10-String Classical Guitars

The 10-string Classical is Your Friend!

Hyperbole? Hardly. The biggest difficulty people have with 10-string classicals is of their own manufacture. They assume a 10-string is difficult to play. They feel intimidated by the long rows of strings that seem to taper almost to the vanishing point, like railroad ties into the distance, as they gaze across the fingerboard. Non-classical players wonder how they're supposed to hook their thumbs. :)

I've been playing 10-string guitars for over 30 years, so I know at least a little about the subject. When I purchased my first 10-string in 1974 (a Jose Ramirez 1a), I felt a sense of disorientation at first as I got used to the extra strings. But this adjustment period lasted for only a few weeks. And I don't think I'm particularly special in this regard. So if I can make the adjustment, chances are, so can you.

If you would like to learn more about the 10-string classical guitar, I urge you to visit the sites listed in the Links section on the subject.

10-String Models:

I build two basic models of 10-string classicals: the Janet Marlow Entry Model and a Concert Model.

The Janet Marlow Entry Model is a specially priced 10-string, intended to provide the interested guitarist with a means to enter the 10-string world without having to take out a second mortgage. Its low price necessitates that I standardize on woods and construction parameters. However, it is still every bit as handcrafted as all my other models. No corners are cut; the process is merely simplified in a few cosmetic areas.
Janet Marlow Entry Model

The Janet Marlow Entry Model
The Concert Model has more traditional cosmetic appointments, and is the one to which any option may be added. The difference in price for the base level of the Concert Model and the JME is not large, so many clients opt for it, especially since they often wish to have the guitar customized to their particular tastes and desires.

Soundboard Woods:

For soundboard woods, I offer Canadian Lutz spruce, Western redcedar, and redwood.

Canadian Lutz is a special spruce, a hybrid of sitka, Engelmann, and white spruce. Its coloration can vary, and often will have the pinkish cast characteristic of sitka. Its sound qualities, however, are superior. I find that Lutz sounds very similar to the best quality European spruce. An advantage to Lutz is, not only can I supply it as a tone wood without the upcharge for Euro spruce, but the Lutz I buy comes from old-growth trees in Western British Columbia, where they are selected and logged by hand by loggers who specialize in tone wood. By contrast, most of the Euro spruce on the market today is coming from trees that are scarcely over 100 years old. These younger trees tend to have more widely spaced grain lines, which in some cases result in tops that are not as stiff as I prefer.

The Western redcedar that I use for soundboard wood also comes from Western British Columbia and is also logged by folks who specialize in tone wood. My suppliers provide me with top grade cedar at a reasonable price, which enables me to pass the savings along to my clients. Personally, I love the sound of a classical with a cedar top. The trebles are bright and the basses are warm. The wood is a bit softer than spruce, and requires a bit more care during the construction process, but to me, it's worth it.

The redwood I use comes from a stash of old growth California redwood I acquired. My supplies of redwood are somewhat limited, and it is getting harder to find good redwood suitable for guitar tops, but I have enough to last a while. And since I obtained it for a reasonable price, I can include it as a soundboard choice for no additional charge. Redwood's sound is somewhere between that of spruce and cedar. It has the nice, bright trebles of cedar, and the brassier basses of spruce. Some would say it's the best of both worlds.

Back and Side Woods:

My wood of choice for a guitar's back and sides is Indian rosewood. I find it to be a superior tone wood for classical guitars. Fortunately, good quality Indian rosewood is still fairly plentiful, so I offer Indian rosewood as the base selection. Other woods for backs and sides are available at no additional charge. They include padauk, grenadillo, palo escrito, and either Peruvian or Mayan walnut. Tone wood prices and availability fluctuate so this list of no-charge options may change without notice.

Neck Woods and Materials:

For the neck wood, I prefer Spanish cedar, which has been the traditional neck wood amongst the luthiers of Spain for hundreds of years. It is slightly lighter than mahogany, so the guitar tends to be a bit less neck heavy. If you prefer mahogany, however, I can supply it at no additional charge.

The neck shafts of my 10-strings are built from three pieces of wood -- two pieces of the neck wood itself, sandwiching an ebony insert between them. The ebony acts as a reinforcement strip to minimize the chance that the neck will move due to the increased string pull.

My fingerboards are ebony -- of course! I slot my fingerboards using a special fixture on a table saw with a custom fret slotting blade. This guarantees the accuracy of fret placement to the thousandth of an inch, and results in an instrument that plays consistently in tune across the fingerboard.

Standard tuners on my 10-strings are the gold-plated Hauser-style Schallers, which I cut to fit the 10-string headstock. This is a practice that has been around for at least forty years. When done correctly, the cut lines barely show. The Schallers are as smooth and accurate as other tuners costing hundreds of dollars more. Of course, if you prefer custom, five-on-a-plate tuners, I can get them from a variety of manufacturers. There will be an upcharge, naturally, which will vary depending on the brand selected.

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