It’s not often you get the chance to play a historic guitar that was owned and performed by a historic player. Scratch that, The Most Historic Player of All Time. I had the opportunity to play one of those “holy grail” guitars that collectors drool over, Andres Segovia’s 1969 Jose Ramirez III. He performed on this guitar for many years, and trust me, the mojo is there!
I have had the luxury to play many fine historic instruments (ones that cost the price of a house) and it is always interesting to hear their unique voice within the canon of guitar history. Many of these guitars are great, but not always!
It is rare for most contemporary classical guitarists (myself included) to perform on a Ramirez instrument, but I must attest I haven’t heard any like this particular one! I have played all the generations of Hauser guitars (including one that Segovia owned), around a dozen Friedrich’s, multiple Bouchet’s, Romanillos, Rodriguez, Fleta, and many highly regarded contemporary makers (ie. newer style of construction instruments), and this Ramirez is equal to the best of them.
Now, there is no such thing as “better” in this high level of classical guitar luthiery, but rather subjective taste is paramount. I would say that I can see why Segovia chose this guitar, as ones like it are rare even today. Now, I’m not saying I would choose it over my personal instruments (which are exceptional and fit my style of playing quite well), but Segoiva’s Ramirez guitar is a brilliant achievement in classical guitar making.
I played this guitar after playing a 60’s Robert Bouchet, 30’s Hermann Hauser, 30’s Santos Hernandez, 60’s Rubio, and a particular mediocre double top (I will leave the luthier unnamed), and the Ramirez was my favorite among the group. The checklist of qualities: deep voice with great clarity, loud, responsive to the touch, sustain, tone colors, and nice action. The only negative for me is the scale length and the size of the neck, which can be tough to maneuver around.
Weirdly, while playing guitar the ghost of Segovia haunted me, saying “use my fingerings only”. I did my best, Maestro!
Here are some photos, playing the guitars I mentioned (photographer is unnamed guitarist at the bottom – & moi). This fun little happening took place at Guitar Salon International, Santa Monica.