History of Ramirez Guitars studio guitars

Mar 2, 2022

The history of studio guitars in Ramirez Guitars

When my great-grandfather, José Ramírez I, opened his business on his own, after the separation from his brother Manuel, he offered for sale both the guitars handmade in his workshop and those made in Valencian factories: Julve, and later also Vicente Tatay, who made fine guitars, as they call them, as well as battle guitars. What I do know is that Vicente Tatay continued as my grandfather’s supplier and his descendants, Tatay Tomás, were also my father’s suppliers until the end of the 70s.

My great-grandfather, as far as I know, had quite a struggle with those studio guitars which, it seems, were conceived more as furniture than as musical instruments, because although they might look OK to an acceptable degree, there were nevertheless problems with their set-up that made it necessary to adjust them. This often meant lowering the bridge, among other things, to make them playable.

The history of studio guitars in Ramirez Guitars

At first, he kept the original label on these studio guitars, but he found that customers often came to complain about the quality and expected a free repair or replacement. As he was unable to check whether these guitars had actually been purchased in his shop or not, as there was no label to indicate this, he changed his business practice by putting his own label on them, of a different design to those made in his workshop.

This Ramírez label implied two things: that they had been acquired in his establishment and that they had been properly adjusted by him or his officers. This was a guarantee that those guitars were considered by him to be suitable for sale and therefore he assumed responsibility for any problems related to their workmanship and “playability”.

So we have followed that same practice to this day generation after generation.

I would like to clarify, before continuing, that nothing I say here about studio guitars implies any criticism, since I consider, like my predecessors, that if studio guitars did not exist, there would be no guitarists or, if there were, they would be very few, because who would spend the large sum of money to buy a handmade guitar if they are still starting to walk this path that is not always followed, and even less to become a professional guitarist.

That is why we have always called handmade guitars “professional”, although it is true that in many cases they are bought by amateurs who want to enjoy a top-quality instrument. It is also true that the factories my family has worked with also made guitars of different qualities, and some of them were quite good, but never comparable to a handmade guitar.

Anecdotes about the guitar-furniture concept of studio guitars

It should not be forgotten that the guitar-furniture concept was quite widespread in those factories in those days. To explain this, I have a couple of very illustrative anecdotes.

My grandfather once visited one of those factories where he watched, to his bewilderment, how they glued the floor bars together. The system consisted of the following: once the floors had been joined together, the bars were smeared with hot glue, and the floors were stacked on top of each other until they reached a certain height. Then they put a weight on top, so that the glue on the bars of the first floors had already half dried, with the consequences that we can already imagine, and also with the possibility that some of the bars would tilt.

And as another example of the idea of the guitar as a piece of furniture, and not so much as a musical instrument, in the eighties, my brother, José Ramírez IV, together with Miguel Martínez, went to visit a Valencian craft and instrument fair where they were showing guitars with loose strings, which meant that they could not be tried out, naturally. And all this does not mean that these were widespread practices in Valencian factories, far from it, it is just an anecdote that describes the concept they had at that time about the true purpose of this instrument.

The improvement in the manufacture of studio guitars

Fortunately, nothing of the sort is happening today.

It is true that Japan’s entry into the Spanish guitar market in the 1960s served as a spur for the Valencian manufacturers, as they found a competitor who began to make fairly high-quality, economical guitars that were exported all over the world.

As it usually happens, challenges help us to grow and improve, and in a few years, the guitars made in the Valencia and Alicante area experienced a change for the better, an advantage that we still enjoy today.

However, we now have another similar challenge with Spanish guitars made in China at very low prices and with very good quality, furniture, which Valencian manufacturers are striving to overcome. And just as they were able to do it in the past with Japan, I am sure they will manage to do it now with China, although the cost is also very high.

As for the improvement already experienced as a result of the irruption of guitars made in Japan, I can say that I have visited with my brother, and later with my nephews, factories in the Valencia and Alicante area which, although they work in series as is typical of a factory, their dedication to what they do is focused on achieving good quality.

Of course, in these manufacturers, apart from the increasingly sophisticated machinery they use, there is a part that can only be made by hand and, in fact, the better the quality of the instrument, the greater the amount of labour involved in making it, and the higher the price, of course. These are therefore instruments made in series with machines and with some manual labour, and with different levels of quality.

Studio guitars at Ramirez Guitars

My great-grandfather, as I was saying, had Julve as a supplier of studio guitars, and probably also Vicente Tatay. As for Manuel Ramírez, we know that he was friends with Ricardo Sanchís, who trained in Julve’s workshop and became independent in 1925. So it is more than likely that Julve was also the supplier of Manuel’s studio guitars, although he never had Ricardo Sanchís as a supplier, as Manuel died in 1916.

The truth is that it is unlikely that an artisan guitar maker can survive only with the production of his workshop, being the studio guitar an almost always indispensable initial step to later, if necessary, acquire a handmade guitar, with a higher quality of construction and sound.

My grandfather, José Ramírez II, when he returned from Buenos Aires to take over his father’s guitar shop, continued to buy his studio guitars from Julve and Vicente Tatay, and he also followed the same routine practice as his father with those guitars in terms of tuning them, as is customary with factory-made studio instruments. This is still the case today.

And his main supplier was Tatay, who made him a studio line consisting of four models:

  • A small one called model 76, for children.
  • A medium-sized one is called the Model 78.
  • And two full-size models, model 21 and the better-quality model 23.

This studio line, made exclusively for Ramirez, had our old headjoint, and is the one we still use today with our studio guitars.

My grandfather’s dream, according to my father, was to have a guitar factory with a chimney. It is clear that what he wanted was to have his own production of mass-produced guitars, in addition to the completely handmade artisan ones. But the war caught up with him before he could realise his dream and, worse still, he had to live through the post-war period. So his main role in this family history of guitar makers was to be a master of survival who knew how to preserve the workshop founded by his father and pass it on as a valuable and beloved legacy to his descendants.

My father, José Ramírez III, returning to the subject of studio guitars, inherited, together with the guitar workshop, the line manufactured by Vicente Tatay, and later by his sons, Tatay Tomás, until the 1970s, with the old Ramírez headstock, when my father had already made modifications to this headstock for his handmade guitars, always built in his workshop.

My father’s other supplier was Arturo Grau, the owner of the Taurus factory. Taurus was a brand based in Catalonia that made studio guitars that were quite good, very solid and resistant from what my father told me, who also had him as a supplier until the mid 80s.

The factories I have mentioned so far are already historical, as none of them has continued beyond the mid-80s, according to the information I have, as I suppose most of them could not compete with the Spanish guitar made in Japan.

I will not give the names of the factories that have worked and still work for us since then, for obvious reasons. I will only say that we have been committed to collaborating in improving their quality, given their willingness to receive our advice and follow our indications to support them in achieving their goal of being the best in their business.

I understand that your efforts to achieve quality at low costs have a lot of merits, which is obviously not only to your benefit but also to ours, because our quality standards are very high, as this is what we have always offered to our customers. And so we all grow together, supporting each other, which is the best way forward.

Linea E, José Ramírez IV’s own design studio line.

It remains for me to tell you that my brother, José Ramírez IV, decided in the 80s to create his own design studio line, which they called Línea E. My father and brother worked together to design the templates, the bracing and the general structure of those guitars. And they made them exclusively for us in a carefully chosen factory, which made every effort to improve their quality from the beginning, following all the instructions and indications of my father and my brother.

Subsequently, we developed other models with other factories making them exclusively for us, always using our designs, templates and technical instructions.

My brother, quite rightly, considered that studio guitars were the preliminary step for later making the leap to a professional guitar and that it was essential that they had our designs so that their qualities were in line with our brand. And the truth is that this initiative was very positive.

Finally, I would like to insist that all the factory-made guitars we sell are checked and adjusted in our workshop, carrying out the final work to leave them in the best condition for sale, just as my predecessors did. And those guitars whose defects are not acceptable according to our criteria and require, for example, any problem affecting the varnish, a change of fingerboard, the repair of a hoop, or a crack… are returned to the manufacturer for repair.

Contact us if you want to know more about our models and want to compare them. We can show you online to clarify your doubts and help you select the best instrument for you. You can make an appointment online, write to us at tienda@guitarrasramirez.com or call us on +34 680 122 262 to ask your questions or make an appointment.

Article written by Amalia Ramírez

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