GRANADA—Is a 3,500 Euro hand-made guitar a good investment during a time of crisis? Bernd Martin thinks so. He is a guitar maker who has managed to do good business despite the recession
It’s been 30 years since Martin decided to leave Germany for Granada, Spain to be initiated in the art of guitar making. Martin learnt how to play the classical guitar at an early age, and he wanted to move to the city where renowned guitar makers had worked before him. There were 14 guitar makers working in Granada back then, but today there are 40. The supply has increased, but so has the demand. During his career Martin has seen prices rise every year—not even the economic crisis has prevented people from buying his classical and flamenco guitars.
“Artists in general are having a tough period right now,” Martin says. “But guitar makers aren’t.”
According to him, a hand-made guitar is simply a good investment. He thinks that people might spend less money on travel during recession, but a hand-made guitar appreciates value. He sells half of his instruments to private guitar players, and the other half to shops. His customers are come from all over the world.
Tonight eight international flamenco students have walked all the way up the Sacromonte hill to arrive at Martin’s studio, where he has promised to teach them how a guitar is built in under an hour. This is a tricky task considering he normally works between 100 and 150 hours on each guitar—but he’s ready to try.
It is the first time he is teaching a workshop, and he warns his visitors that the next hour will be somewhat improvised. He starts with passing a pair of wood blocks around. The whole studio is filled with pieces of rosewood, spruce, ebony and cedar, and Martin wants his visitors to feel the difference in weight and texture. The material is important for a guitar maker, but even more vital is the technique.
“You could make a fine guitar out of bad material if the technique is good enough,” explains Martin. “ But the opposite would never happen.”
He heats up some of the special glue that he is using for his guitars, and shows his audience how to put tiny pieces of wood on the back of the guitar.
“What a piece of work,” exclaims one of the students.
Martin’s visitors come from Europe and the United States: two of his most i markets. But he has also noticed that the classical guitar is becoming popular in other parts of the world as well—he mentions Canadian Arabs as one the more unexpected markets.
“I don’t know why this particular group has had such success,” he queries. “But it is going to be very interesting to follow the development of these artists.” Martin is about to finish the workshop, and we asks if anyone wants to try one of the guitars he made. But they don’t. They know now how much work is behind it. They open their own guitar cases instead, and the workshop is turned into a concert.
Martin thinks that people will continue to be interested in Spanish guitars and says that he is optimistic about the future. Recession or not, he says there will always be people with money, and there will always be devoted guitar players.