By Steve Rider
Jose Ramos of Ramos Guitars in Barcelona has been building guitars in his shop for almost 10 years. Jose offers some nice choices that appeal to almost every player. Jose stopped making sawdust during this busy time of the year to tell us a bit about who he is and what he does.
Guitar Connoisseur: Was music a tradition in your family?
Jose Ramos: Unfortunately in my family there has been no musical tradition, never! My family comes from the South of Spain,Granada to be exact and although it is one of the Spanish provinces with classical guitar tradition, unfortunately my family did not Absorb any kind of musical concept that would help me Later to my development as a Luthier.
GC: You mention in your site bio that someone really had to goad you into becoming more serious as a guitar player. Who was that, and how did it turn out for you?
JR: Hahahaha, well, it really was more like torture than an initiation. My beginnings with the guitar was at the age of 14. I had the bad fortune of a Motorcycle accident, in which I fractured my left arm. A friend who played guitar tried to make me play an F Chord while my arm was totally immobile. You wont’t believe me when I tell you that it is totally impossible, and that pain is unbearable. That experience caused a permanent injury which I still deal with today so I have to be cautious of my technique… Unfortunately this injury got in the way of my musical development and I would never achieve the kind of musicianship I always wanted which is why I dedicate myself 100% to the art of lutherie. We could say, that Thanks to this friend, my interest in the lutherie grew enormously.
GC: At what point did you decide that you wanted to build guitars professionally?
JR: I clearly remember 1993, at the age of 18. And the reason I remember it, is because it was right after a Aerosmith + Mr. Big concert. I told myself. I thought “why not dedicate myself to building guitars if that’s what I’m passionate about, besides, I had been tinkering with my guitars and my friends for 2 years to see what makes them tick. I really liked the idea of doing this for a living and figured I had nothing to lose by trying.
GC: Were you able to find someone to apprentice with, or were you primarily learning on your own?
JR: I’m self taught. If you think back to Spain in 1993, Barcelona had just finished hosting the Barcelona ’92 Olympics, which is where I have my workshop. While the Olympics brought us alot of international interest; there was very little information on lutherie, and without Training schools, I had to figure it out on my own.
GC: How did you deal with the traditions of secrecy in the world of lutherie in the Spanish guitar world?
JR: Well, it really was impossible to get into that world. The Spanish guitar here in Spain was like a closed circle, Led by a sect (hahahah) that would have cut your hands without hesitation if one was to disseminate something about the building process. Nowadays it is different world, thanks to luthiers from other countries who have learned that hiding things prevents progress. But Unfortunately, the Luthiers of classical or Flamenco guitar Here they are called (Old School Guitarreros) continue to operate as they did 100 years ago.
GC: What is your design methodology?
JR: Hahaha … sorry to laugh!!! But an anecdote comes to mind which happened to me in the first edition of the Holy Grail Guitar Show referring to your question The question was asked by a German guy that really liked my Arise model. We were talking for a good while and this question came up. My response was as follows:
“Well I get up in the morning and if I have an idea, I develop it”, he was so surprised by my response that he stopped talking and left. I do not know what kind of response he expected, maybe something more romantic, I do not know.
I do not like to force my designs. In order to create a design I need to be very calm, without stress or distractions.
Usually ideas come to me when I get up in the morning, I guess because I’m rested and my mind is free, so if I have an idea I’ll make drawing as soon as I get to the workshop and the development process goes for as long as necessary, without haste and without force. It may sound like a joke, but it’s my way of doing it.
GC: How do you go about selecting the materials you will use for each model or custom build?
JR: When designing the instrument in question I follow my own personal criteria. In other words what I think that guitar should be in terms of, weight, balance between materials, aesthetics, sound and especially for whom it is being build for.
Each piece is chosen depending on what the instrument will be used for. I build for the player, an instrument for a blues player is not the same as one I would make for someone playing metal or rock, so the materials should be consistent with what the player wants and what I think will give the player what they need. It’s hard to explain exactly what my criteria is since it is something that just flows once I get into the rhythm of building. I could tell you some great stories about Wood, bridges made of one material or another over Frequencies that cross, etc … every guitar, every musician is different so there are many possibilities depending on each project.
GC: What makes your guitars different from other luthiers out there?
JR: I do not try to be different, I just want to express my point of view in what a good instrument should be.
What I am looking for is essentially an instrument for a lifetime. An instrument that the musician is comfortable and does not ever want to stop playing. I do not like to make instruments which are going to be in a showcase or exhibited in a museum. I want you to remember me as the best Luthier in the world. I am a Luthier who has learned alone and without help and who right now makes a living doing what he loves. I also have some influence through my courses and I’m able to show future luthiers how to build. It is possible for people to look at my instruments and say, “Well, one more of so many?” Sure! But perhaps one of the things that differentiates me from Other luthiers is, the passion for my work and the dedication in each of the guitars or basses that I manufacture. I’m so sure of the the quality of my work that I think that is why I offer a lifetime guarantee on all my instruments.
GC: Do you attend a lot of guitar shows? If so which ones do you feel are important to you?
JR: I do not usually go to many, really. Between 1 & 3 per year if the economy allows it. I think they are all good, it just depends on what you want to accomplish. I prefer the direct interaction with the musician. For this reason I believe that that the small shows are better. Shows where you can speak and comment directly without intermediaries. If you look at The Holy Grail Guitar Show you are more focused on this than I commented before. However, I recognize the importance of larger ones, such as NAMM or Musikmesse, which I have not yet been exposed to and we know what type of audience they are targeting. I do not rule out exhibiting in Los Angeles, maybe in 2018 … who knows.
GC: What do you have in the works for the future that you can share with us?
JR: Well, 2017 is going to be very important to me. I opened my doors in 2007 with my own brand after going through many sites repairing and manufacturing for others that I prefer not to name and 2017
It will be our tenth anniversary. I can tell you that I’m going to modify the models that I have available. Substituting maybe some and perhaps evolving others. Change of website, new collaborations and a few other things, but let me not ruin the surprise.
To learn more about Ramos Guitars please visit: ramosguitars.com
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