I have been fortunate enough to have lived by the two best retail stores for classical and flamenco guitars in the States: Guitar Salon International in Los Angeles and Luthier Music Corporation in New York City. This has enabled me on occasion to be able to play guitars by renowned makers, guitars that cost well over ten grand which I would not be able to access much less afford.
You cannot exactly browse your way through either collection, but be friendly and forthright and those back doors will open for you.
The guitars of Conde Hermanos stir such debate among flamenco players. They are ubiquitous among the top performers in the world, including of course, Paco de Lucia’s famous Conde negra from the Gravina 7 workshop (its origin is still open to debate by the serious Paco fans). The quality of Condes are inconsistent which most players will readily admit. There are absolutely great ones out there and then there are the dead ones. I’ve played a few in shops and most of them were the dead ones.
One Conde I played was at Luthier’s in New York a few years ago, and it was unbelievable. It was the AF25/R model, which means that it is a spruce top guitar with maple for the back and sides. Supposedly it is a cross between a negra and a blanca; a bit of growl and a bit of longer sweeter sustain. I don’t know about all that but my God, that was a guitar. Lyrical and raunchy and so easy to play that I could do no wrong on it.
Anyways, that specific guitar is long gone. I was not about to fork over ten grand regardless but I can still hear exactly how that Conde sounded.
Here are pics from an AF25/R currently on sale at GSI. They take such great photos of their guitars. I don’t know if this one is one of the greats or a clunker, but fuck, she looks good. Click here to visit their site and view more information on this particular beauty. Ask for Dave Tate who is a great guy and will answer all your questions and even play falsetas for you if you’re nice.
If you decide to buy it for me, I guarantee you I will play it and immediately put a ding in it.