Last November I had the very good fortune and the rare honor of playing a remarkable instrument, the Ramirez 3339, at the Guitar Salon in Santa Monica, CA.
As a rule I have never been a great fan of the world-renowned Ramirez instruments, although I love all of Christopher Parkening’s EMI recordings, Julian Bream’s Romantic Guitar album on the RCA Victor Gold Seal label, and the sound of almost all the recordings maestro Segovia made in the 1960s.
In addition, in the Spring of 1985, I attended a Segovia concert in Charleston, SC, and when he played the descending melodic line of Villa-Lobos’s Prelude No. 3 the audience literally melted. Never in my life have I seen such an intensely powerful effect on an audience. My mother drove me to the concert from Atlanta, and after this piece was over we looked at each other, and my mother said “that was unbelievably beautiful.” Parkening has shared similar experiences, and the instrument cannot be discounted.
However, the Ramirez guitar was never the right instrument for me.
In 1987, Christopher Parkening gave me first option of purchasing a beautiful Ramirez guitar which he owned and played. The occasion was Parkening’s Masterclass in Montana, and Mr. Parkening was kind enough to allow me to play his guitar for my two lessons with him. Mr. Parkening, and several of the students at the class, felt very strongly that I should own this guitar.
Moreover, in 1995, Jim Sherry invited me to his original shop in downtown Chicago, where I played several of his Ramirez guitars, all of them pre-1974 (for what that is worth).
All of these guitars, especially the one owned by Parkening, were excellent. However, my feeling was that although the treble was always exquisite, the bass did not have the clarity that I desired, especially for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Also, I was always disappointed with the mid-range. I was interested in a more well-rounded guitar, and I did not wish to sacrifice all aspects of tone for an extremely warm and sweet treble.
In addition, the Ramirez guitar had become the official instrument of the likes of Segovia. Parkening and Liona Boyd – all international stars – and I wanted to create my own original path. I searched for my own luthier – someone to get to know and grow with.
My opinion changed when I played the Ramirez 3339. Immediately I was drawn to the sui generis sound of this particular guitar. It had the typical gorgeous, sweet tone in the treble, the mid-range did not sound nasal, in fact it was velvety,
And – to my total surprise – the bass was as clear as any spruce top guitar. This instrument was easy and delightful to play – I was not strained by the long string length. I felt at one with the instrument.
The Ramirez 3339 is the greatest instrument I have ever played.
Please see a video of me playing this guitar on the Guitar Salon Blog – http://www.guitarsalon.com/blog/?p=15736