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Why doesn't gibson make classical guitars?


houndman55

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Yeah the title says it all. Why doesn't gibson make classical (nylon string) guitars? Epiphone did it once. Fender does, Ibanez does etc. I mean sure maybe the market isn't that big but heck out of a 100 people with a interest in guitars I can bet you that at least 10 of those guys would want a classical guitar made in America. And if they don't want to devote time and resources to full time production they can always make a limited run of like a 100 or something. It would be awesome.

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Gibson made them back in the 1960's (C-O, C-1, etc.). I'm pretty sure they used the same body plan as the LG-series guitars, but I don't know how the top and back bracing was done.

 

In any case, they were pretty unremarkable instruments, although a few of the highest-end models (Richard Pick?) were beautiful.

 

The construction details of a quality classical guitar are radically different from a standard Gibson or Martin guitar designed for steel strings. Top bracing is totally different, neck joint is totally different, etc.

 

It probably isn't practical for Gibson to try to compete in this market. A decent semi-custom Spanish-made classical can be had for about the same price as a new J-45, but it's a totally different animal.

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I think a lot of the less than stellar quality of the Gibson classical guitars is that they came out of the folkie era. Mostly that meant strumming to back up singing as opposed to playing Bach. My understanding is that earlier versions were a bit more resonant before they beefed up bracing for a heavier type of playing. Some of the imports were IMHO as "good" overall guitars at a lot less cash.

 

Some of the Goya brand until 1970 or so were made in Sweden as I understand it.

 

IMHO the Gibson "classical guitar" was kinda a good example of building to purpose, even as the old archtops were built to a purpose and then generally discarded for flattops in that same folkie era. I and others were outright told that the archtop stank as a folk instrument. Period. Not many acoustic archtops have been made since the peak of the folkie era because demand dried up as flattops and electrics took over the marketplace. "Jazz" electrified archtops were, needless to say, continued for a niche market that they still hold.

 

m

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I've owned a few. A couple C-0s, a C-L, and I have owned a 1958 C-6 (Richard Pick) model for 8 years. As J45Nick stated, they are unremarkable.

 

My C-6 is "enjoyable". It has Brazilian Rosewood sides/back, an ebony board, and the board is RADIUSED. I like that. It won't set the room on fire but it's a good 'grab n go' guitar. Pretty sure mine came from the first run and it was probably destined for the dumpster. It's my belief R&D saved the unfinished (but doomed) guitar and finished it to apply an experimental finish. The body has a THICK highly cracked candy apple-like finish much like you'd find on an Italian or Japanese electric in the 60s. There is no finish whatsoever on the neck other than the face of the headstock. The fingerboard actually has some slots cut on the UNDER side, like it was a piece of scrap wood they decided to use for a board so they flipped it over and cut new slots. The top is distorted around the braces, almost as if they sucked it together too hard in the gluing process.

 

None of this makes sense I know. Why not just toss it in the dumpster and be done with it?

 

I do know after R&D got done their failed finish experiment it was either given to (or sold very cheaply) to Eddie Collins, the banjo and guitar player. I bought it from his son. Eddie was told about the experimental finish and how it cracked within days.

 

I've told this story 1,000 times and apologize to those who've read it 999 times.

 

c6h.jpg

 

c6i.jpg

 

c6j.jpg

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I mean sure maybe the market isn't that big but heck out of a 100 people with a interest in guitars I can bet you that at least 10 of those guys would want a classical guitar made in America.

 

I don't know what the demand is but Martin and Taylor already make U.S. Made nylon string guitars. Martin has for over 75 years. How many do we need?

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I think there's a huge difference between a "nylon string guitar" and a "classical guitar." Or a "flamenco guitar" for all of that.

 

I currently have two nylon string guitars, for example. Both are AE; both have narrower nut and fingerboard width than a classical guitar. They're not classical guitars in any sense except for the nylon strings.

 

And heck, it's actually easier for me to do my little bit of Bach on a couple of my electric archtops. The advantage to the nylon string AEs I have is that they allow a better version of a wider and different sort of technique and tone potentials. And... I can mess with flamenco/folkie/mariachi-ish technique on 'em regardless they're not specific designs for that stuff - the nylon strings make it possible.

 

But they ain't classical guitars any more than the thin AE "chet atkins" version things.

 

That doesn't make the above "bad" in any sense. Just different like an SG isn't bad compared to a 335 - but obviously different.

 

The old Gibson "classical" models as far as I can tell are sorta classical guitars of better quality materials and workmanship than one would have found in the Harmony classical guitars of that era but... I think the "design needs concept" meant neither were quite the real thing regardless.

 

It's a matter of construction concept. Gotta figure these were made in that folkie era and frankly, the need for solid engineering as opposed to classical concert tone in that environment was pretty important.

 

Why shouldn't Gibson make a classical guitar today? I dunno. Epi is doing this year a student version. For Gibson? probably because there's not that big a market for the $1,000-$2,000 instrument equivalent of a J15 or j35. I think it'd be hard to get a serious classical picker to go for one.

 

Put a "gibson logo" on the peghead where the "better" instruments don't have it, and that mostly kills the "classical guitarist" segment. that leaves a different marketing and design need. Is it worth filling? I doubt they'd sell all that much of a truly niche product. To get into the $2,000 and up price range requires increasing handwork that is a bit different from steel string instruments. Into the $4,000 and up range and it's pretty much gotta compete in the pro-handmade market.

 

And how many does one place in a manufacturing run? What cost if they sit on shelves?

 

I wonder at times if some of the Gibson full archtops aren't being made more as flagship tradition items than a real profit center just for that reason.

 

m

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There are already established brands in the Classical and Flamenco guitar market. Yamaha, Córdoba, Manuel Rodriquez. For starters. Taylor and Takemine can also crank them out. A similar question has been raised here re. Ukeleles. To break into those markets would require a significant up front investment which would take focus and money away from the Gibson Acoustic business. If Bozeman had gone down either or both paths 3 years ago,mew wouldn't have the J15 and or the J35. With all due respect, no one is going to buy a $3K gibson gut string guitar over a Yamaha. And it would be ludicrous it Bozeman started producing $300 ones instead of Hummingbirds, Doves and J45s. I assume they are already producing as many guitars as they can given their capacity restraints.

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I'm amused by people who pick up a 'classical' guitar and immediately start playing Mason Williams, like that's what they're 'supposed' to play on it.

 

Previous mentions of many 60s classicals being bought for use as strummers and no Bach duly noted. However, give yourself a treat. Pick up a classical, whip out a flat pick, and have fun. Forget the Bach/Mason Williams/Jose Feliciano paradigm.

 

A good classical is addicting. They're not universal but I don't think any guitar is.

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Gibson's old classicals reflected a time when most folks in the U.S. bought American because that was the norm, and only people in niches tended to buy imports. Back in 1974, if you looked out into the average parking lot you would have seen a sea of Detroit iron with only a smattering of odd VWs, Saabs, etc. Today, what percentage of those cars are made or designed overseas, like all the Toyotas, Hondas, Mazdas, Nissans, etc., vs. U.S. made?

 

Sure, Gibson could probably make a high-quality nylon-string guitar in Bozeman - but because it would be different from anything they ever built in the past, they couldn't use historic/iconic/nostalgic marketing to sell it. At that point, it's just a classical guitar that would probably cost about 3 times what a comparable guitar made overseas would.

 

My take on the old C series Gibson classicals is kinda like Favillas and the comparable Gretsch 6001 classicals - they're all right, but I've never played one that would stand up in a direct face-off with my Bulgarian Kremona Fiesta; for that matter, my old Yairi with laminated sides had more of everything than the C0, etc., did.

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Gibson Montana has made a bunch of Classical Guitars. Gibson was actually a distributor for Ramirez classical guitars in the very early 90's and when Christopher Parkening moved his masters class to Bozeman the marketing genius at Gibson decided to make an exact copy of the Ramirez and offer it to Parkening to endorse. It was ,of course, a non starter and the whole very expensive project fell thru. There are about 15 Brazilian Gibson classical guitars floating around Bozeman. Most owned by Gibson managers that just sort of took 'em home.

Gibson made 25 Classical guitars for the late great Rodger Miller estate. These were modeled after the old Gibson "C" line and they were fine guitars. I tried to buy one but didn't get the job done.

 

Classical guitar has a big following here in Bozeman due to the influence of Parkening. I own a Ramirez Brazilian and a Guild Mark 2 and I must say I like the Mark 2 a lot better. It's a much more forgiving guitar and has a very warm cedar top. Very nice guitar.

 

Gibson has been making some noise about reviving the whole Ramirez copy project but they had it scheduled for this fall. It ain't gonna happen. They have no one that can design and build a new guitar from scratch. Just for the record Kevin Kopp built the Ramirez copies. They want to revive the Custom Shop and they are finding out they don't have the personal to do it either. It's pretty difficult to be innovative when you have no luthier on staff.

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Gibson Montana has made a bunch of Classical Guitars. Gibson was actually a distributor for Ramirez classical guitars in the very early 90's and when Christopher Parkening moved his masters class to Bozeman the marketing genius at Gibson decided to make an exact copy of the Ramirez and offer it to Parkening to endorse. It was ,of course, a non starter and the whole very expensive project fell thru. There are about 15 Brazilian Gibson classical guitars floating around Bozeman. Most owned by Gibson managers that just sort of took 'em home.

Gibson made 25 Classical guitars for the late great Rodger Miller estate. These were modeled after the old Gibson "C" line and they were fine guitars. I tried to buy one but didn't get the job done.

 

Classical guitar has a big following here in Bozeman due to the influence of Parkening. I own a Ramirez Brazilian and a Guild Mark 2 and I must say I like the Mark 2 a lot better. It's a much more forgiving guitar and has a very warm cedar top. Very nice guitar.

 

Gibson has been making some noise about reviving the whole Ramirez copy project but they had it scheduled for this fall. It ain't gonna happen. They have no one that can design and build a new guitar from scratch. Just for the record Kevin Kopp built the Ramirez copies. They want to revive the Custom Shop and they are finding out they don't have the personal to do it either. It's pretty difficult to be innovative when you have no luthier on staff.

 

So Jason or Val can't design a guitar ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JC

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So Jason or Val can't design a guitar ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JC

 

No! They are both wonderful craftsman. They can add embellishment to any existing guitar Gibson has but neither has the skill or the ability to design a new guitar. Not that it makes any difference but neither can play or tune a guitar. This does not diminish their skill and abilities.

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If I had a guitar factory and wanted to put out a line of classical guitars, I don't know how anxious I'd be to stray from Torres' design. I'm not one to reinvent the wheel. I mean as far as bracing and what not. A "Gibson" classical could have the open book headstock or something that makes it immediately identifiable as a Gibson but please, no more Kasha madness like the Mark acoustics.

 

Robert Godin would be a tough act to follow anyway. Seems like he's struck a pretty good balance between quality and assembly line. I've had a couple LaPatrie Collections, solid cedar top, Indian rosewood sides/back (lam of course), adjustable truss rod, gold hardware, and a list around $700 or $800. Frightening.

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