Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
ChiyoDad

Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by ChiyoDad » Mon Jun 09, 2008 12:44 am

fe14a.jpg
The image above is of Antonio Torres's papier mache guitar which is currently in the possession of la Museu De La Musica in Barcelona. Jose Romanillos has cataloged this guitar as FE14 in his book Antonio de Torres: Guitar Maker - His Life and Work. Its back and sides were made of papier mache reinforced by a grid of cedar and transverse bars of pine. It was an experimental guitar made by Torres to prove his theories regarding the relative unimportance of the woods used for the back and the sides. The instrument supposedly first belonged to Tarrega and then to Llobet.

FE14 is reputed to have exhibited excellent tone, supporting Torres's theories. I have not heard it, but Pepe had mentioned that this guitar is recorded in the accompanying CD to La Chitarra di Liuteria - Masterpieces of Guitar Making (link to PDF sample of the book).

Jose Romanillos seems to provide supporting testimony to the guitar's excellent tone but he also seems to leave open the question of the guitar's projection. Apparently, FE14 is in such poor condition following multiple restorations that its original projection cannot be accurately assessed.

I guess my question for this discussion is whether Torres's theories are still relevant today and what they actually prove. Are the chosen materials for backs and sides really that unimportant to tone? Are they, however, more important to projection? Does this mean that a guitar of laminated B/S can be made to rival a guitar of solid woods? Is the perception of "improved tone" from B/S mostly in our heads and can we happily migrate to alternate tonewoods?
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

MikFik

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by MikFik » Mon Jun 09, 2008 1:29 am

It is my opinion that a inspired artisian (luthier in this case) can do anything with whatever is on hand if necessary. Have you ever seen the tattoo work that comes out of prisons? They don't even have real ink. I once knew a man who made excelent quality flutes from sticks of bamboo he found on his daily walks. These flutes actually had very good intonation. He told me that he used a hot marble with a template he had made to burn the holes and over the years his template had improved to the point of a good sounding flute. "Gotta use what you got!" those were his words. The down side is that cheap materials don't last. His flutes would start to rot after a while and prison tattoos often times end up fading away or spreading out so they lose detail. If my friend had used silver for his flutes they wouldn't have decomposed and real ink would be a help to our boys and girls in lock down. Nowadays the cost of quality guitar materials is reasonable and supplies are available so why not use the best we can get our hands on.

Azalais

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Azalais » Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:10 am

The recording of the 1862 Cardboard Torres is track 8 on the CD: Granados Danza Española N. 5

It has a beautiful rich warm powerful sound, good clarity and sustain, nice harmonics (probably strung with gut). The color photos are interesting too. (The "cardboard" looks a lot like the very dense stuff known to artists as bristol board, which is often heavier and harder to cut than wood! There isn't much detail about it in the text.)

User avatar
Hans W
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6038
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2007 12:25 pm
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Hans W » Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:33 am

Interesting thread you started here ChiyoDad and unfortunately I can say nothing on the subject but I hope others that can will contribute.

Hans
PS I had to make a post so this thread shows up in my "View your posts" list which adds credibility to what I just said. Very interesting!
Classical Guitar rules!

kehern

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by kehern » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:11 am

And now, I must learn from the master, Mr. Hans W. :D

I'm following suite my friend. :mrgreen:

User avatar
senunkan
Posts: 848
Joined: Wed May 24, 2006 10:08 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by senunkan » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:38 am

Sometime back a luthier working in the Museo De La Musica, Joan Pellise posted some information abt the FE14 on the AG forum.
Then David LaPlante reposted the post in OLF

Here is the link.

http://luthiersforum.com/forum/viewtopi ... he#p241743

There are some valuable information and discussion there.\

Sen
Sen CL Goh
2013 Sen Goh (S - IR)
2010 Sen Goh (S - IR)
1996 Ross Gutmeier (C - IR)
Alhambra 4P
Yamaha CG110

Pepe Vergara

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Pepe Vergara » Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:58 am

ChiyoDad wrote:... It was an experimental guitar made by Torres to prove his theories regarding the relative unimportance of the woods used for the back and the sides...
The truth is that this guitar was discovered after Torres passed away. Any reasons why he made it went to his grave with him. A friend of mine's theory is that he wanted to make a guitar not so heavy for him to play. Apparently he had lost the strength of his arms to carry a regular guitar. This theory sounds a little made up, but it could be. Others think that he may have run out of wood and decided to try anything around. Not that he was not familiar with the use of paper, he had used paper in some cheap guitars as a back strip reinforcement, and to fix cracks on the wood. After all, what is paper? processed wood pulp dried and compressed.

Allan

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Allan » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:28 pm

I have to agree with Pepe on this one. No one except Torres really knows why he made this guitar, and we can continue expounding theories from now until Doomsday.

I do have one suggestion, though. Where can we get an intrepid, adventurous luthier who would be willing to build one of these out of cedar and cardboard? I think it would be fascinating to listen to and assess one of these guitars as it would be built today without the all the restoration that has been done on the Torres. I should think any luthier who does this will be adding to his fame (or notoriety as the case may be 8) ). And by the way, if anyone can get it done in time, why not bring it to the GFA convention? I'm sure a lot of CG aficionados would be interested in checking it out.

Allan

Pepe Vergara

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Pepe Vergara » Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:02 pm

Allan wrote: ... an intrepid, adventurous luthier who would be willing to build one of these out of cedar and cardboard? ...

Allan
Done it. I have actually started 2 of them. I published some photos on my website of the first failure about 3 years ago. The reason I failed was: I tried to make it with paper-mache. I remember doing stuff with papiermache in school, guitar was not one of them, it ain't easy. The second one, is coming. At least I got the idea now of what paper and how Torress made it. It will take some time becuase it is in the waiting list.

Azalais

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Azalais » Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:51 pm

If you had a webcam in my kitchen, you would know how many wild experiments I have tried! With every conceivable material found in an art supply or automotive or marine store! :grire: (would you like paper or plastic?) One of the best ones was a Gaudi-esque confection of cheesecloth impregnated with a mixture of paper pulp, fibers and hide glue, draped over balloons that formed the sound cavities... ! It made an AMAZINGLY strong/light resonant shell)

and yes, I ALWAYS build a model/pattern first (using images I've fiddled with in photoshop)... in bristol board or foamcore... [too many years spent as an architect in my past life? :oops: ] (They are often simply to satisfy my own curiosity, or to experiment with a quick proof of concept at 3:00am)

Alan Carruth
Luthier
Posts: 3250
Joined: Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:56 pm

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Alan Carruth » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:23 pm

It proved that Torres could make a workable guitar out of unusual materials, and that modern recording engineers can make decent sounding recordings of it. This is good to know.

Back in May of '98 I published an article in the 'Journal' of the Catgut Acoustical Society on an experiment I did in wood substitution. I build a 'matched pair' of classical guitars, one of which had Brazilian rosewood for the B&S, while the other had white oak. The tops were both spruce, and matched quite well in terms of weight, thickness, and 'free' resonant modes. I also matched the modes of the two backs as closely as I could, although they did have different densities, and hence weights. Then I made some crude measurements of the sound output (I did not have a computer, then), and also did some playing/listening tests. After that I tried to figure out ways in which the different properties of the woods might have contributed to the differences in sound. The interesting thing was that, although the BRW guitar sounded better to most people, it wasn't THAT much better. I had no trouble selling the oak guitar to somebody who was more interested in good sound at a good price than bragging rights about wood.

Each set of wood (or whatever) offers possibilities, and sets limits. A good luthier can get quite a good sound out of a bad set of wood, but would probably do better with better wood.

I have a really fancy looking back of wood that has acoustic and structural properties that are a bit worse, IMO, than those of Masonite. Perhaps when I build that guitar, I'll make one like it from Masonite, just to compare the two. The stuff actually bends pretty nicely.

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 7484
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Michael.N. » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:48 pm

That Torres guitar does not look at all like the paper-mache we have in our minds eye. I've seen the guitar in that Museum and although my recollection of it is a little hazy I'm quite sure from a distance of a few yards one might mistake it for real wood. I could only really see the top and ribs because the instrument was in a glass case which itself was against a wall and the lighting in the Museum was a little subdued.
My guess is that Torres did not make it to prove the importance of the top. I think it much more likely that it was an experiment or an attempt to see if he could make a better guitar.
Historicalguitars.

avoz

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by avoz » Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:38 am

Stefano Grondona's recording of the 1862 Torres is available separately in a marvellous double-CD package, 'Lo Cant dels Aucells'
(STRADIVARIUS STR 33589) for which he used 12 "historical guitars": six by Torres, one each by Enrique Garcia, Simplicio, Esteso, Hernandez, Hauser, Bouchet. As mentioned above, the Torres in question is heard in 'Danza Espanola No. 5' by Granados and sounds beautiful (much credit to Grondona, who is a player/musician of the highest class).

User avatar
Waddy Thomson
Luthier
Posts: 2349
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 3:58 am
Location: Charlotte, NC

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Waddy Thomson » Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:53 pm

Do you know where to get that CD set? I tried to get it, and was told it was no longer available. I believe the CD that comes with the book "...Masterpieces of Guitar Making", is a sampler of the set, and I have that, but I would love to have that set of CD's.
Waddy

Link to Build Albums - See Profile

Brynmor
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2008 3:32 pm
Location: United Kindom

Re: Does Torres's papier mache guitar prove anything?

Post by Brynmor » Tue Jun 10, 2008 2:39 pm

ChiyoDad wrote:
fe14a.jpg
The image above is of Antonio Torres's papier mache guitar which is currently in the possession of la Museu De La Musica in Barcelona. Jose Romanillos has cataloged this guitar as FE14 in his book Antonio de Torres: Guitar Maker - His Life and Work. Its back and sides were made of papier mache reinforced by a grid of cedar and transverse bars of pine. It was an experimental guitar made by Torres to prove his theories regarding the relative unimportance of the woods used for the back and the sides. The instrument supposedly first belonged to Tarrega and then to Llobet.

FE14 is reputed to have exhibited excellent tone, supporting Torres's theories. I have not heard it, but Pepe had mentioned that this guitar is recorded in the accompanying CD to La Chitarra di Liuteria - Masterpieces of Guitar Making (link to PDF sample of the book).

Jose Romanillos seems to provide supporting testimony to the guitar's excellent tone but he also seems to leave open the question of the guitar's projection. Apparently, FE14 is in such poor condition following multiple restorations that its original projection cannot be accurately assessed.

I guess my question for this discussion is whether Torres's theories are still relevant today and what they actually prove. Are the chosen materials for backs and sides really that unimportant to tone? Are they, however, more important to projection? Does this mean that a guitar of laminated B/S can be made to rival a guitar of solid woods? Is the perception of "improved tone" from B/S mostly in our heads and can we happily migrate to alternate tonewoods?
I don't think he was trying to prove that the back and sides were unimportant but rather that the top was the most important part of the guitar.

Return to “Luthiers”