The Ramirez family have been a leading maker of classical guitars for over a hundred years. Established by José Ramirez I in about 1882 the family eventually divided, with José's brother Manual also establishing a successful independent business which his widow continued after his death in 1916. The original business under José continued also and is still run by family members today. Although the company had won several awards and had a reputation for fine instruments it was not until José Ramirez III took over the company during the 1950s that he began refining the instruments and improving their quality still further. Again many awards were won but one of their greatest accolades was gaining the acknowledgement of the great Andrés Segovia who began playing Ramirez guitars in the 1960s for his regular concert performances around the world.
José Ramirez III actively experimented to improve the classical guitar which lead to improvements in quality and changes to design. To this end he tried to address the problem, common in many instruments, of wolf notes or notes that appear muddy and out of tune with the rest of an instrument. He was moved to address this particularly because of comments made by Segovia about the problem. To do this Ramirez developed a classical guitar with an inner soundboard held within the body cavity. Ramirez stated about his innovation that "It does not muddle or intermingle the different polyphonic voices. Each musical line rings independently and is distinguished over the rest with absolute clarity. It behaves like a musical quartet in which each instrument has its own differentiation of timbres. It makes chamber music and for this reason and also because it contains an inner chamber, I called it the "De Cámara" guitar" (Things About The Guitar by José Ramirez III, Soneto, Madrid, 1993, p.146).
This development to a traditional design is significant in demonstrating technological innovation within the context of the museum's collection of nineteenth and twentieth century guitars. It can also be seen as part of a continuing tradition of similar innovations that were earlier attempts to improve the sound of the guitar. One of the earliest of these being done by René Lacôte dating from 1830 (now in the collection of James Westbrook) and the internal scoop design used by Mario Maccaferri a hundred years later during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Many current developments in classical guitar construction have concentrated on bracing systems for the soundboard and the actual materials used rather than looking at the addition of any internal soundboard.
Tom & Mary Anne Evans; Guitars From the Renaissance to Rock (Paddington Press, England 1977).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York & Museo Municipal, Madrid; La Guitarra Espanola/The Spanish Guitar Exhibition Catalogue (Opera Tres Ediciones Musicales, Madrid, 1993).
José Ramirez III; "The 'De Camera' Guitar" in Things About the Guitar (Soneto, Madrid Spain, 1993, pp.141-146)
Curator, music and musical instruments