Oribe GuitarAbout Jose OribeGuitar ModelsFrequent QuestionsContact Oribe
Jose Oribe world-class concert-quality classical guitars and flamenco guitars. Handmade craftsman quality professional guitars since 1962

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Our workmanship is never compromised by our various designs. The rareness and type of wood used in any particular model will vary the sound from one instrument to another but in each case the sound quality is truly unique, providing the time honored quality that our customers have become accustomed to for over 50 years.
The wood used in all of our models is carefully selected and seasoned for many years before use. Inlay work on the Gran Supremas are custom made at the ORIBE shop. At various times certain inlay work are crafted by others to exacting Oribe standards. Standard finishing for all Gran Suprema models is our exquisite French polished shellac.
We offer both Cocobolo rosewood or Brazilian rosewood. Cocobolo rosewood (dalbergia retusa) is very similar to Brazilian rosewood (dalbergia nigra) and offers truly top quality characteristics.
String scale, the type of wood used and the finishing materials determine volume and sonority of sound.

Q. Most Guitarmakers build instruments only on order. Why do you not build on an order-only basis but prefer to offer your instruments after they are completed?

A. Many years ago, when our production was small, we had to take advance custom orders. However as we became more productive and not wholesaling our instruments to dealers, we are able to concentrate on producing the Oribe guitar as we chose it to be. We look upon our instruments as works of high art as are other products of status produced in the world. If one is into experiencing superiority, whether in a very fine wine, or the exquisite sound of a centuries old violin, considerable amount of their quality came about through the ageing factor.
Through the years we have discovered that the longer many operations and the resultant curing takes, the better the final quality. Our instruments are constructed in batches and take several years to complete. We purchased our lifetime supply of woods in the 1960s and have been curing for up to forty years now. Our French polish finishing process, alone, takes up to a year to be considered complete and stunning. We will take future-orders but prefer to create our instruments in advance and release them after we are confident that they will be masterpieces through the ages.

Q. What is meant by voicing the guitar? Is this a controlled method of changing the guitar's voice after it is made?

A. When I refer to voicing a guitar, I refer to the graduating of the soundboard, after it is assembled, to achieve the correct flexibility for it's response to the vibrating strings, in a sense, determining its sonority. What that flexibility and response or sonority should be, is a subjective consideration and is determined by the experience and talent of the maker. In essence, this puts this procedure in the realm of an art.

Q. If a panel of world class guitarists were to listen to your finest guitar and sit in judgment, would you make a bet that they would find the sound of your guitar to be equal to or better than any guitar in the world?

A. Your question to me assumes that all professional guitarists in the world: (1) are not biased in opinion; (2) are not on an endorsement payroll; (3) are not nationalistically biased;(4) are not obligated with personal friendships with particular guitar makers; (5) are not in the outright business of selling guitars themselves. It is a very commercial world out there and it is almost impossible to get impartial opinions when financial interests enter the equation - business is business. A guitarist would be most wise to recognize an instruments superiorty on its merits rather than hang on to the persuasion and hype of professionals or dealers who may have their own agenda.

Q. What is the most enjoyable aspect of making guitars?

A. I get the most pleasure in beginning a new set of guitars and selecting all the parts for each instrument from the matching of the woods for color and grain, selecting the correct soundboard for each type of instrument and to selecting a rosette design.

In this selection process, each instrument takes on a personality and character that I can follow throughout it's creation. Sometimes I can even match the instrument's personality to a specific player and his style of playing. I generally remember each instrument for many years.

Q. What is the most difficult aspect of the business of guitar making for an individual craftsman?

A. Without a doubt, throughout our years in this business, the most difficult struggle, and our primary goal, has been the development of a high reputation necessary to promote confidence and sales. Many buyers of guitars find comfort in relying on the image of the instrument in making a purchase, that is, who plays it, etc. To satisfy these phenomena factories usually find it is necessary to be very commercial - to buy endorsements, to continuously give free instruments to important players and to advertise heavily. All very costly and only practical with a high-production set-up. We chose many years ago, the harder road, to sell our instruments on merit and avoid this type of hype.

Q. Which important performers play Oribe guitars?

A. All those who bought them. A partial list can be found on this web site under Testimonials.

It is far more satisfying and the happiest for us to know that the guitarist playing an Oribe guitar fell in love with it and purchased it. Believe me, there is little satisfaction in giving away instruments and suspecting that that player may be using it only out of obligation and for commercial reasons.

Q. Often asked questions which come to us: "Which dealers carry your guitars?", or "How come you do not sell to dealers?"

A. The price of an Oribe guitar has been established based on quality, workmanship and decades of controlled aging woods. Selling through a dealer would esentially double the price of an Oribe, a typical markup to cover overhead, carrying costs and dealer profit. The reputation of, and ease in dealing direct with us eliminates the necessity of selling through a dealer, and our many customers have been able to reap the benefits of substantial savings and appreciation in value over the years.

Q. Why are really fine guitars so expensive and what makes your guitar better than a factory-made guitar?

A. Why is a Mercedes, Lexus or a Rolls Royce automobile so expensive? The answer to our question may answer your question to us.

Very fine workmanship and tone is very difficult to come by and requires a high degree of discipline on the part of the craftsman. It cannot be done inexpensively in a factory setting, although some do the very best they can. There are very few craftsmen in the world that have the ability to achieve in a guitar, that extremely high standard of quality. This translates into the time, energy, expertise and materials expended over a considerable amount of time and labor to produce the true "labor of love." The value of their work must be appreciated accordingly.

Going back to the automobile as an analogy: Those that cannot afford the higher priced automobiles will consider a lower priced one to be just as good for their purposes, and those that can afford the higher priced models will assert that there is no comparison. In like manner, the guitarist will purchase what he can afford and try to be happy accordingly. Its all a matter of attitude and opinion.

Consider this: Purchase any new automobile and in ten years consider yourself lucky if it is worth one tenth its purchase price. Those that have purchased Oribe instruments have realized a doubling or tripling in value every ten year period. In our analogy expense is an attitude, or mind set when comparing a depreciating asset to one that appreciates like an Oribe guitar. You decide...

Q.What is the difference between Cocobolo and Brazilian rosewood?

A. Both of these species of wood are of the scientific name of dalbergia. Cocobolo being dalbergia retusa and Brazilian rosewood being dalbergia nigra.

Brazilian rosewood has been the wood of choice for the finest guitars since early times. Cocobolo has been discovered recently for the use on instruments and is a very good alternative to Brazilian rosewood since that species is endangered and can no longer be traded across international borders.

We have been building with Cocobolo for twelve years and find it every bit as good acoustically as the Brazilian variety. It is a little heavier in weight but it can be thinned to bring its weight in line. Thinning is not a problem since the wood is quite stronger and less problematic than Brazilian rosewood. In the hands of a craftsmen, practicing good techniques and procedures, its beauty is unsurpassed.

Q. How long does it take to make an Oribe guitar?

A. Oribe guitars are made in batches of anywhere from 8 to 17 at a time. Components are made and cured several years in advance. We do not build on an order-only basis but batches are in constant process of assembly. Our most popular instruments are built to our own specifications based on over forty years of experience. Instruments are often available without much delay.

Q. What do guitar parts cost before you start building a guitar?

A. There are many parts to the guitar. When purchasing wood one must remember that wood recently purchased is not ready to be used immediately. The wood must be stored and cured for many years before it can be used in a first rate instrument. Curing not only involves the drying of the wood, but also the chemical changes that take place through oxidation. Drying can be hurried but real curing can only come about through the aging process.

Presently, our woods have been aging since the 1960s.

As to cost: We are noticing that Brazilian rosewood is now selling from $500 to $1500 for one guitar. Spruce from $50 to $100 per guitar but it is not likely that these woods are cured well enough to be used immediately. Machine heads range from $40 to $300.

Q. How important is the finish of the guitar?

A. The finish on a musical instrument is most important to its value. Factory guitars are invariably finished with production methods.

Our finishing procedure on every instrument takes at least 3 to 9 months to do it right. Applying the finish to a fine instrument, whether its new or a restoration, is an art form and can either increase its value or detract from it.

Q. What do you use to finish your guitar?

A. At present, our Gran Supremas are totally finished with our exquisite French polished shellac. Years ago on the Gran Suprema and Suprema models, we used a procedure of applying a formulation of lacquer on the back and sides and the soundboards were finished with French polished shellac.

Q. What is French polishing?

A. French polishing is a method of applying a shellac based finish material to a wood product. The method goes back to early times and its use still proves to be of serious consideration for the soundboards of classical guitars.

The shellac is carefully and thinly applied with a wad of lint-free material. The method requires a lubricating agent to avoid having the wad stick, and a polishing agent to glaze the surface. This finishing technique is very difficult to do well to professional standards. It can be considered an art in itself. It is very time consuming and not possible in commercial application.

Q. Which is the best material for soundboards? What is the difference?

A. There are three soundboard materials that are being utilized in Oribe guitars and by most major makers in the world, these are spruce, western redcedar and sequoia redwood.

The difference is really a matter of taste. Most guitarists are preferring western redcedar when volume and responsiveness is concerned. Redwood was popular in the past and spruce is still popular with some players. Spruce has a little tighter sound and could be desirable for some applications and tastes. Spruce, being a little tighter develops a little slower and does loosen up in time and becomes quite nice with years of playing.

Q. Which type of material do you use for your fret wire?

A. Our fret wire is made special for us with our dimensions and specifications. The material is a hard alloy. Our frets are also a little taller. Players are finding that it takes less effort and energy to finger and hold bar chords with a taller fret. There is less resistance when holding down the strings on the fingerboard.

Q. How many pieces of wood are in your rosetta?

A. There are more or less, depending upon the design, about 15,000 individual pieces of dyed wood in a typical Oribe rosetta.

Q. What is the difference in string scales?

A. String scales on most guitars today vary between 647mm to 665mm.

In general and with all other things being equal (which they seldom are), the longer the string length, the more robust and resonant the sound quality. Guitars with shorter string scales tend toward a more pointed and treble oriented tone. I like to relate the differences as you would in comparing the nine foot grand piano with the five foot baby grands.

The advantages and disadvantages will be as perceived by the player according to his/her needs and opinion.

Q. Occasionally questions come in relating to whether we will make an instrument specifically for left-handed playing.

A. We had made left handed guitars in the past but do not at this time. Left handed guitars have a very small market when the time comes for resale.

Soundboards are usually braced asymmetrically and favor right handed balance. In our opinion, it is a better alternative to change a right handed instrument over for left handed playing. Changing the setup for left handed play will result in some compromise in balance, however, the resale value of the instrument will be maintained.

The changeover will require the selection of an instrument that is most suitable for the change and then making a second set of fittings to accommodate the changeover.

Q. How do you know what type of strings to use?

A. We have strung a lot of guitars over the years and have the opportunity to test many brands of strings. Strings are compared on newly constructed instruments as well as on instruments that come in for evaluation and servicing. We therefore have a good opportunity to get a good reading on what is happening in the string industry. Considerations on what strings to use on any particular guitar, depends upon the instrument, the sensitivity of the soundboard and the string scale.

Inexpensive instruments with thicker finish and less sensitive soundboards usually need a higher tension string to activate their response.

High quality, sensitive instruments are often more suited to normal tension strings. High tension strings can provide a bigger bang on a sensitive soundboard but they could halt the longevity of vibration and thus affect the beauty of its tone.

Whether to use silver or gold bases is a matter of taste. From our experience when the strings are new and fresh the silver is generally a little brighter, more mid-range in tone. Gold strings tend to be warmer in tone quality. Of course, all this is subject to the experience and sensitivity of the guitarist.

Q. What is the Professional “A” Model and do you still offer it?

A. Below is a copy of previously published information on the Pro "A" model:
Throughout our first thirty-six years, rashes of orders for Oribe instruments lead to long waits. Our production was limited through the capacity of only two people. In addition, for some guitar enthusiasts, cost was an element to be considered. To fulfill the demand for our instruments and be able to offer quality at a more affordable price, in 1985 we entered into collaboration with one of the finest of Japanese guitar companies.
The object was to build an instrument with distinctive Oribe sound characteristics, combined with the cost saving of fine Japanese craftsmanship. Considerable time and attention were given to this matter and after nine months, the Classic Professional "A" Models were born. They were an immediate success.
To achieve the object of producing an instrument to be as close to an Oribe as possible it was important that several important features be controlled at the Oribe shop. First, the soundboards, a most important component, would be personally braced and processed at the Oribe shop. Other materials such as well aged fingerboards, and rosewoods were selected from personal stock and shipped with the soundboards to Japan where they are assembled and partially finished to Oribe specifications by the best craftsmen.
The instruments are then shipped back to our shop. The soundboards, which were left untouched, were then voiced and a French polish finish was applied. With the placing of the bridge, machine heads and final detailing, the instruments were complete.
This model is now no longer being built. Our policy on all sales was to offer a full trade in value when trading up to our top-of-the-line Oribe Guitars.


Oribe classical guitars