David Rubio (1934 – 2000) originally planned a career in medicine but became fascinated with flamenco music. He took lessons from Pepe Martinez (1923-1985), the flamenco maestro from Seville, and became interested in guitar making; observing the luthiers at work. It wasn’t long before his own instruments were created and noteworthy performers, such as Julian Bream, took notice. Having a workshop in New York and later England Rubio’s guitars have become beautiful instruments to own and play – and I have one now!
I sold one of them last year and I now have another one in my shop. Made by David Rubio himself the 650mm scale instrument is balanced with a clear tone. Rubio65.
The Rubio guitar body has not changed in measurement over the years; it is roughly the same as guitars by Bouchet and Hauser, and is about half and inch narrower than a Ramirez. Made “only with Brazilian Rosewood” Rubio began to include a ‘nodal bar’ inside the guitar, designed to produce distinct treble and bass. Julian Bream identified this addition simply by playing a prototype in his New York hotel room one day. Rubio brought him a new design to try out and Bream, who had grown up with instrument makers, was able to ‘feel’ the nodal bar ‘under his fingers’ as he played!
As an instrument maker, Rubio commented that when it came to finishing the instrument go he was often ”…reluctant to let it go.” In his own words:
“You’ve put a hell of a lot of yourself and a lot of sweat into it. The pleasure comes when the owner comes for it, plays it, obviously falls in love with it – you can see the smile spread from ear to ear – takes it home, doesn’t want to talk to his wife and kids for three days, but, you know, locks himself up in a room for three days kind of thing. This gives you the incentive to say, ‘Right, take off your jacket and start another one.’ This is your drive.”
Julian Bream, the guitarist and lutenist who made the landmark 1966 album, 20th Century Guitar, used a Rubio in his recording. He once said to Rubio, “I don’t want a guitar that tells me what to do, I want a guitar that I do the dictating to. It’s not going to be a Spanish sound or a this or a that sound; much more neutral. If I want to play Albeniz or Granados and get the sweet, syrupy, passionate flavour, then I have to play over the sound hole, over the fingerboard even, and milk the box, and I’ll get this quality. But if I play Bach and it’s written with four voices, I want to hear four voices.”
The video below is Bream performing the first recording of Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne in 1965, which he recorded with a Rubio Classical Guitar.
Clinton G, David Rubio – Master Craftsman, Guitar International July, 1985
David Rubio, Luthier, accessed April 2011,
Guild of American Luthiers, accessed April 2011,