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What is it about a negra?   You are logged in as Guest
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NorCalluthier

 

Posts: 136
Joined: Apr. 16 2016
 

What is it about a negra? 

Hello All,

After many years of experimenting, teaching guitar making, and occasionally building an instrument, I've decided to get serious about producing.

I've always built and played cypress flamencas, but with the interest in flamenca negras, I've made one, and am just about to string it up. It's a bear-claw Euro spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides guitar, with Planetary Pegs. The top is 30 something years old!

So, what do you look for in a negra that you don't find in a blanca?

Cheers,

Brian Burns
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 16:09:35
 
etta

 

Posts: 322
Joined: Jan. 20 2010
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Hello Brian; I really admire your work and the good advise you have given me in the past. About a negra; it may have a fuller, possibly deeper sound. But I have negras that sound more like blancas and the reverse. Many builders built negras with greater body thickness and less taper toward the upper bouts; this would seem to allow for a deeper, more bass focused presence. Generally the attack on the blanca is faster because of less body depth (among other reasons). I am tempted to say that if two guitars, a blanca and a negra, are built to the same body dimensions, similar top graduations, etc. they will likely sound very similar, not accounting for the variations in wood grain of each top. These are just generalizations; I have a cedar top Brazilian that is as flamenco bright, fast and punchy as any blanca I ever heard. It was made in Mill Valley, from a guy who learned from you, so that may give you a clue. Jack
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 16:29:52
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

I hate rosewood guitars. I call it Arsewood.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 17:27:41
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

I've been building both for over 50 years and still can't say if there's a difference although logically one would think having a harder, denser wood on the back and sides should make a difference. When people ask I usually say one is made of dark colored wood and the other light.

_____________________________

John Shelton - www.sheltonfarrettaguitars.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 18:13:03
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Rosewood guitars suck. You have to pore fill them before you finish them.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 18:44:29
 
NorCalluthier

 

Posts: 136
Joined: Apr. 16 2016
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Hello Etta,

Thanks for the kind words (:->)...If you got that Brazilian negra recently from Glenn Canin it might be a double top.

Glenn likes to use low density Italian spruce, and trades off the denser stuff to me. I happen to have some low density old Italian spruce, and have made a couple of ultra-lightweight blancas with it. They are "quick"!

I'll be getting the negra back from the French polishers about mid-week, and will report back about my impressions of it.

Cheers,

Brian
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 19:03:25
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 730
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

I hate rosewood guitars.


Some would say “treason” … but wait …

Isn’t the negra thing more about fashion than reason? People just saw Paco with his iconic negra and felt that identifying with the most famous flamenco guitarist would be the route to take for better playing. The fashion was all pervasive for a while and even poor old Manuel Reyes, a lifelong blanca luthier was forced to make some negras towards the end of his career. Nobody noticed that when Paco was pictured playing at home or in situations other than large stage shows, he often played a blanca.

I would like to get rid of this unhelpful dichotomy and replace it with three categories. (1) A guitar for playing alone in your home. (2) A guitar for an unamplified gig – including one with other artists. (3) A guitar for an amplified gig. I think that I could describe some of the qualities that I would like for these. Thinking about guitars I have owned I don’t think any of them have been ideal in more than 2 out of three categories. It is hard enough to find great guitars so why restrict your choice by the black or white thing?

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 19:35:32
 
pundi64

Posts: 234
Joined: Jul. 29 2016
From: Thailand

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

I hate rosewood guitars. I call it Arsewood.


I always look forward to your nice positive replys
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 19:53:35
 
pundi64

Posts: 234
Joined: Jul. 29 2016
From: Thailand

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

Rosewood guitars suck. You have to pore fill them before you finish them.



Whoops there's another one, great thoughts, I also have a negra, so I always appreciate a thoughtful, informative reply.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 19:55:57
 
Piwin

 

Posts: 3398
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[Deleted] 

Post has been moved to the Recycle Bin at Apr. 9 2017 21:25:24
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 21:09:34
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13401
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to RobJe

quote:

ORIGINAL: RobJe

quote:

I hate rosewood guitars.


Some would say “treason” … but wait …

Isn’t the negra thing more about fashion than reason? People just saw Paco with his iconic negra and felt that identifying with the most famous flamenco guitarist would be the route to take for better playing. The fashion was all pervasive for a while and even poor old Manuel Reyes, a lifelong blanca luthier was forced to make some negras towards the end of his career. Nobody noticed that when Paco was pictured playing at home or in situations other than large stage shows, he often played a blanca.

I would like to get rid of this unhelpful dichotomy and replace it with three categories. (1) A guitar for playing alone in your home. (2) A guitar for an unamplified gig – including one with other artists. (3) A guitar for an amplified gig. I think that I could describe some of the qualities that I would like for these. Thinking about guitars I have owned I don’t think any of them have been ideal in more than 2 out of three categories. It is hard enough to find great guitars so why restrict your choice by the black or white thing?

Rob


I quote paco from Guitar magazine April 1976 cover story:
"I play Sobrinos de Esteso. Something in between classical and flamenco. Flamenco guitars are too soft, I like the guitar to have more depth, be more profound".... obviously he is talking about negra vs blanca. I have seen him use blanca on stage accompanying cante only , in the 1970's. Of course in the studio he would use blancas on occasion until his final recording.

Ricardo

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 22:17:58
 
NorCalluthier

 

Posts: 136
Joined: Apr. 16 2016
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Hello John,

quote:

I've been building both for over 50 years and still can't say if there's a difference although logically one would think having a harder, denser wood on the back and sides should make a difference. When people ask I usually say one is made of dark colored wood and the other light.


Or as Gene Clark used to say "If I want it to be a classical, I just leave off the tap plates, and charge more"...

Cheers,

Brian
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 9 2017 23:46:12
 
NorCalluthier

 

Posts: 136
Joined: Apr. 16 2016
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Hello Rob,

I'm with you. I think people that play flamenco need at least two guitars. One for Bulerias, Rumba Gitana, and the other up tempo forms. And another for a slow Solea, Granadinas, Tarantas etc. I suspect that a blanca would work best for the fast stuff, and a negra best for the slower. When I pick up a guitar it seems to ask for the form that it should have played on it. A classical always asks for Granadinas.

I'm determined to build a short sustain guitar someday, and it's beginning to look like I'm going to need to use some wood that I wouldn't ordinarily consider using. I normally pick wood that tests really well---very lively tap tone. For short sustain I might end up using some really dead stuff, and sacrifice some volume.

Cheers,

Brian
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 10 2017 0:01:48
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

I quote paco from Guitar magazine April 1976 cover story:
"I play Sobrinos de Esteso. Something in between classical and flamenco. Flamenco guitars are too soft, I like the guitar to have more depth, be more profound".... obviously he is talking about negra vs blanca. I have seen him use blanca on stage accompanying cante only , in the 1970's. Of course in the studio he would use blancas on occasion until his final recording.

Ricardo


Guitar magazines are silly. When i was in school I had a tutorial with a great teacher, he visited my studio and gave me a critique. Sometime during the talk he saw an Art Forum magazine on my desk. Without stopping with his main idea was, he picked it up and threw it across the room to the floor, he said "This is bullsh*t."

He was right. Twenty five years later I saw him at Christmas and showed him a guitar and we went to lunch. There were further teachable moments even during our visit.

Anyway, what about maple? What about Myrtle, Palo Escrito, Black Acacia, Koa, what a but half dozen other woods?

It's untrue that any of these woods are more profound than the others, and magazines push simplistic narratives to sell issues. Does the tree grow up in certain neighborhood and declare itself more profound? Did the tree go Harvard or the Sorbonne or Tokyo University and is thus more educated and speaks better?

Hmm, Rosewood vs. Cypress is an old binary opposition comparison. It never goes anywhere significant because the we have Maple, the third option, and after maple about a dozen likely woods to choose from.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 10 2017 2:41:39
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Oh Hi Brian!

How rude of me to go off on a tangent before saying hello. I felt some urge to deliver a Clarkian rant about rosewood. Seriously I don't l have a beef with rosewood, but I prefer to build classical and flamenco with Cypress.

One of the best things I learned from Gene is how to perfect the rant. Being around him was like a protracted graduate course in the art of the rant. Gene was the Dean of Ranting. Not sure I ever passed the course.

It's good to know you're still cranking them out.

S.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 10 2017 3:41:25
 
Echi

 

Posts: 975
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

When Paco started playing a negra, most of the blancas were lightly made blancas.
Paco himself used to play percussive Condes or Ramirez.
The blancas used by pro players today for solo work are a different kind of bolt blancas, an evolution between the old blancas and negras.
In this sense, it's fully understandable what Paco said in that interview.

I agree with Stephen, when he sais that today people make use of coral or maple or other woods to get the result they want and with Robje.
The first negras were made by Arcangel in the fifties.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 10 2017 9:17:47
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

I agree but the first negras cane a lot earlier than Archangel. Not all Blanca were "soft" but that is a separate story.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 10 2017 11:41:44
 
Echi

 

Posts: 975
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

It's always difficult to tell who was the first, ok.
Arcangel introduced a flamenco negra guitar a couple of years after Barbero's departure and for what I know, he was the most famous maker of flamenco guitars offering such a kind of guitar.
The guitars of Arcangel were not very common though as they were more expensive than the average and Arcangel never wanted to come to deals with musicians. That's why he preferred to focus on classical guitars.

The guitars of the late Barbero are said to be among the most round sounding (and bass oriented) you could get at the time.
Even comparing such a kind of guitar with a modern Madrid style guitar there is a huge difference.
I mean, the evolution is quite clear.
To make an instance, the Reyes guitars from the eighties have clearly evolved to a bulkier and stroger guitar than the older Reyes. The same you can say for Conde, Barba, and Jose Lopez Bellido. I had a '74 and a 2001 Bellido and you can see it straight away.
Obviously there is a demand for such a kind of guitar that follows the evolution of flamenco.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 10 2017 12:56:01
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 730
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

quote:

I think people that play flamenco need at least two guitars.


Or more!

While I understand what you say about different guitars for different palos, I think that there is a bigger problem about different guitars for different playing settings as I suggested in my post.

I have just checked and found that I bought on average one guitar every five years from 1960 to the present day. Looking at the list reminds me of the constant struggle to get something suitable for the kind of playing I was doing at the time. The last new guitar I bought was a modern Conde in 2003, impeccably behaved on stage but not much fun at home. A decade later, when my serious playing days were over I started to look for guitars that were fun to play at home. I do have one guitar that does everything pretty well but I have not found many like this.

It is a tough challenge for luthiers!

Good to see another experienced luthier on the foro. We get a lot out of their contributions.

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 14:03:57
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

quote:

So, what do you look for in a negra that you don't find in a blanca?


First of all, I dont find the difference between the to specimen to be very big. In general, negras tend to give the player a slightly different answer to the input he/she gives the instrument. Also when built very much like blancas they often get stronger and clearer trebles. Something that I´m not to fond of myself because very clear and bright trebles can be annoying especially over a PA system. I like a slight distortion and compression in the high end. Like a tube-amp click over.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 14:48:57
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13401
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

It's like sherries. Blanca's are like Fino/Manzanilla....negras are like Oloroso/Amontillado.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 15:37:29
 
Echi

 

Posts: 975
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

quote:

I do have one guitar that does everything pretty well but I have not found many like this.

Out of curiosity, who is the maker?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 15:47:15
 
NorCalluthier

 

Posts: 136
Joined: Apr. 16 2016
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Hello Rob,

I too am curious about that guitar that does everything pretty well. could you describe its qualities?

Since you bought your first instrument in 1960, you must be about my age---77--- and my tastes have certainly changed a lot over the years.

I bought my first good instrument in 1963, if I remember rightly. It was an Arcangel blanca, actually made by Marcelo Barbero Hijo under Arcangel's direction. It was certainly a lot heavier than Chris Carnes' Barbero that I played a couple of years later.

By the mid 1970's I still wanted a guitar that "pinned back your ears", and built a spruce and maple guitar to the same plantilla as the Arcangel, and the same 66cm string length.

It took the better part of four years of beating on that thing to get it to start sounding musical. It ended up being a well respected instrument, but by that time I was mellowing, and wanted something like Freddie Mejia's old Domingo Esteso!

When I resumed lutherie in 1993 I built my first 65cm scale length instrument. I liked it so much better than the 66cm one that I built alongside it, that I've made only 65cm ones ever since.

Cheers,

Brian
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 16:59:48
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 730
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

quote:

I too am curious about that guitar that does everything pretty well. could you describe its qualities?


Firstly, our paths nearly crossed! I was in Arcangel's shop in 1962. I met Marcelo Barbero Hijo and bought a "para casa Arcangel Fernandez" guitar by Juan Alvarez. It just wasn't loud enough for the playing situations I found myself in with 5 or so dancers, 1-2 singers and 2-3 guitarists playing unamplified in quite large venues. A few years later, when I could afford it I got a cedar Ramirez which was better.

I hesitated to mention the name of my favourite guitar because I have talked about it often here. It is a 90s Manuel Bellido spruce/cypress blanca peghead with slimmed down Fleta bracing (9 radiating fan struts, thin under-bridge strut, 1 closing strut on base side, double inclined bars on bridge side of sound hole, double bars on fingerboard side of sound hole). It is like the one that Tomatito plays in the 2014 Festival de Granada which you can find on YouTube. It suited my playing well - the qualities of a guitar need to be related to the person playing it. I have (I should say "had") quite a heavy hand and I liked the fact that however quietly or strongly I played I could produce an even "wall of sound". Similarly with picado there seemed to be endless headroom. I particularly liked the strength of the trebles giving volume without requiring a lot of effort - loud enough unamplified to cut through a noisy party atmosphere and evenly balanced and well behaved in front of a microphone (but not as good as my Conde of course). I have a later Manuel Bellido which is quite good as well.

It's very difficult to find words to express the qualities of a guitar. Here is a little table of my subjective feelings about guitars I have owned. Scores out of 10. X means not tested in this setting. Names of luthiers withheld to protect the innocent but you will be able to guess from what I have said.

Rob



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 19:05:30
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1554
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

To me, a blanca (cypress back and sides), a negra, and a classical guitar are generally distinct.

The soundboards of traditional flamenco guitars, as opposed to classical guitars, are either thinner, or braced more lightly--or both--which gives the sound of flamenco guitars more of a rough, raw, raspy character. Often the backs and sides of flamenco guitars are also thinner, though not in the case of mine. I use spruce almost exclusively for soundboards.

Although I am afraid that talking about sound quality may be like dancing about architecture, I think a proper flamenca blanca has low sustain and what used to be called a "tinny" tone--less full and round, more fundamental, I suppose, and somewhat rough around the edges. The sound of an Indian rosewood negra is close to that of a blanca, but with more depth. I find that other rosewoods, such as Bolivian (Santos) or Brazilian, give a mellower, more refined sound, as does hard maple.

Classical guitars have more sustain and projection--more like a piano, perhaps. My classical guitars sound totally different from my flamenco guitars. And I keep the same body depth and plantilla for all my guitars. Currently the differences between my classicals and flamencos are the soundboard bracing--including the biggest brace, the bridge (and thus neck angle); the scale lengths (650 mm for classicals and 656 for flamencos, generally); and that I use a mahogany heel block for classicals, which I find adds sustain to an otherwise cedro neck.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 11 2017 23:40:13
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

Guitars sound like guitars.

You can play Bach transcriptions on flamenco guitar and you can play flamenco on most Spanish design "classical" guitars. They are pretty much the same thing with minor differences.

The Torres-Spanish design is sonically malleable - beyond that ....you get to name your deal.

Guitars sound like guitars. IKEA furniture looks like IKEA furniture. You just pick the chair that fits your butt the best.

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https://www.stephenfaulkguitars.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2017 2:31:55
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 730
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

the chair that fits your butt the best.


Ah - the person-relative seatbutt unit of measurement. The measures in my table are seatbutts of course.

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2017 10:18:03
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1554
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to estebanana

quote:

IKEA furniture looks like IKEA furniture.


Yeah, but it doesn't always function like furniture. I bought a three-drawer IKEA chest for the bathroom and it came with six left-handed (and no right-handed) drawer guides.

_____________________________

Ethan Deutsch
www.edluthier.com
www.facebook.com/ethandeutschguitars
www.youtube.com/marioamayaflamenco
I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2017 12:03:00
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to constructordeguitarras

quote:

Yeah, but it doesn't always function like furniture. I bought a three-drawer IKEA chest for the bathroom and it came with six left-handed (and no right-handed) drawer guides.

_____________________________


Dude, that was the Jimi Hendrix model. All left hand.

_____________________________

https://www.stephenfaulkguitars.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2017 12:44:57
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: What is it about a negra? (in reply to NorCalluthier

For me blancas have more of an emphasis on the middle strings and usually play por medio better than negras. Negras have a little more sparkle on the high end and a fatter bass.
A Canadian luthier who I respect says that negras have "a hole in the middle where the music is supposed to go". I also prefer the punchy, percussive mid-range sound of blancas but to me the best of both worlds is Padauk/Coral.

_____________________________

Andy Culpepper, luthier
http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 14 2017 0:59:08
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