A Brief History of Classical Guitar: Antonio de Torres

This four part series will discuss the history of classical guitar through the instruments of some of the tradition’s most important and innovative luthiers. This post discusses the father of the modern classical guitar, Antonio de Torres.

Antonio de Torres

Antonio de Torres was a Spanish guitar maker who lived from 1817-1892. It is believed that Torres built around 320 guitars, of which 88 are known to still exist. The industry widely accepts that Torres is responsible for many of the structural and design features for which guitars are known for. Guitar-like instruments such as the citara, the double coursed baroque guitar and the lute all existed long before Torres, but his developments transformed the instrument into what we know today.


The Addition of Bracing

The most important design change Torres made was the size of the instrument. Guitars in Torres’ time were about 20% smaller with a narrower upper bout. This made the instrument louder with a more present bass range and greater complexity of tone. Enlarging the instrument creates a challenge: How do you support the structure of the instrument? This led to the now standard fan-bracing style. The Torres bracing style has seven braces radiating outwards from the sound hole with a couple other supporting braces. This allows the builder to make the top thinner but still provides enough structural support that the instrument, under the tension of the strings, doesn’t collapse.

Examples of different styles of guitar bracing.

Torres’ ability to build larger and more resonant instruments led to more virtuostic players and compositions. Performers like Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) and Julian Arcas (1832-1882) transitioned the guitar from salons to international concert stages using instruments made by Torres.


Torres and Cordoba Guitars

Authentic Torres instruments are rare. When they do appear, they are pricey (around $250,000 or more). For those without this kind of budget, Cordoba Guitars makes a faithful reproduction of Torres’ instruments. After studying three different guitars made by Torres, Cordoba created the Cordoba Master Series Torres Model. They also added modern updates that the modern player will appreciate. Handmade by a small team of talented luthiers in California, there are few guitars that match the quality that the Torres name demands for the price that these guitars are offered.

Want to learn more about Cordoba guitars? Check out our website.

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Silvija Kristapsons

Social Media and Marketing at Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins.

  • Mark Bridger

    This article could use some proof-reading. For example, the fact that guitars pre-Torres were 20% smaller did not make them louder or have better bass response. These positive features were a result of the *increase* in size of the Torres (and modern) guitar.