Aria Maestro Classical Guitar Mod.#MH 80

Posted by John T. on Sat, 09/06/08 - 15:38:35.

I recently aquired this guitar and would appreciate any information about it. Serial Number is 64153 and it was made in Nagoya Japon (spelling as per label).
thanks
John

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Re: Aria Maestro Classical Guitar Mod.#MH 80

: I recently aquired this guitar and would appreciate any information about it. Serial Number is 64153 and it was made in Nagoya Japon (spelling as per label).
: thanks
: John
Let me know if you learn anything. I have a similar guitar I bought about 8 years ago in New York (also the MH80 model, but I don't see a serial number). According to the Aria website, these were made in 1980 and 1981, and although the company is Japanese ("Arai & Co." -- Mr. Arai reversed the vowels of his name for what I suppose are obvious reasons) and based in Nagoya, I'd like to think the guitar was handcrafted in Spain, like Arai & Co.'s other classical guitars. I enjoy mine -- very good sound. The wood appears to be like those advertised from the company's current series of classical guitars: spruce top, rosewood back and sides, ebony fingerboard. That's all I can tell you.

Aria Maestro Series

I purchased a Maestro MH-100 new in 1983 after viewing a flyer that was distributed to the music store I frequented. The owner of the store was the drummer in my band, so we drove to Aria's warehouse in Los Angeles, so I could pick out which MH-100 I wanted. They only had three to choose from, but at least I had a selection.

My MH-100 is a rather authentic reproduction of a Hauser in terms of body shape, and internal bracing. But not 100% -- it uses Gotoh tuners instead of the Hauser looking ones, for example, and the slots in the headstock are not cut with the straight chiseled relief angles the way Hauser did, but instead it has the rounded relief cuts. The headstock shape is all Hauser, though. Another departure from Hauser is the woods -- it has an Alaskan sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides, with a Spanish cedar neck, and of course an ebony fingerboard.

It is a very nice playing guitar, but has always been a bit on the quiet side. I realized after several years that this was because of the finish -- which turned out to be polyurethane. Why on earth they would cloak such a nice guitar in such a horrid finish is beyond me, but that's what they did. About ten years ago, I decided to do something about it and refinished the guitar. Turns out it had TWELVE coats of polyurethane. Once I got it down to bare wood, I refinished it with shellac, using the french polishing method. French polish puts a minimally thin coat of shellac on the instrument, allowing it to breathe and vibrate as if there were no finish at all.

The difference was stunning. Suddenly that quiet little Aria had turned into a loud, brash instrument with singing trebles and a booming bass. Why had I waited for so many years?

I still have it, but it is semi retired now. The top decided it wanted to crack on the lower bout in two places -- this was before I refinished it, by the way -- and I had it repaired a few times, but the cracks keep opening up again. So I just ran a bead of super glue down each crack and decided that would have to do. Honestly, the cracks don't affect the sound, just the appearance.

Except for the other two new ones when I bought mine, I've never seen another MH-100, but I have seen a couple MH-80s. The last one I saw was built in the style of another famous luthier. I want to say Rodriguez, but I'm just not sure anymore -- it was about eight years ago when I saw it hanging in a music store.

I too have always suspected that the Maestro series were not built in the Aria factory, but what I suspect is that Aria farmed out the production of these handcrafted guitars to a good Japanese luthier who could handle the volume. Even though mine is finished on the inside, like a Kohno, I doubt seriously it was built by them. More likely somebody like Kimura or Matsuoka.

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