Ortega Guitars: Putting a New, Global Spin on a Spanish Legacy

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Fretted
• Created: October 6, 2017

Share This:

Any given Ortega Guitar has seen more of the world than most people – perhaps even more than the person playing it.

While rooted in Spain, Ortega Guitars are designed in Germany, made in China or Spain, then shipped to their final destination or in-between distributor (in our case, the United States).

Clearly, Ortega Guitars is a global operation.

Founded in 1994, the company is owned by the Roland Meinl Musikinstrumente GmbH & Co. KG. – worldwide known as the premium cymbal and percussion company – and has made huge progress in the U.S. and Europe.

Their worldwide impact has been budding since the mid-1990s, when the company started in Spain. But as the years have passed, the company’s Spanish heritage is not something that they’ve forgotten about – just modified slightly.

The New ‘Classic’

Ortega Guitars started in 1994 with humble beginnings. The Roland Meinl company (Meinl Cymbals & Percussion) first launched Ortega Guitars as a classical guitar company with traditional roots and production in Spain with only six guitar models for sale. All of the guitars followed the traditional methods in Spanish guitar making, thus making “classical” and “traditional” major factors in their brand.

But a lot has changed in the new millennium, including how the company sees itself and the instruments they make.

Jeremy Page has been with Meinl USA Nashville for about ten years and currently manages the guitar department. When the company decided to add Ortega Guitars to Meinl USA distribution, he was transferred into managing the guitar department.

“We do not see us as a typical classical guitar making company but want to make the Nylon String Guitar a modern, attractive instrument bringing young people back to learn an instrument they will like by feel and look,” Page says.

While the company’s passion and focus on making Nylon String Guitars in different styles, body sizes and variations, the word “classical guitar” doesn’t get tossed around much more at the company.

“You hear and see us very seldom using the word ‘classical guitar’. That´s a major key to what made Ortega Guitars well known in Germany and Europe over the past ten years,” Page adds. “Our goal is to expand who the Nylon String Guitar is for. The Family Series brings quality build to fractional guitars for anyone at any age can find a comfortable guitar to learn on. The Feel Series caters to seasoned guitar players that might not have a Nylon Guitar in the arsenal. Expanding the idea of the Nylon Guitar to being a part of the Acoustic Guitar category.”

 Thomas Supper has been general manager and designer for the company’s instruments since 2008, when he took over the position.

Some of their efforts include transferring ideas and concepts from steel string guitars to nylon strings guitars, such as two-way truss rods for adjustability, the use of slimmer necks and nuts widths, and curved fretboards for comfort.

The twenty-plus years since the company’s conception has also spread them across the map, while keeping them rooted in Spain. The process starts in Germany, where the guitars are designed, and then produced in either China or Spain.

“With a rising demand and growing popularity of the brand with our newer non-traditional ideas it was necessary to start carefully choosing relationships in Asia/China with different instrument building partners to fulfill the catalog of more than 250 different instruments today,” Page says. Ortega Guitars is planned and designed in Germany and produced in Spain and now China mainly.

But we are very honored and pleased we still keep the “day one” relationship in Spain where our brand was started with to today – with the same local people.”

In 2017, products from Ortega Guitars are sold in most European countries via distributions or directly from the company. In fact, since 2014, they’ve expanded distribution to almost 30 countries.

“In 2015 the U.S. and Canada market expanded with the addition to Meinl USA distribution in Nashville, Tennessee,” he explains.

“This also involves more marketing plans to build our brand awareness more internationally overall.”

This year, a chunk of that success and growth comes from the brand’s newest editions of signature series models, including the new Ben Woods signature model and the Thomas Zwijsen signature model. Both acoustic guitars are limited to 66 models each and are “extralight” from their two-way truss rods.

The models represent just two of Ortega’s carefully-crafted guitars from well-dried wood. Ortega Guitars takes the quality of their wood so seriously that they even explain the hazards that high and low humidity can pose on their website; quality isn’t something that Ortega is willing to leave to chance, especially with an artist roster that includes members of The Scorpions and Gov’t Mule.

Ukuleles & More

Ukuleles, while filed under string instruments, are another industry entirely, one that Ortega has also delved into.

“The ukulele market is different than others in that the customer tends to buy [based on] what the ukulele looks like and [its] price,” Page explains. “We have a lot of unique models to choose from and a great price range that’s easy for dealers to fit in with existing lines to give their customers more choices. I’m really excited about ukuleles in general because almost every store has a ukulele customer.”

In fact, Ortega Guitars is kind of a misleading name, considering the wide array of products that the company products.

“Besides the Nylon String Guitars, we also produce well thought acoustic basses, a massive range of ukuleles, mandolins, banjos, and a huge selection of accessories for the stringed instrument world,” Page adds.

But the company’s latest milestone has been a step into percussion, as Ortega has pioneered “Hands Free Percussion.” From Percussion Stomp Boxes to the new ANNAlog (an analog percussion stomp box), the company has branched out into percussion, their goal being to develop “small percussion items that can easily [be] used by the stringed instruments players without using their hands but instead their feet,” as Page explains it.

“We wanted to approach adding a percussive element while playing a stringed instrument from a guitar company’s point of view,” he says. It’s a unique perspective that Ortega has just recently ventured into.

On top of their instruments (both traditional ones and the newfangled), the colorful assortment of accessories that the company sells is nearly drool-worthy, offering players everything from capos and cases to signature series bluegrass strings for banjos and wall hangers for guitars and basses.

All together, it’s a lot to take in, considering the changes that the company has undergone since their grand opening in 1994. The growth has proven to be more than expanding numbers, however; it’s more so an increasingly broad horizon.

From where their guitars get their start, to the global roster of artists who play and purchase them, Ortega Guitars has just begun to master longitudinal growth.

Share This:

Leave a Comment:

Check Out Some Past MMR Magazine Issues