede future restorations.  IMG_20140210_095551_0This means that if in the future someone thinks that my restoration criteria were flawed they can take off what I added and start again.  Here you can see the three cleats that I used for the crack.  You can also see some of the previous work.  I thought we should have a recording of this guitar just to see what the sound is like after so many years.