Just acquired from the original owner – who bought this wonderful instrument directly from David Caro in the mountain town of the maker, one of the best luthiers that Paracho, Mexico has ever produced – in the mid 90’s and hand-carried it to California where it was lightly played. And it remains in remarkable original condition.
The maker is David Caro, also known as David Caro Leonardo, or David Caro L. (In Mexico, the last/last name, in this case “Leonardo”, is the mother’s maiden name that is formally added after a person’s last [paternal] name but typically dropped in all but formal situations, documents etc.)
Caro’s best instruments are among the best of a small, elite group that honed their craft at the top levels, and also benefited from visits and master classes given in Paracho by some world class luthiers from Spain, Germany, and the USA such as Felix Manzanero, Antonio Raya Pardo, Jose Romanillos, Thomas Humphery, and Herman Hauser III. Only a few Paracho luthiers have stood out over the years – Jose Navarro, Arturo Huipe, Abel Garcia, Enos Hernandez (his best work), German Vasquez Rubio, and Caro among them.
See the enclosed photos from Fretboard Journal magazine, Spring 2008, that featured David Caro prominently in the feature article in that issue on Paracho luthiers.
Paracho is an originally Tarascan village that sits in a high valley at 7,300 feet altitude, in the state of Michoacán, a relatively little visited state but renowned for its diversity and great beauty – and for some of the best classical guitar luthiers in the Americas. It extends from the Pacific coast, and is crossed by the Sierra Madre Del Sur in its southern part and by high volcanic mountains in its northern axis.
When this guitar was made, in 1996, David Caro was at the height of his craft. And soon after, he was the first luthier to be added to the GSA calendar.
This instrument is among the very best guitars ever made by Caro. And we love the model designation, it’s signed by hand on the label, “Mdo. 500”, i.e. “model 500” – sounds like a sports car name.
Model 500 was the top model from Caro, in 1995/96 – using top woods, and also the best bindings, and all details.
In those years, Caro’s best concert instruments went from model 100 at the base level, then ascending in tone woods and overall construction details to 200, 300, 400, then reaching the top level of “500”.
So we’re calling this instrument, “el Quinientos”. (Spanish for “the 500” – nice ring to that – it’s pronounced “key-knee-éntose”)
Several things make this guitar stand out as a gem:
• It’s the top model from this luthier in the 1990’s
• The great original condition
• Scale length of 648mm. This scale length is reminiscent of Herman Hauser I’s guitars, and is firmly in the school of the shorter 650 range, not the longer scale lengths that crept in, in the last quarter of the 20th century. This is a great scale length – and note the nut width is a typical nut width of a full size classical guitar. And the neck thickness is great – on the thinner side. This combination makes it a joy to play and so easy to play – but the tone is superb. The full tone, and volume are better than most longer scale guitars.
• Light weight/construction, that really allows it to sing. Its total weight, with strings, is a remarkably lithe 1430 grams
• And it has great combination of woods:
• Palo Escrito back and sides, bridge, and headplate veneer.
DALBERGIA PALOESCRITO, is a true rosewood, a great wood that over the years came to be favored by the top luthiers in Paracho – for their top models. It sounds like Brazilian rosewood, but a tad different, and it’s not as “dark” in tone as Indian rosewood. Palo Escrito is lighter in weight and density than either brazilian or Indian rosewood. And weight, is of course part of the equation of a guitar that does translate to tone. Palo Escrito makes this guitar really breathe, and resonate. The lighter weight of this guitar is its charm, that translates to tone – slightly more airy and open, less “closed”, and with full round basses.
The tone is clear, with superb string separation, as from the best spruce over rosewood guitars. Surprising volume – but it perhaps produces the best tone, in more delicate playing where you want each note to stand out – that’s of course called good “string separation”: the notes in a run or chord don’t all “blend together” but each note is discernable.
And we think it’s accurate to say that this guitar, with its light weight and 648 scale length and combination of woods, has a tone that leans to a great Flamenco negra tone. Fast attack on the trebles, with a touch of growl in the bass when you play them hard. Yet the guitar responds very well to a light touch as well. If you’re looking for another ho-hum, non-descript spruce over Indian rosewood classical tone, this instrument is not for you.
• Spruce top – European Alpine spruce
• Ebony fingerboard
• Ebony reinforcing strips, back of neck
• Ebony heel cap
• Beautiful rosette, with a hearts & rope pattern (another homage to Bernabe).
• Palo Escrito is also used in the binding, back center strip, tie block, and purfling
• The headstock shape is an homage to Paulino Bernabe.
• Fan strutting, with 5 braces. The braces are very thin, and also scalloped – contributing to the great tone of the instrument. The scale length of the guitar, if it's not on the longer side, allows the luthier to be use more delicate bracing, adding to tone. (Longer scale length guitars produce more tension on the top due to the higher string tension inherent in a longer scale, so luthiers typically have to brace more strongly with longer scale lengths.)
• And there is unique, 2-rosewood cleat application under the bridge – one cleat added by Caro at time of construction, on either end of the bridge, on the underside of top, for stability of the top wood beneath the bridge ends. It's worked well.
• Good saddle height– and the neck is very straight, and there will never be any neck bowing issues or issue with too high action.
All original, thin lacquer finish
Frets, and fretboard show very little wear
A few nicks and dings, and a small amount of fingernail marks in the “pick guard” area.
Overall, the condition is what you’d expect from an instrument that’s been played, carefully, for maybe a year, not 20+ years. But the tone is aged, open, clear – benefiting from more than two decades of aging and drying of the woods.
Scale length: 648mm
Nut Width: 52mm (2 2/32 inches)
String spacing at nut: 45mm (1 ¾ inches)
Width at lower bout: 14 ¼ inches
Body depth, at bottom: 4 inches
Body depth, at neck/body joint: 3 ¾ inches
Weight (fully strung): 1430 grams (3.15 pounds)
The original receipt from 1996, from David Caro, accompanies the instrument, along with other hand written notes and documentation from the original purchase (including hand written notes about the woods used in the guitar.)
In a modern, hard shell case.