The Eternal Quest for the "Right" Guitar by Marc Askew


The (long) story of one mans “quest” for the “right guitar”.

Marc Askew is a long time friend of ours and his thoughts, opinions and musings on ‘The Eternal Quest for the Right Guitar’ - is a fascinating one!

I met Marc about eight years ago when he was returning to classical guitar after a 15-year detour into the Indian sitar.

He was searching for a reasonably priced flamenco guitar, then a value for money classical, then a better classical, then his “best” classical, then the ultimate concert, then… you get the idea. 

Throughout Marc has grown exceptionally fast as a player, studied with masters and traveled to learn more, completed the AMEB advanced Performance Certificate and Trinity College Diploma, practiced like a demon and performed publicly. Pushed his current guitar to the limits and come back for more. He always meticulously researched all the guitar options, exhaustively tested and cost justified every decision and chosen great guitars and negotiated good deals out of me. He is extraordinary in his thoroughness but typical of the players “wanting only the best” that find their way to my showroom. In the end I thought his quest might be of interest to others. 

Marc Askew and I have spent many hours together playing different models and debating the finer points of guitars, their woods and construction, strings, players and recording methods. In this illuminating article by Marc in his direct and uncompromising way he offers his considered thoughts, opinions and musings on ‘The Eternal Quest for the Right Guitar’

 Pierre Herrero 


 Pierre has been important in this circuitous musical journey in a variety of ways, not the least is his genuine commitment to the guitar as a musical instrument, his direct knowledge of principal guitar luthiers (especially Spanish) and his comprehensive knowledge of the guitar models in his collection.

He hasn’t stocked all models that I’ve had an interest in, and our views differ on some important points about certain guitars and their qualities, but that’s quite natural.  Not all of the guitars that I own and regularly play have been bought from him, but most of the best of them have.

As a further reference to my thoughts and “journey”, I refer you to the GuitarsOnline “Guitar Buyers Guide”, created by Pierre, which cross-references his thoughts to mine, and to the current range available at GuitarsOnline - I hope together they assist you with your search!

I hope you enjoy the story of my quest.

Regards Marc

The Eternal Quest for the Right Guitar

By Marc Askew

 Here’s the eternal difficulty:  The guitar you want, the guitar you need, and the guitar you can afford will always be incompatible things.

If it’s any comfort, the same is true for other groups of people and their desired objects – golfers and their golf clubs, bagpipers and their bagpipes, car enthusiasts and their cars, knitters and their wool. Complicating it all is the constant babble and opinion-venting in the internet and blog world, the enticing language and imagery of commercial advertising, and, of course, the fashion system that animates the desires and chatter of enthusiasts of all descriptions.


So, guitarists are not alone in facing these dilemmas of choice conditioned by circumstances.

Before we get into a nuts and bolts discussion of the pros and cons of (classical) guitars at different levels, here are a few basic truths: they are probably obvious points but worth re-stating, not the least because they come from my own experience as a battle-scarred veteran who has spent thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and thousands of kilometres in search of good instruments to play, not only guitars, but Indian sitars, Arabic Ouds and a few other obscure ethnic instruments, oh, yes, and lately a renaissance lute and a baroque guitar.

Obsessive? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes. Painful?

Yes. I know at least two other people in Melbourne who suffer from the same condition, so I’m not alone in this experience. Unfortunately, treatment is not Medicare-funded.

But here’s the thing: I’m not a collector, I play and study the musical systems/conventions for all the instruments that I’ve accumulated, although not at the same time, obviously. I must confess that I love the smell of wood and the look of a well-crafted musical instrument, but so far as I know that is not illegal yet. Ok, so here the basic truths I promised (which apply to other musical instruments, as I’ve mentioned):

 There is no perfect guitar – at best, there is/are only the guitar/s that is/are good for you at this present moment. (sounds a bit like a quote from Ekhart Tolle, doesn’t it?)


You get what you pay for – but sometimes you pay too much. Buying/choosing a guitar is always a calculated risk, but don’t make it a dumb risk.

 Accept that your’e always going to think about “the one that got away” or whether you should have chosen the other guitar (unless you’re rich and you bought them all) (a la Robert Frost, “The Road Less Traveled”)

 If at all possible, if you can’t touch it, don’t buy it (exceptions always apply, of course)

 Never believe a guitar seller who tells you that it will improve if different strings are fitted, or that it will sound better when it is “played in”. (remember that classic sales pitch in the tv series “Are You Being Served”? “They’ll ride up with wear” hahaha).


Guitar shops that only sell a few models of classical guitars but mainly specialize in other kinds of guitars don’t have the expertise to provide useful advice.

You can listen to opinions and do hours of research, but your ears and fingers are going to tell you what’s real.

Just because Segovia sounded great on it, it doesn’t mean that you will!


Getting What You P/L/AY for - Forget the Labels

 In the classical guitar world, like all other spheres, we live in a world of catch-phrases, clichés, marketing language and institutional hierarchies.

“Beginner’s guitar”, “Starter guitar”, “entry-level guitar”, “advanced student model” etc etc…This language is all reinforced by musical education institutions’ hierarchies (AMEB, Trinity College, London etc.) with their study grade levels, examinations, and of course the hundreds of guitar study books on the market that mirror that language.

Frankly, I don’t accept that there is a “Beginner’s guitar” out there that has been ordained by the Gods for the so-called “beginner” to commence the arduous path to performing accomplishment.  The absolutely worst, but most alluring adjective to market a guitar, is to call it a “professional model” – this means nothing really, except that it’s better than the “beginner’s model”. I have no problems with grading a guitar as a “student model” or a “concert model” based on quality of materials and manufacture – but that’s it.


There are two basic constraints affecting a person’s ability to produce nice music on a guitar:

1 - their financial capacity to afford to buy an instrument and

2 - the technique and musical knowledge they bring to the playing of that instrument, and, more generally, the experience that helps them to distinguish the assets and defects of a particular instrument.


As for the guitars themselves, regardless of the marketing hype in today’s highly competitive industry of cheap nylon string/classical guitars, there are no God-ordained “beginners’ guitars” – but only cheap and poorly-made instruments made from plywood (glorified by the term “laminated’). Then there are slightly better sounding ones with solid tops, and then a whole range of even better ones made from superior woods and with hours of luthier’s work invested in tuning the top, crafting the braces, aligning the neck relief, shaping the frets etc etc.


Cheap guitars are cheaply-made and therefore low-priced, and they may be entirely satisfactory to somebody with few expectations for a refined tone who might want to strum some chords in front of the TV, or accompany themselves singing.

That’s entirely fine: it’s all got to do with expectations and functions.

For example, many of us own a “knock-around” basic guitar that we take on our travels so that our concert-grade instruments won’t be damaged. Many musos use cheaper models for their professional gigs so that their best instruments are in no danger from destruction/accident in a bar or restaurant.

I have a nice all-solid wood guitar that I bought in Colombia and it serves my purposes well – made in a small workshop in that country, I picked it out among all the other cheap specimens of shiny Yamahas, Corts etc. on display in the shops in Bogata – comfortable to play and with a nice tone, I can use it for practising anything from Bach to Bossa Nova and I leave it with a friend in Bogota so that I can use it whenever I return to Colombia. It cost me $180, a price only possible for an all-solid wood instrument because labour costs are so cheap in that country.

So, let’s not frown on the cheap guitar – actually I prefer to call them “basic guitars” – they are great as long as they produce an acceptable tone and are not dangerous to our hands: which unfortunately many are. But I would never trust a guitar that is labelled as a “Beginner’s guitar.”


Will a guitar only sound as good as the person playing it?

Is that the assumption behind the logic that a “beginner’ should start with what is actually a cheap and crappy laminated box? Let me approach this point with some illustrations.

The first example comes from the memoirs of John Duarte, the leading figure behind the promotion of the classical guitar in Britain in the period after WWII. Duarte had become friends with Andres Segovia during his visits to perform in Manchester. On Segovia’s third tour to Britain, in 1949, he visited Duarte at his home for dinner. After the meal various friends played some pieces from the guitar repertoire, and then Segovia began to play.

Duarte recalled:

 It is not too difficult to imagine how awe-inspiring it then was to hear Segovia playing, within touching distance, in your own home, experiencing the familiar tonal richness and variety at such close quarters. But of course, one thought comfortingly, he had an immense advantage – the best guitar that money could buy, the one you dream of having but never will.

The self-deception evaporated at the moment when I realized that his guitar was still in its case, in the hallway, and that what he was playing was my instrument! There was no longer any place to hide from the truth: the difference lay in the player, rather than the instrument and those opulent sounds were being coaxed from my cheap, very undistinguished (£15) box. Worse, it carried strings whose youth was a distant memory.

(J. Duarte, Andres Segovia As I Knew Him, Mel Bay,1998: pp.15-16)


Here’s another example for a different instrument.

I recently watched a YouTube clip that featured a very accomplished flautist testing different brands of flutes in a shop.

She played the same piece on flutes ranging in price from $US300 to $US20,000. The cheapest flute she immediately labelled as a “beginner’s flute.” Each flute was recorded, but when she was asked to identify the particular flutes that corresponded to her recordings she hesitated, telling the host of the programme that, “that’s difficult because it all depends on the player.”

When she finally did go through the test she mistakenly picked a Yamaha flute priced at around $3,000 as the flute from the recording of the $20,000 model. And the $300 flute was identified as the $2,000 Yamaha! In conclusion she pronounced: “Well, you can play the same piece on all of the models, but the difference is that it’s easier to get the sound you want on the more expensive models.”

Does this also apply to the classical guitar? I’m not sure.

Here are some examples closer to my own experience:

There is a well-known teacher of classical guitar in Melbourne who hosts regular concerts, which I usually attend. 

There is a young boy who plays at these concerts and I have noticed they he gets better and better. It happens that I noticed his improved playing quality after his parents bought for him a guitar than had originally been mine. It was a Ramirez 130 Anniversary model, all solid, one of those Ramirez guitars that they outsource to other Spanish makers and brand with their famous “Ramirez” name.

Anyway, for some reason I had passed it to a guitar dealer (no names mentioned) who sold it for me on commission. After this boy began to play this “Ramirez” he seemed to improve more and more – in fact I began to regret parting with it – as I recall, I had thought it lacked a bit of tonal depth. Now, as far as I recall, his parents would have paid at least $2,500 for the guitar as a second-hand specimen. He had formerly been playing a cheap model guitar. He has had this Ramirez for two years now and it is producing impressive tone as his playing steadily gains technical and tonal sophistication and depth.

I wonder if this would be the case if his parents had set a limit of $800 for a guitar-buying budget!


And here’s a final example even closer to home.

I have an adult-age guitar student who has returned to playing after some years. We are currently working on improving his left-hand technique. His guitar is an old Yamaha model C190S (now out of production) and is a reasonable guitar for what it is, with laminated back and sides and a solid spruce top, albeit over-lacquered. It is typical for a cheaper factory-produced Yamaha, with a very chunky neck. Its treble strings have little resonance, because of the typical muffling effect of laminated back and sides, heavy varnish and bracing. Added to this he has quite a light touch with the right hand, so the guitar sounds very quiet when he plays it.

During one lesson as he was playing a study by Aquardo, I suggested he tried the same piece using my Paulino Bernabe Model 20 spruce-top classical (costing over $8,000). Using the Bernabe, his playing sparkled and he sounded 100% better all round.

Clearly his Yamaha is holding him back. Unfortunately, with a family of young children and being the sole income-earner for his family, he cannot afford to purchase a better guitar, but he has certainly shown that he deserves one.


Some basic obvious points drawn from these examples:

  • An experienced player can make even a mediocre instrument sound a lot better than it sounds in the hands of a less experienced player, but an inexperienced player is not able to produce the full tonal etc. Capacity of a superior instrument.  

  • it’s clear that a guitarist can both “grow into” or “grow with” an instrument but also “grow out of” an instrument.


All of the above depends on the capacity of the player and the capacity of the guitar.

For example, the tonal potential/capacity of a very well-made instrument can only be fully realised by a player who is not simply a guitarist, but a musician. That is, a player who has developed over years of application what can be described as an “embouchure”, to borrow the expression as applied to players of wind instruments – i.e., the shaping of mouth, lips and tongue for the best production of sound.

In guitaristic terms it’s probably best described by Pepe Romero as “touch” combined with the musical “voice” of the guitarist fused with the instrument.

Of course, this all takes years and is a lifetime quest – but we know it when we hear it and see it in supreme guitar artists like Julian Bream.


Bang For Your Buck And The Hierarchy Of Needs

 So, what does this mean in practical terms?

Well, it means that - ideally, at least - if we can afford it financially we shouldn’t have to inflict on ourselves the worst specimens of the guitars commonly marketed as “beginners’ guitars” – guitars with overly-chunky neck profiles, dangerous high neck relief, materials that stifle tone and volume, strings that rattle or thunk because of badly prepared frets.

Rather, we should choose a guitar that will help us explore out musical voice and express this through the instrument and learn with it as far as it can take us.

Limited budgets create the biggest obstacle to achieving this, but marketing hype creates the illusion that it is achievable at bottom dollar in clichés like “quality at an affordable price”.


***The Curse of Distance:

An important fact to bear in mind is that choices for the guitar buyer are always going to be constrained by the problem of availability of guitar models.

In Australia we face the problems posed by Australia’s relative isolation from the rest of the world and the country’s small population, which constitutes a small market– meaning that many guitar models stocked in Europe and the USA are not available directly to us. Even with brands that are imported by authorized dealers, sometimes our desired models just simply aren’t imported here. This is a serious issue with classical guitars above the level of the cheaper basic models.

To offset this, guitarists have to either risk purchasing online from overseas, or to travel overseas to purchase from dealers or order/collect direct from their preferred luthiers – I’ve done both, with good, bad and mixed results in both Spain and Brazil.

In the past ten years I have ordered four guitars from overseas (including one-custom made Flamenco Negra from Valencia) I was pretty happy with two of them, but the other two were disappointing and I sold them soon after their arrival. Thus, on distance-purchasing I’ve only had a 50% satisfaction rate.

Three other guitars I purchased directly on my music study sojourns in Spain and Brazil, and I still have two of these, including my favourite French-polished concert guitar, a Manuel Adalid Catedral (sorry Pierre, I knew you were selling them back in Melbourne but I was in Spain at the time, and, well...).

Also, because of this factor of remoteness and a limited consumer market, Australia lacks quality outlets for the sale of classical guitars.

We do not have the luxury of boasting the equivalent expertise and range of, say, Guitar Salon International of the USA (and numerous other smaller dealers in that country) or SICCAS guitars of Europe, or Kent Classical Guitars of the UK.

As far as I know, there are only two specialist dealers of classical guitars in Australia, Pierre Herrero’s Guitarsonline and Rick Falkiner.

In fact, in this country, it is the guitarists that know far more about the product than most dealers.

And don’t get me started about classical guitar strings!! If it wasn’t for a few international online retailers like the USA-based Strings by Mail, we’d all be stuffed!


The Hierarchy Of Needs

 I often wonder, back in the 1970s, how I tolerated my cheap Yamaha C40 classical guitar when I diversified from narrow-necked steel-string acoustic guitars and the electric guitars that I had commenced with.

I was living in a world of constraints, self-imposed and environmental.

Entranced by the sounds of Brazilian Bossa Nova on softer-sounding nylon-string guitars, and inspired by listening to my first classical guitar vinyl LP – Alirio Diaz, I vividly recall – I was unfortunately constrained by limited funds and limited knowledge about classical guitars – and above all by the restricted range of classical guitars available in Melbourne shops: my peer group were all rockers ad blues players and I hadn’t entered this new music world through formally-trained classical guitar teachers or institutions – so I didn’t know about the nuances of different brands or even the difference between laminated guitars and solid wood guitars.

All I remember is that this guitar was hard to play. But I can’t recall complaining about it because classical guitar was not my first priority to study at the time. I did manage to play Villa Lobos pieces on it, but heaven knows at what cost to my left hand muscles!! If it had been the centre of my musical priorities as it is now, I certainly would have soon become unsatisfied.

 So, in considering buying options for guitars of different prices/quality there is what I would describe as a hierarchy of needs, or thresholds, among guitarists.

In order to avoid value-laden marketing categories, I classify the guitars in elementary categories BASIC, BETTER AND BEST, because they are directly connected to players’ needs and thresholds – that is, their technical and musical ability and musical expectations, which usually interact and develop dynamically, if my own experience is any guide.


The Basic Guitar

 The minimum requirement/s for a “basic” classical guitar is that it needs to be

 1 - Ergonomically safe and as comfortable as possible (I’m talking here about string action, neck relief and the neck profile).

Guitars with overly chunky necks are downright dangerous to play and can cause tendonitis and other injuries. To be perfectly honest, classical guitars are not the easiest instruments to play well at any time, even with adequate technique, and holding positions.

The advent of the so-called “crossover guitars” with thin necks and low action are a symptom of this phenomenon.

 Of course, for young children commencing study an appropriately-sized guitar is important - in proportion to their body size – there are many ½ and ¾ sized guitars available, though good quality specimens are harder to source.

Even among adults, hand sizes differ, and for some players 640mm scale guitars with proportionally narrower fingerboards (generally 50mm for a 640-scale guitar) may be the ideal.

2 - Tonal capacity and projection.

 Though a basic guitar is going to have less projection and tonal resonance/complexity than a better-crafted model, at the very least it needs the capacity to be musical, that is, to sing.

This being the case, the minimum requirement is for a sold wood top (spruce or cedar).

Because of this, solid-top guitars are going to cost more than wholly- laminated guitars.

Cheap no-name Chinese-made classical guitars with solid tops cost around $280-$300, while better-known Chinese-made brands such as Katoh start at about $370. The first solid-top models of the well-known Yamaha range (the CG 142, for example) start at around $430 street price.

Other factors aside from wood affect tonal capacity, including the thickness of the lacquering of the top and back and sides – the polyurethane finish on such guitars is thick, which muffles the resonance.

The ‘basic guitar’ is always going to have limitations; just how a player copes with/tolerates this fact depends on their musical goals/ambitions and spending capacity.


The Better Guitar

 The “better guitar” is going to be one whose qualities are entirely relative to your judgement of the guitar that you have outgrown. That is, the one that is not giving you the sound you want, assuming all other factors being equal – i.e. that you have achieved effective guitar technique.

But if you don’t care about “deserving” a next guitar that is perhaps only one grade better than your existing one and you have the money to go straight to the top for an expensive concert model, then of course you will just go for it. It’s all a matter of affordability.

The available options for acquiring the “better guitar” depend on a range of conditions, most usually our exposure to other guitars played by friends, peers, recommended by teachers or experienced by noodling away on different guitars in music shops – or, bedazzlement at a brand name – such as the magic word “Ramirez”, even though all models except the very top echelon Ramirez guitars are made by sub-contracted workshops and labelled as “Ramirez”.

They are hardly alone – the same sub-contracting applies to low/medium priced guitars of the famous Paulino Bernabe brand. 

Above all, we want another guitar because we’ve compared the one we have with others. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

So, the specific characteristics of the “better guitar” depend on the characteristics of the guitar we are coming from.

But it will have at least the following features, whether it is classified as “student”, “advanced student”, or whatever.

1 - It will, or should, have a better-quality top

2 - It will have solid wood for it back and sides, not just the top.

3 - It will, or usually has an ebony, instead of rosewood fingerboard.

4 - It will, or should, have more care put into the tuning of the top and its internal braces.

5 - It will, or should, be better adjusted, with good neck relief, intonation up and down the fingerboard.

6 - By definition, it will have better resonance and volume


****Whatever the brand, it is important to test such guitars (or have somebody else play them while you listen) in a relatively spacious area to more fully judge their projection - i have made fatal misjudgments about volume and projection based on testing guitars in a tiny room provided by some shops. This may be ok for electric guitars through amplifiers, but not for fully acoustic instruments.


Naturally, given the work put into the production of these types of guitars, the prices are usually three or more times the (at least) of the cost of a basic classical guitar.

Sometimes you can grab a discounted bargain on a new all-solid Spanish-made classical guitar ($1,000 or so) but generally they will cost upwards of $1,300, including the Spanish-made Esteve (from model 7) and the initial range of all-solid models by other Spanish-based companies like Raimundo, Camps, and Prudencio Saez.

Of course, there are the popular all-solid models of the Alhambra range. The necks of the Alhambras used to be quite chunky and for that reason I didn’t prefer them, although they have since changed this. But now they have those stupid “A” letters inlaid on their headstocks, which I hate.

There are a host of other brands, such as the USA-based Cordoba, who outsource all but their highest models to Chinese workshops. Like the Chinese Katoh brand guitars sold in Australia (branded as “Martinez” in USA and Europe), Cordoba emphasize that their better Chinese models are made in small “boutique” workshops.” Their “Espana” range of all-solid classicals are apparently made in Spain and retail in Australia for about $2,600.

If my experience is anything to go by, these “better guitars” often signify some kind of “breakthrough” in one’s playing skills or in musical sensibility – they both confirm that you can play better than you thought on your earlier instrument and they inspire you to play better as well.

For me, it came when I bought a Juan Hernandez “Profesor” all-solid (no longer made, unfortunately) for about $1,900, after trading in two cheaper guitars with the long-suffering Pierre. It superseded a host of other instruments that had cost me up to $1,000, including an all-solid Brazilian Di Giorgio model, a spruce Alhambra 4P and a sweet Camps M6 cedar-top (which I bought from Pierre as a travel guitar but was impounded by an irate ex-girlfriend in Brazil).  

The Juan Hernandez Profesor was definitely better than all these. Now, even the Profesor is a distant memory, another victim of my remorseless quest for new tones. I replaced it a year later with a Contreras model 4, a very mellow and rich instrument and perfectly fine for me, despite being labelled a “student model”.

Looking at the sales receipts from Pierre, I see that the Contreras was actually only $500 more ($2,850) than the full price of the Juan Hernandez. So effectively I seem to have been up-grading my guitars in $500 increments. To many people, this might seem to be a wasteful exercise, but it didn’t seem so to me at the time, when $3,000 was a very definite ceiling of affordability.  

 Specialist classical guitar dealers use various categories for these guitars – such as “studio”, or even “medium level concert classical” – in the end, these marketing labels are not important – you just need to play them and choose the best one that suits you.


The Best Guitar (For the Moment) 

Obviously, by definition the BEST GUITAR is going to have more desirable sonic and physical qualities than the BETTER GUITAR.

Some guitarists are fortunate to have the finances to leap straight from a BASIC GUITAR to a very expensive and high-quality instrument with an established name – whether we are talking about the famed Ramirez 1a, Bernabe Especiale, a top-line Theodoro Perez, an Australian-made Greg Smallman, John Price, or Jim Redgate guitar.

These are the minimal characteristics:

1 - It is, or should, be made by a single or small group of luthiers, with attention to every detail of construction.

2 - It uses the finest grade of tone wood for the top, body ad other parts.

3 - It is normally French-Polished (at least the top) or uses a thin nitro-cellulose lacquer instead of polyurethane

4 - Its level of response and tonal range is far more refined than cheaper guitars. 


CAVEAT: you can encounter a lemon even among this august range of premium instruments.

Each specimen needs to be judged in comparison with other specimens, although in the case where you order one in advance from a luthier, then you will have to accept the consequences if it doesn’t necessarily sound the same as the one your friend ordered.

To be honest, I’ve played better upper-level “factory-made” guitars than some much-praised guitars made by individual luthiers. “Hand-made” doesn’t necessarily mean “well-made.”


One important point that needs to be made at this rarefied level of guitar choice is that all of the basic requirements listed for a “basic” and “better” guitar are assumed to be met.

Making a choice now is very much a question of taste in relation to one’s preferred tone and note-colouring.

Each guitar, even by the same individual luthier, will have its distinct personality.

Everything now is based on the musical preferences of the guitarist – some like double-tops, others like lattice-tops, still others prefer the traditional Torres fan-bracing – some like a booming guitar, others prefer refinement over volume – some like slightly metallic sounding treble response, others prefer luxuriant overtones or dark mellowness, others like a woody tone.

Different makers are renowned for certain tonal properties. For mellowness with a slightly delayed response, for example, it is probably Fleta, Ramirez or Contreras among the Spanish makers, while for power and crispness of tone it may be Paulino Bernabe. 

 There is a huge range of fine concert guitars in Spain and beyond, each with a particular sound quality. And there will always be something better over the horizon – for me, I have a particular liking for the concert guitars of Paco Santiago Marin, but I will never be able to buy one.


Is It Worth It? 

I really don’t know if my erratic path in searching for guitars that work for me is typical of other players or not.

As mentioned, I know two other guitarists in Melbourne who share similar experiences/obsessions. I certainly have learned the hard way, through experimentation and sometimes poor or precipitate decisions in purchase.

In hindsight, probably of the twenty or so classical and flamenco guitars that I have owned since commencing serious study, ten have been non-essential diversions and definite mistakes, and most of these have been in the so-called intermediate category, priced between $2,000-$3,500.

But others have been essential to helping me develop my playing ability and discovering my preferences, so the expense was a necessary thing: more expensive than buying books, but less costly than collecting vintage Cadillacs.

There comes a time when one must realize that if you want something really special from a classical guitar, you’ll most likely need to break through the $6,000 threshold.

I frittered away a lot of money on mundane guitars at the mid-price range. I can’t blame anyone else for that.

But at least now I can say that I have a stable of guitars that serve their functions for me:

  • A Paulino Bernabe Model 20 Spruce top that continues to develop its tone;

  • a Manuel Adalid Catedral (double top), which is a superb concert instrument;

  • an Angel Benito Aguado Torres-braced 640-scale cedar top which is great for nineteenth century guitar repertoire, and finally

  • my basic “Gaucho guitar” made in a small workshop in Columbia which I can use for bashing out Milongas whenever I return to Bogota. 

I seriously believe that it will take me the rest of my life of playing to deserve the first three.    

Pierre Herrero-Keen