Classical Guitars PLUS

flamenco, cutaway and electro-nylon string, small-size and left-handed classical guitars
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Armin & Mario Gropp

Makers of Classical Guitars and Lutes

The father and son luthiers Armin and Mario Gropp work in a corner of Eastern Germany near the Czech border where there is a long and still vibrant tradition of music and musical instrument building. Armin Gropp has been making instruments for over 50 years now and comes from a family with a long tradition as instrument makers. The Gropps build top-quality concert guitars and lutes and also specialise in the restoration of historical plucked string instruments. Armin Gropp makes both guitars and historical plucked instruments. Master luthier Mario has over 20 years of professional experience and in recent years has focussed largely on the workshops high-end "Spezial" models.

The workshop has a stock of 11 different tone woods and soundboard woods going back 80 years. It has been honoured with the titles "Recognised Artistic Craftsman" and the Honours Prize for Musical Instrument Making.

The annual output of the workshop is limited in number but Gropp guitars have sold not just in Germany, but also to academicians and performers in China, Brazil, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland.

One distinctive feature of the Gropp guitar is the split bridge saddle. Basses and trebles each have their own saddle bone and both bones are angled to increase the scale length for the lower strings in each register. This provides very accurate intonation throughout the entire range. The fingerboards are slightly curved to increase playability and there are typically 20 frets available for the treble strings.

The instruments, although distinctly modern in playability, are almost antique in appearance. This seems to result from a combination of old woods, French polish, and meticulous attention to detail. They have been described as looking "smoked" or sepia as in an old photo. The particularly distinctive feature of the Gropp guitar's looks are its carved headstock design; if you look around the back you also find that the headstock has been jointed onto the neck with a traditional German "dovetail" joint.

Having their own stock of wood means that the chances of movement are minimised. To my ear though the woods seem to impart a rich, sometimes even chocolate tonal quality.

Performers on Gropp instruments include Marco Tomayo, Lorenzo Micheli, Wang Yameng, Ahmed El-Salamouny, Marcin Dylla, Onofrio Palumbo, Napoleão Costa-Lima, The Geneva Guitar Duo, Tomohisa Iwakura, Professor Antonio Grande, Thibault Cauvin, Carsten Linck and Prof. Raffaele Carpino.

The Gropps and their instruments have featured in a number of reviews and articles. There was a profile by Colin Cooper in the July 2000 edition of Classical Guitar Magazine. After giving us a general profile Mr Cooper concluded as follows -

"I caught up with Armin and Mario Gropp again in Rust, Austria, where father and son had mounted an impressive display of their work. I was attracted by their copy of a Staufer, which in the hands of Vladislav Blaha had astonishing projection and a beguiling tone. Their excellent modern guitars were, of course in evidence, and it is worth noting that among current players of their instruments are Marco Tomayo, Lorenzo Micheli and Wang Yameng, all three guitarists of the younger generation and all multiple prize winners."

In 2005 Colin Cooper again had cause to mention a Gropp instrument in his review of Wang Yameng' CD (JSCP Music 140015):

"the first track, 'Un Sueño en la Floresta,' has all the characteristics of a spruce guitar finely played - burnished tone, a sound quality that gets beneath the skin and is almost disturbing in its sheer power to ravish is a conventional spruce guitar by Mario Gropp that this talented young (still only 23, despite having won the Tokyo competition eleven years ago) Chinese player is exploiting so expertly"

In 2006 New Millenium Guitar ( published an interesting online review describing the ordering and early experiences of a custom Gropp model. This review concluded:

"The sound is unusual and very good. It is very sweet and the basses are outstanding...The trebles are clear and sweet and the overall balance is good. The volume in a 400-seat hall is great...The tone came through to every part of the hall, the clarity was there, the balance between the basses and the trebles was good but the basses were outstanding."

The Gropps produce a number of "standard" models - although they are very happy indeed to customise these to order, as well as special instruments.

"Artist" classical guitars: These have the characteristic "joined open" carved Gropp headstock, marquetry inlay on back and bindings, an ebony-fingerboard, an oval or a circular soundhole with strip or marquetry rosette (model "Gropp"), French polish. They have what has been described as a clear, luminous tone, as well as good separation and balance. Tonewoods can be any of fine Indian Rosewood, Wengé, Honduras Rosewood, Cocobolo and Macassar Ebony with Spruce or Cedar soundboards. They can be made to order with scale lengths between 580 and 660mm with body sizes adjusted according to the scale. They all feature the special split Gropp bridge saddle, the Gropp arched fingerboard and are built with a 20th fret. They all come with hard case. Left handed instruments can be built to order.

The Spezial guitars are uncompromisingly built for the concert performance. They share a number of characteristics with the Artist series, notably the split bridge, the slightly arched fingerboard, the 20th fret and the French polished finish. They are characterised by their fast response, their long sustain and excellent balance across the whole fingerboard. They have a wide range of different tone colours, a clear sound tone with good separation and excellent projection. They are built with only the highest-quality woods and other materials. They can be built with scale lengths from 630mm to 660mm and with spruce or cedar soundboards. All Spezial models have high class tuners from Rubner, Sloane, Alessi or Hexagon. Tonewoods include Maple, Indian Rosewood, Wengé, Cocobolo, Honduras Rosewood, Macassar Ebony or Ebony. A hard case is included.

Other Guitars and Historical Instruments

Other instruments made by the Gropps include Octave, 7-, 8- and 10-string guitars, Renaissance and Baroque Lutes, Theorbos, a Baroque guitar, a French Romantic guitar (ca. 1820) and many others.

At Classical Guitars PLUS we try to keep at least one Gropp instrument in stock at all times and can obtain all other instruments to order. Please call or email us.

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Delivery throughout the mainland UK on orders over £10 is free. If you are not in the mainland UK, please phone (+44 (0)1363 881174) or email for delivery charges to your location - please tell us what you want to buy as well as your full postal address. Alternatively just place your order using our secure checkout and we will email you with delivery costs - and we will not take payment until you reply confirming your order. Orders delivered outside Europe and to the Channel Islands are free of VAT.

28 May 2020