Madera went to Oscar Muñoz's guitar workshop in Granada to interview him and ask him to tell us about how the development of a guitar maker is and the process to find the right path, his way of making guitars, his different models, the Granada traditional one and also the one he is making now with the lattice system. He also explains us the courses to learn how to make guitars that he does in his workshop to his students.
My name is Oscar Muñoz
I have my workshop in Huetor Vega Vega in Granada, on the outskirts of Granada
and I have dedicated eight years to the professional making of handmade guitars following the tradition of Granada.
I have been a cabinetmaker for 20 years and I have also been very close to music and musicians.
I’ve been a musician for many years and in the end my professional work with wood was joined,
because there was a point of union with what is the instrument, in this case the guitar, which is also made of wood.
So it was a union that was a little bit spontaneous and it was basically a point in my life where I was dedicated as an amateur to music
And suddenly I got my hands on a classical wooden guitar to repair.
And after working a lot with the sound, with a digital guitar sound, with very much aspects of the sound of the guitar, suddenly one day a classical guitar fell into my hands and the truth is that
I was captivated by the sound it had, that it had a very simple wooden guitar, as simple as at first, a priori, a guitar, because I was very captivated by the purity of the sound of a guitar.
From a classical nylon guitar.
I come from a family tradition of many years ago, of parents and family, of many years of cabinetmaking,
I’ve been working as a cabinetmaker for more than 20 years.
And the truth is that I was fixing some guitars, I was getting a little bit closer to the world, I even made some guitar.
But when I started to really get into it, I realized that it was much more complex and it was a very, very big and very complex world the guitar making at a much higher level.
Then I understood that to continue in this world I had to advance learning from the master taking a little bit the making to another level,
to a level where the guitar is already set in a status and has some characteristics that you need…
cultivate a little bit the construction and cultivate a lot of details that the guitar has.
A lot of little, little details that are what make a guitar become a good instrument, a great instrument.
That’s when I decided that in order to make guitars I needed the help of masters and their vision…
And going hand in hand with masters who were already taking the instrument to another level and where many points were considered, many things about the guitar were considered,
it stopped being something simple and started to become something a little bit more complex, a little bit more difficult to put together and to learn.
The truth is that it was a step where I realized that if I wanted to make a living making guitars I had to learn a lot of things,
I had to develop a lot of skills and I had to get tools, with higher quality wood to be able to make a little bit of a leap.
In 2014 I started a little more seriously with my teacher Stephen Hill, with whom I took a guitar making course and with whom I have always kept a relationship, a fairly fluid relationship,
and the truth is that he has helped me a lot, he has taught me many things, also outside of the course, and the truth is that I am very grateful for the interest he has put in helping me a little to continue on the path.
And also for the many people in Granada who in one way or another all helped me a little and when they see you with many doubts, they know how to take you to the right place.
What the course awakened me to was the realization that there were many things that were important when making a guitar, many details that have to be correct.
In other words, the process of making a guitar has to be meticulous and has to be precise.
And it can’t be something trivial, because at the end all those actions that you do when you build a guitar go into a bag where at the end, when the process is finished
and the strings are placed, everything, everything, all those actions that you’ve done on the guitar, come to the surface.
So, maybe what surprised me the most is the amount of things that you had to take into account and then at the end everything came out, everything came out, everything.
All the work parts that you do, if they are precise, that come out.
And it was something that I didn’t take too much into account before and as you get more refined, you realize that everything matters, everything matters
and the construction of the guitar is something like that.
Maybe the magic of making a guitar is that when you’re making a guitar you have to develop a skill, you have to develop an instinct
to know that when you put the strings ( therefore when there’s no turning back ) you’re getting it right
From the time you start picking the wood, from the time you touch the wood the first time…
are all little things that eventually come to the surface.
So maybe that’s what worries me the most and that’s what strikes me the most about this work, which is when you are in processes…
At the beginning of making a guitar, all those things that you are doing, they will have repercussions at the end,
when you place the strings and when the guitar tells you this is what I am, this is what I am.
I believe that the construction of the guitar in personal and professional development has to go in several phases.
I think the first phase, the most important, is to build a good guitar.
I mean, to be able to work on the instrument and to work in a homogeneous way and to work always,
always the same, until you can make the guitar, make the furniture, make the instrument
always very, very, very, very similar.
And I think that when you get to that point where you get the guitar, all your guitars, to be very similar, I think that’s when the time comes,
that’s when you’re ready to start molding what you want,
because that’s when you start listen to many types of guitars and that’s when, when, when you get to that point of maturity is when you have to take your path and say;
well, now that I’m already situated and I already know how to build a guitar, now is when it’s my turn to choose what I want to build, where I want to go,
what I want to come out of my guitar, what I want to hear from the people who play my guitar and what kind of people I want to attract?
Where I want to go
I want a guitar with a character.
I want a guitar with another character.
And I think that’s where the second phase of the guitar player is, when you start to take small but steady steps,
where you’re calibrating which paths you’re going when you make variations and and which paths you take backwards
in order to calibrate that you need a time where you can stabilize your construction, where you’re in control of what you’re doing.
And when you’re in control is when you have to start moving your style, your way of seeing the guitar to a place.
I want a guitar that everybody thinks is a good guitar always
That for me is fundamental.
comes another phase.
The guitarist actually plays with his hands
because when someone plays directly with the hands, you realize that each person has a different way of playing
that each person is looking for a different thing and that’s where you have to start discarding things, people’s points of view and start taking points of view and taking ideas from other people,
and where you have to start to create your own personality and develop your own instrument
through people who already have a very developed playing and a developed ear and know how to handle an instrument with these characteristics
and get everything out of it, and from there, each one will approach the instrument in a different way and you have to know and you start to realize what sounds best to you.
Look, it’s not even what sounds, how the guitar sounds best to you, but what sounds best to you that tells you which way, how that partnership between guitarist and guitar maker is produced.
That’s something that I think happens and that is that there are guitarists that take affinity for guitar makers and guitar makers that take affinity for guitarists.
So that creates a path where you realize that there are many types of guitarists that are looking for many different things and you have to move, sometimes taking steps forward, sometimes taking steps backwards…
you take small steps, but always, the guitar has to have everything, it has to be a guitar that has harmonics, sustain, that is well built, that is comfortable, that sounds good and that has power.
And from there is where your journey begins.
What we look for when we build guitars is balance, that is, to get to a point where the guitar is a good guitar and has very good characteristics of
attack, sustain, power, comfort, and in the end it’s inside a maze.
finding affinity with people who are the ones who are telling you what you want to hear and who are taking you to the place where you want to go.
Then your instrument is developing and growing in the way that you consider that the instrument is more beautiful, where you decide what you want to give up and that you want to give priority to the instrument.
You have to be methodical and sometimes you have to make decisions…
Keep in mind that wood is not a similar element.
However, when you use wood, you get to a certain point where you have to consider that you have to make small variations
on something standard that you’re doing, because you have to be very clear that your guitars have to be all very similar and your guitar has to sound like you.
There are times when you’re building a type of guitar and you’re always tempted to think that you’re going to do a variation
that’s suddenly going to be something that’s going to give you an explosion of sound that’s going to be…
I think it’s a way of belittling people who are coming, who have been coming after you for 200 years and I don’t know, I see that as very amateurish.
And then with time you realize that it’s much more important to make a guitar that is very similar.
And in that time that you have to spend, where you build guitars where you get all your guitars to be very similar.
That time is so important because it’s that time that’s going to make you recognize when you make changes,
recognize if those changes that you’ve made are for better or for worse, because if you don’t get to a middle ground where you stabilize,
you’re never really going to realize if what you’re doing is for better or for worse, or just if you’re looking for something,
if you get that little variation in sound, if you get it by building with one way or building with another way.
So I think it’s very necessary to first stabilize yourself and then try to be very, very stable when it comes to make guitars,
because in the end that’s what shows a little bit if you’re methodical with your work.
I mean, for me there came a time in my life where, yeah, ok, my guitars aren’t the best, but at least they’re all the same.
So, when they’re all the same you always have that opportunity for improvement.
Now yes, if you suddenly make a guitar one way, then another, then another, and you innocently think
that because you make small changes to certain things it’s going to achieve something, if you’re not in control of what you’re doing, it doesn’t make any sense.
You can change something inside the guitar, but if you’re not in control of the wood that you’re using, the flexibility of the wood
and what you’re actually doing, those changes can happen, but not because of what you’re doing, but because of other things outside of you that you don’t control.
So, until you take a little bit of control of the construction, I don’t consider that you become a guitar maker,
I really think that you become a guitar maker when your guitar sounds to you. Better or worse, but to you.
It takes a long time, it takes time.
Because you have to be in control of many things.
When you work with tenths of a millimeter, you need a time
to handle the tools accurately.
When you have to make a fretboard, you need a time that even you are not aware of.
You just dedicate yourself and focus
to always doing things right, always doing the best that you can do.
sometimes things don’t work out
At the beginning they do not come out.
But the fact that you make it your goal to make it right. Without you realizing it.
You never realize it.
You never get to a point where you say now yes.
You don’t realize it and maybe it happens and you don’t realize it.
You just have to take control of it all and you never know when will be
You just don’t know.
You just realize over time that all your guitar, the criticism you get is always pretty much the same.
And when you see that your two guitars are similar. They’re never the same because they never get to be exactly the same.
But they’re all very similar.
And a person comes along who has an ear and who plays and says, hey, well your guitar sounds very similar.
And I think that’s when that moment comes, there’s never a date, there’s never a day, there’s never a week, there’s never a month.
There’s even times when you can go backwards and then a little bit forwards.
And from there I think that’s when the real road starts.
In the beginning, maybe something that I thought was fundamental, especially here in Granada, was to learn how to make a Granada style guitar.
I think it was very important and I was really quite surprised at the high quality of guitar making here and also how much our guitars are appreciated abroad.
how appreciated they are
So originally it was a goal that I had to learn how to build guitars of the Granada type and.
And well, and to get a little bit closer to the characteristics of the Granada guitar which is a light guitar, a very easy guitar to play, with not a lot of tension.
A guitar that is sweet to play, that is pleasant to play, that everybody loves.
You want to rehearse at home with that guitar and when you have other types of guitars you always end up rehearsing and studying with your Granada guitar,
which is the most comfortable one, a guitar that is not very demanding.
Above all I notice that, that people like the Granada guitar a lot, because it’s not a demanding guitar, I think it’s a guitar that gives you more than what you give to it.
It means that it’s a guitar that, even though it’s not very demanding when it comes to playing, it’s a guitar that delivers a very artistic sound.
It means that the harmonics dance a lot.
It’s a guitar that is sweet, it’s a guitar that is very expressive and I think that’s very important because for an instrument to be pleasant,
especially to the guitarist, I think it’s very important, it’s very important and especially an instrument that is connected to the hands, that’s very important.
And maybe here in Granada, well something that I’ve discovered a lot from my colleagues and from the great masters that we have in Granada,
that their guitars are very like that, they have these characteristics.
And when you see outside another type of guitar is when you realize that there is a difference with ours.
And they really have acceptance.
They are guitars that guitarists really like.
Well, there I am in that sense, and maybe here I’ve gone my own way a little bit.
So, for me, a traditional spruce top guitar.
I think it’s ideal. A traditional fan bracing guitar with a spruce top.
It’s a guitar, which has very nice characteristics, I think, at least that one in my opinion, very nice.
However, with the Cedar I may have had more contradictions.
In the Cedar I’ve seen guitars that tend to be very full-bodied, very sweet, but perhaps a little muddy.
And above all, the projection that the cedar guitar has at medium/long distance never really appeals to me.
I think always a spruce guitar
has been much clearer at long distance.
It has been a better projecting guitar.
I’m not talking about volume.
I’m talking about something else.
So the cedar ones I’ve always seen that the cedar guitar has something in the long distance projection, which is like a very fuzzy ball.
And that’s when I started to get interested in lattice guitars
It happens that at the beginning, when I started to get interested in the lattice system guitars there was a big problem
and that was that I didn’t like the lattice guitars that I had had in my hands, I didn’t like the feel of the lattice guitar, I didn’t like the tension of the strings of a lattice guitar, I didn’t even like the sound.
The more radical sound of a lattice guitar I don’t like at all, but there was something about the lattice guitar
that I liked
And I noticed that the lattice guitar had a very clear projection, a very nice balance and above all that
That it was a very very clear guitar.
when it came to the projection, it was very clear, I didn’t want to give up certain characteristics that our guitars have.
Something that perhaps because I was from Granada, because of tradition, I didn’t want to give up.
So when I started the project with the lattice I set myself several conditions.
First that the guitar had to be very comfortable, even if I had to give up certain features like extreme power.
I also felt that maybe I had to give up a little bit of the extreme projection that a lattice guitar has and maybe I had to give up a little bit of that heavy guitar concept…
So then I started to develop a guitar that maybe going back a little bit I wanted some things, like the guitar to be very clear and very balanced and maybe a little bit not cedar sounding.
It was like something in between.
And I also wanted a guitar, of course, not very heavy, of course small, of course comfortable to play.
And of course, it had to have a nice sound, it had to be nice.
So, for me, I think it’s the model that I decided I want it to be my Concert model guitar. A guitar that I think has a pretty good projection.
It’s a powerful guitar, not overly powerful because I’ve had to give up a lot of things.
But with a very nice sound and with a very clear projection.
So it’s still a very demanding guitar because you need to have a very refined touch.
But well, it’s a very easy guitar to play as well, and for me that was very important.
So in the end that model has become something hybrid between tradition and looking for something a little bit different.
Here you can see
Alberto in the delivery, right?
Sounds very piano-like, doesn’t it?
Have you seen the harmonics they make ____
The notes are very piano-like, aren’t they?
but not as much as a lattice can be
Here I have a model.
A model of that type (lattice)
Actually this model in an external way
there is no difference with a traditional cedar guitar, since
I am not willing to give up the style of guitar that we have.
Then it really shows.
No big difference in string tension and guitar playability either.
where I’ve really worked a little bit has been on the layout of the bracing, the thicknesses of the tops
and my goal with this type of guitar is to maybe above all, maybe it is a lattice that until you don’t tell somebody that it is
they don’t realize that it is a lattice guitar, that is, he would say that the guitar was fuller than the guitar was full of harmonics, full of everything.
Obviously I had to give up some of the extreme things that lattice guitars have, but I really don’t like a lattice guitar.
I don’t know guitarists who play at home with their lattice guitars
No, no, in fact when I tried it, at my level of playing, I couldn’t play them.
It didn’t let me play it.
And it doesn’t happen to me like with my traditional guitar which is always the easiest guitar to play, always the easiest guitar to play, the one with the strings at a perfect action, the one with a nice tension, the one that…
That’s something I’ve never wanted to give up.
I’ve never wanted to give up.
So, the first one with lattice system, what I was getting was a lot of power, a lot of bass, a lot of treble…
But I didn’t really like the lattice sound.
And although the delivery of the sound and the harmonics and the notes as they come out of the guitar are a little bit special compared to a traditional guitar, it doesn’t really make a big difference.
So I think that in the end the most important characteristic, or why I think I consider it a concert guitar,
is because it’s a guitar that you can rehearse with it and you can also perform with it, because the projection at medium distance and at long distance is very good.
I’ve always found that cedar guitars were very fuzzy, it blended everything together.
There’s always a frequency in there that was going….
I’ve always seen that the spruce ones, the projection was much nicer from a distance.
And I was saying: why a cedar guitar can’t be the same?
Actually my cedar guitars sound like cedar because they have a lot of bass, it has a lot of body, but…
but it’s not quite a traditional made cedar guitar.
It’s not quite the traditional cedar sound, nor is it quite the traditional sound of a lattice guitar.
So I’m moving a little bit in that …
Well, I’ve seen cedar guitars that you say…. that make you crazy, right?
And that’s the end of that whole thing about them having bad projection and…
There are remarkable cedar instruments that are …
and traditional system for sure.
But in general when there’s a mid-range cedar guitar, yeah maybe here at a meter the first impact of the cedar guitar is very nice.
But the projection that a spruce guitar has, the balance that a spruce guitar has…
I don’t think it does a cedar guitar.
Well, maybe came a time in my evolution as a guitar maker
it sounds a little bit like a joke, but there comes a time when you have already made a lot of guitars and everything has happened to you.
So when everything has happened to you, you’ve had to repair a lot of things.
There comes a time that hey, look, maybe I can consider having somebody here who learns and if they do some things that are wrong, I know more or less where they’re going wrong, where the problems are…
And in the end I decided to start doing courses maybe little by little.
I’m not really a friend of many people’s courses and the truth is that I give very, very personal courses.
Normally the people who start a course with me I usually have only him.
And I do the courses a little slow and that they are full training courses. And that especially if he doesn’t know how to do things well but at least he sees how to do things well.
I’ve had students that I’ve had them with me for a year and they’ve finished the guitar.
And of course, as they learn things they realize that they don’t know anything and they start asking me more and more complex questions.
Because there are many things that are relative in the construction of the guitar.
They don’t exist. Sometimes there are things that are and sometimes they are not.
So I have people that have the possibility of living at 100 or 200 kilometers away and say hey, well once a week I’ll come with you and we’ll spend a year or six months to make my guitar.
And in that process they’re maturing as guitar makers, they’re maturing as students, they’re maturing.. And the conversations that we have in month number seven are not the same conversations that we have in month one.
And then I also have the intensive courses, where there are people who don’t have the possibility of taking long time for gradually assimilating everything that goes into making a guitar. Which is a lot of things and it’s really complex
You realize that there were people before you who were very capable and who have made great instruments and who have left a very important mark.
So I think when it comes to maturing, we as guitar makers, maybe the best way to mature is to recognize the work of the great masters, I think it’s very important.
I don’t think that we are going to contribute with something, something fundamental in the guitar or that we are going to be “the chosen ones”, that we are going to do something very important.
I think our mission is to continue and to value
And to know how to protect and to take care and to give continuity to other people’s work, we always give our touch to our guitars, decorative touch…some other things
But I think it’s much more important throughout your career to know how to recognize the work of others and the great masters.
If for example the guitars of Reyes
I really like one of Marcelo’s guitars, I really like, I really like Antonio Marín’s guitar.
Yes, I like it very much.
I really like René’s guitar, I like it a lot too.
There are many guitars, many masters.
Maybe as you learn more things you recognize more.
Of Course the Granada Guitars I like them a lot. Even if I don’t like them, I have to like them…