The guitar designs of Antonio de Torres have long held a fascination for me. His work is elegant, exquisitely crafted, with a breathtaking eye for line and straightforward design.
I believe that guitar players of all levels, regardless of their advancement or economic strength, have a natural right to good sound and good playability.
Frank Longay is an internationally recognized teacher of the Suzuki guitar method, and it is his (and my) opinion that children at all levels need quality instruments to make their efforts at making good music pay off. Inexpensive guitars may enable a student to learn basic technique, but in the bigger picture a poor guitar can actually become a barrier to developing good sound and expressive playing.
So when Frank started asking me to produce smaller guitars for advanced young players, I turned to Torres for design inspiration. In looking through Jose Romanillos' definitive book on Torres I found a photo of Torres FE 18 from 1864. This is a small guitar, but in its own way it is very aristocratic and quite appealing. I actually just went to the photocopy store and blew up the photo until it reached the right measurements, transferred that shape to a set of construction patterns and molds, and put this guitar into production in my artisan shop.
In spite of having the advantage of power tools, much of the way we build guitars here in my Ben Lomond shop is not much different from what Torres must have done. And making a small guitar is just as much work as making a full size one. But it sure is cute. I built this Torres FE18 model for Frank Longay and his students, but before I was done I knew I wanted one for me. Now I'm building a second and a third one, simplifying some of the ornamental elements with the hope of keeping the price under control. In the near future I will be trying out this design with 615 mm string length an, and possibly even smaller. I won't know the limit without trying.
I know from long experience that a smaller body or a shorter string length in no way means a smaller guitar sound. Not at all. My Torres 1856 model is quite small, but in blind tests no one can identify it as small by listening. I have also made many Panormo style guitars which are loud and potent. So this now model is loud, rich, with a big bass and a pure treble, and with the 632 mm string length and 50 mm nut width it plays like a dream.
This is a perfect guitar for a young person who has been studying hard and deserves an upgrade to a real concert level instrument without the bulky discomfort of a full size guitar. It is also a perfect instrument for anyone of any age who wants a guitar that is easy to play, comfortable to handle and, travels well.
I'm thinking that this is just the first in an unfolding series of smaller guitars, aimed at filling a need for high quality guitars in smaller sizes. I am watching to see what the need is.
I hope you can try one soon.