Miguel Rodriguez of Cordoba, Flamenco Guitars, 1959 and 1967.
Technical information about 2 Miguel Rodriguez flamenco guitars (at bottom of this page)
Miguel Rodriguez Beneyto (1888-1975) was born in Cordoba, Spain. Miguel Sr., his twin sons, Rafael (1921-1965) and Miguel Jr. (1921-1998) and his grandson, Jose Rodriguez Alamo (1950-1996) are credited with making 2000 guitars of great quality. Concert artists such as Pepe and Angel Romero (of the Romeros family) used Rodriguez of Cordoba guitars for many years.
The guitars of Rodriguez of Cordoba are prized by many luthiers and have been used as a model by a number of modern makers. I first met Miguel Sr., Miguel Jr. and Jose (known as Pepe) in 1966. I visited them the next year (1967) when I picked up my flamenco guitar. At that time I was fortunate to watch each of the family members working: making rosettes, dyeing veneers, French Polishing, etc. During that visit I spent a lot of time with Miguel's grandson, Pepe, who was close to my age. We kept in contact for a few years but I did not visit him again until the mid 1990's. I have a private video of that visit where Pepe showed me through the back rooms of the workshop (where they had a large stock of 50-year old Brazilian Rosewood and 50-year old Spruce tops), and showed me rare guitars that his grandfather made and even a splendid viola. I had an article published in American Lutherie (Winter 2001) on this family entitled, "Miguel Rodriguez: Some Notes on his Family Tree and Correcting the Historical Record." I wrote that article because there are many rumors about Miguel Rodriguez's connection with the Jose Ramirez Family in Madrid. The article is based on my discussions with the Rodriguez family and research into the guitar literature.
There are a number of other articles on the Miguel Rodriguez Family in books and magazines. Do not believe everything you read about their connection with Rafael Casana, the Madrid maker who worked for Ramirez. The grandson, Jose Rodriguez Alamo, told me in the 1990's that his grandfather was self trained and did not learn from Rafael Casana.
I should also mention here that Miguel Rodriguez Beneyto (of Cordoba) is not related to Manuel Rodriguez Perez, the Madrid maker who lived for 11 years in California and whose family had worked in the Jose Ramirez workshop.
Miguel Rodriguez, Cordoba Flamenco, Spain 1959. Spuce, Cypress, French Polish. Some repaired cracks. This instrument is a treasure for a flamenco player. It has the unique Rodriguez sound. It is easy to play. This is the real thing not a copy.
Miguel Rodriguez, Cordoba, Spain 1967, Flamenco. Spruce, Cypress, French Polish. Some repaired cracks. I bought this guitar in 1967 directly from Miguel Rodriguez Sr. in Cordoba when I was 18 years old. Not for Sale.
Some technical information about these 2 Miguel Rodriguez Flamenco Guitars (1959, 1967)
I have been asked by various guitarmakers about these 2 old guitars. Authentic Miguel Rodriguez guitars are well known among aficionados and sell for high prices. Someone asked if I had ever looked inside these guitars. I have of course looked inside and I have studied them in detail. There are a number of subtile and important features which contribute to the sound and value of these guitars. Here are some of them.
1. The guitars made by Miguel Rodriguez, his son and his grandson were made of very old wood. When I visited the Cordoba, Spain shop of Miguel Rodriguez in 1966, 1967 and 1994, there was always talk about their wood, its quality and age. In 1967 when I purchased my personal flamenco guitar, Pepe (the grandson) made a special point of the fact that the soundboard of my guitar was made of a spruce piano soundboard which was over 40 years old (I do not know if he meant that it was from a 40 year old piano or whether his grandfather had had the wood for 40 years). During that trip, I was shown classical guitar made with sides and back of old ebony, some made with maple and others of unspecified woods. I was also shown 2 flamenco guitars made of what they called Pino rojo ("Red Pine") which was reputed to have come back from an trip of dicovery to Virginia by Captain Fernandez of Cordoba 400 years ago. I took this information into my young mind and always wondered if the facts were correct. In any case, it was believed to be old wood and it produced very loud guitars, which Pepe called "cannons". At that time the Rodriguez family explained to my father and I, that they collected wood from many souces--old bedroom ffurniture, old pianos soundboards (Spruce), church pew, church door (Brazilian Rosewood), gun crates (for cedar and mahogany), antigue lumber used as balast in ships. In 1994, Pepe took me to the back room of their workshop (by this time his grandfather had been dead for many years) and he showed me some spruce and Brazilian Rosewood sets which had been cut to thickness. He asked me how much Brazilian rosewood was worth ( he was toying with me). I gave him a vague figure. Then, he asked how much 2000 sets of 50-year old Brazilian rosewood was worth. I was amazed at the supply of old wood that they had. To summarize this point, the Miguel Rodriguez family believed, that a world class guitar required very old, properly cut wood. So, the first "secret" for making a great guitar is very old, properly cut, dried wood.
2. The bracing of these 2 flamencos is slightly differnt. The 1959 has a 7 strut fan bracing, 2 "chevron" stiffening brcaes in the lower bout, no countrapuente under the bridge. The 1967 has a 5 strut bracing syste, 2 chevron struts in the lower bout, and a thin (12mm wide) contrapuente under the bridge. They both have 2 braces (maybe 15 to 18mm wide) under the fingerboard extending from the base of the neck to the bar over the soundhole--these 2 braces form a triangle. This triangle probably makes the area above the soundhole quite stiff and contributes to the stability/rigidity of the guitar. You can see this design in the drawing of the Miguel Rodriguez Guitar shown in Tom Blackshear's plans on pages 36-37 in American Lutherie, Number 68, winter 2001. I should mention here that my 2 flamenco guitars do not have a diagonal harmonic bar such as is shown in the classical guitar plans drawn by Tom Blackshear. So, the second point is that the area above the sound hole is a special design feature of the Miguel Rodriguez guitar; the classical and flamenco guitar seem to differ in the use of a slanted harmonic bar; these flamenco guitars may have a 5 or 7 strut pattern.
3. The helmholtz resonance of the soundbox of these 2 guitars is very close. The 1967 has a basic frequency between F# and G (on the 2nd and 3rd frets of the 6th string). The 1959 is a little closer to F# than the 1967. I find the helmholtz resonance by humming into the soundhole and when I reach the frequency of the soundbox it is quite obvious because I can feel that the box is vibrating much stronger than at any other note. The soundhole size affects the soundbox resonance, a smaller hold apparently produces a lower note and a bigger soundhole produces a higher note. The diameter of both soundholes is 87mm. The soundboxes are very closer in dimensions. For both guitars, the upper bout is 28cm, the waist is 24 cm and the lower bout is 37cm. The depth of the soundbox at the base of the guitar for the 1959 is 100mm, and the depth at the neck-body joint is 95mm; for the 1967 the depth at the base of the guitar is 95mm and the depth at the neck-body joint is 90mm. The 12th fret is at 327.5mm and the actual string length is 656.5mm to 657mm
4. I have been told by an old flamenco player who had bought several guitars from Miguel Rodriguez in Corboda in the early 1960s that Miguel Rodriguez would "tune" the sound box by putting on a 2nd (B) string, tuning it up and then work on the interior bracing of the guitar. When I was in Cordoba visiting the Rodriguez family for 3 days in 1967 (when I was 19), I would go around the city with Pepe (the grandson) and come back to the shop and watch his grandfather working on the frets and doing touch up French Polishing on the guitar he had chosen for me. I am not sure if I remember him sanding or scraping the braces in the guitar. I simply do not know if or what Miguel Rodriguez did to his guitars after they were constructed. If you are interested in this matter I suggest that you contact Tom Blackshear who is an expert on Miguel Rodriguez guitars and also that you read, Roger Siminoff's book, the Art of Tap Tuning.
5. The value of these guitars has definitely been helped by the fact that fine concert players such as the Romero Family have used some of these guitars. Pepe Rodriguez use to tell me about a guitar called "la Wonderful" which was apparently owned and played by Pepe Romero. In Spain, Manuel Cano ( a well known performed) was very fond of these guitars. The value of an instrument is always increased by good publicity. In addition, the Migeul Rodriguez guitars have an antique charm to them. Miguel Rodriguez started building guitars in the beginning of the 20th century. He was hundreds of miles from Madrid where the Jose and Manuel Ramirez shops had trained many luthiers. Miguel was on his own in the hinterland--doing his own thing. He had the opportunity to see and repair many instruments. I saw one of his great guitar built in the 1930s which was obviously based on designs of Antonio Torres, La Cote of France and Stauffer of Germany. Old Miguel's guitars were made of old wood, they were put together with hot animal hide glue, the finish was traditional French Polished shellac. Each guitar was slightly different. They did not look or feel mass produced because each one was lovingly hand made.
My friend, Pepe Rodriguez, told me that he and his family had made so many guitars that he knew what the guitar would sound like in his mind before the soundbox was closed up. He also told me (half-jokingly?), that he would breathe some spiritual essence into the guitar before the soundbox was closed up (this is a charming image) in hope that it would sound good. In 1967 I was attending a summer course at the University of Madrid and I went down to Cordoba to pick-up the flamenco guitar I have ordered from Miguel Rodriguez. At that time my father was involved in the guitar business and he would purchase guitars for export from various good makers including Miguel Rodriguez. During the 3 days of my visit the grandfather was completing my guitar and I would be taken around Corboba by Pepe (a great guitarist and the grandson apprenctice in the family business). There were a number of memorial moments during this trip for me. One was Pepe taking me to a quite small plaza where he told me that he came for inspiration for his musical composition (a few years later Pepe wound up teaching guitar at the conservatory in Cordoba in addition to making guitars at the shop). Another moment was when we went to copy ancient mosiac design from Moorish building onto graph paper with colored pencils. At night, Pepe took me to a small garden restaurant where a flamenco guitarist and singer were perforing, when the performers saw Pepe they invited him to play a solo--obviously he was very respected. On that same night, i remember that we were with his cousin and we three walked in usison and Pepe taught me to clap syncopated flamenco rthyms to the sound of our foot steps. And, one special moment I strongly remember was holding my new guitar down on the work bench as Miguel Rodriguez (the grandfather), took out a metal die and pounded his name with a big hammer into the back of the lower part of the head--this little episode scared me--I thought he would beak the head.
I hope this helps. If I remember anything else I will continue this section of information.
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