Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Cordoba Guitars

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Cordoba Guitars

Article excerpt

A visit to the nylon-string guitar company's new American shop, where it introduced the Master Series inspired by iconic classical luthiers.

Córdoba and Guitar Salon International (GSI) are headquartered under the same roof in Santa Monica, a short walk from my home office. It's easy to miss this building, situated at the corner of a sleepy residential street, with its nondescript twostory brick exterior that belies the treasures housed inside. Just past the lobby is GSI's main showroom, the walls lined with some of the world's most coveted nylon-string guitars, presented regally in glass cases. Here, clients can audition the instruments on plush leather couches and chairs while enjoying the superb acoustics of the hall, which soars two full stories in height. It's a relaxed setting.

No other American company has done more to refute the notion of the nylon-string guitar being a staid instrument than Córdoba. The company's many offerings range from highly playable traditional models to sleek cutaway instruments with the most modern built-in electronics, intended not just for classical music but all styles.

Until October 2012, when Córdoba opened its first American workshop in Oxnard, California, the company's instruments were built in Spain, Portugal, and China. The new shop is dedicated to a recently debuted Master Series line of instruments that pays homage to the grandfather of the modern classical guitar, Antonio de Torres Jurado, as well as other luthiers instrumental in its development: Hermann Hauser Sr., Miguel Rodríguez, and Manuel Reyes. The guitars in the Master Series, overseen by master luthier Kenny Hill, are patterned closely after the originals, but sell for a fraction of the price.

Founded in 1997, Córdoba is an outgrowth of GSI, the premier boutique for classical and flamenco guitars, both new and vintage. Tim Miklaucic, the CEO of Córdoba and GSI, was first exposed to fine classical guitars when he studied with Celin Romero and other members of the legendary Romero Quartet in the 1970s. In 1977, while a student at the University of California-San Diego, Miklaucic began importing guitars from Spain. In 1983, while working on a PhD in philosophy at UCLA, he founded GSI.

By the mid-1990s, GSI had become the US distributor of José Ramírez guitars. These costly instruments sold in impressive numbers, and Miklaucic and company saw a potential market for high-quality nylon-string instruments at lower price points. With the help of German luthier Edmund Blöchinger, Miklaucic refined the bracing and design of the initial instrument, which they began building in Spain, under the name Córdoba, after the city in Andalusia, southern Spain, where Rodriguez, Reyes, and other guitar makers had their shops.

Now, the Górdoba Music Group has several factories in the south of China, producing about 5,000 instruments a month, ranging from entry-level ukuleles to higher-end allsolid guitars built in a small boutique shop. Córdoba also has a shop in Valencia, Spain, overseen by Blöchinger, which builds around 100 more-expensive guitars a month, and the firm distributes the string companies Savarez and Aquila, as well as HumiCase, a line of cases with built-in humidifiers.

To find out more about Córdoba's American-made Master Series guitars, I decided to visit the company's headquarters and shop in southern California.

NYLON-STRING CENTRAL

I meet Miklaucic and Jonathan Thomas, Córdoba's president, in a large room where examples of all the instruments in the line, numbering around 80, are hung on the walls. Absent, however, are the guitars I have come to check out, those produced in the new Oxnard shop.

So the three of us step outside and board the company van.

On the drive, Miklaucic and Thomas speak with such deep knowledge about the nylon-string guitar, its history, and construction, that it would seem that they themselves are luthiers. But they're not-just formidable musicians who have gleaned vast knowledge through their experiences in factory management, product development, and design, to say nothing of handling so many fine classical guitars through GSI. …

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