Manuel Contreras, born in Madrid in 1928, entered the guitar making profession from the exalted position of being a much sought after cabinet maker.
It was Jose Ramirez the third who in 1959, and knowing of Contreras's reputation, invited him to join his guitar workshop. Within three years he had developed his craft sufficiently to set up as an independent guitar maker in Madrid.
Then, in 1962 Contreras set up on his own at number 80 Calle Mayor.
Although Contreras should not be considered as being a luthier opposed to tradition, as his primary model, the 1st Special guitar, is firmly based on the development of the traditionally accepted ideas of construction, his inquisitive character led him to work, from the early 70s, on a number of unusual instruments. A cursory investigation of his work reveals a maker who was much more open than many of his contemporaries to new ideas and developments beyond the traditional style of the classical guitar. An enthusiast for the unconventional.
His first achievement, in this sense, was the design of the model "Double Top", which Contreras presented in 1974, after a number of experiments in order to improve the tone and the volume of the instrument and its capacity to get the sound out of the guitar body. The great reception this model rapidly got in the professional guitar world (the first Double Tops, were closely observed during their process of construction and afterwards used by the four mythical guitarists members of the Romero family) encouraged Contreras to continue with this innovative way of working, far away from the mainstream of classical guitar design.
To this period also belongs the "Guitar-Harp", a very elaborated model in its construction, with a design of a great beauty and a very powerful sound. As well as the model "Alto-Guitar", a smaller instrument with a higher tuning than the conventional guitar. This instrument has been mainly sought after and appreciated, since then till our days, by the members of the prestigious Niibori Guitar Orchestra of Japan.
Contreras constructed the "Carlevaro" model in 1983. Based on an idea of the Uruguayan master Abel Carlevaro, it incorporates a number of very original new elements, as the missing waist on the bass side and the lack of a sound hole on the harmonic top.
In the mid 1980s, Contreras thought up the "Sounding Back Support", a design that he developed, already working side by side with his son Manuel Contreras JR, during some years, up to the moment when they definitively incorporated this item to their top line guitars. Thoroughly designed to improve the sound response of the guitar, especially in large halls, chamber ensembles and performances with orchestra, this item got an immediate success in the professional guitar world.
Manuel Contreras died in 1994.
It is now his son who continues the work he began.
Born in 1957, Manuel Contreras the second, was trained by his father since he was very young and took over definitively the direction of the workshop in 1986.n Since then, he has continued the same line of work, not only because of the construction of the characteristic models of Contreras workshop, but also showing his innovative spirit inherited from his father, which has led him to widely develop different aspects of those models construction, as well as to introduce in 1998 the guitar with inner "Sounding Back Support".
Contreras' work has deserved a number of awards and homages over the years in Spain and many other countries. And these have included those ones conceded by the Madrid Chamber of Commerce (Export award, Traditional Establishment and Traditional Artisan from Madrid), that from the Spanish Guitar School as Honorary Member, Friend of Madrid conceded by the Tourist Board, Main Master of the Artisan Guild of Madrid, and medals from Salon de Provence and from the city of Digne en France, among others. Although, doubtless, the main homage received is the large number of performers that everyday are sounding the Contreras Guitar on the stages all around the world.
Contreras Workshop, founded by Manuel Contreras in 1962, continued by his son Manuel Contreras the second until his passing in January 2011.
Today the construction of all Contreras concert guitars is directed by the luthier José Antonio Lagunar and the guitarist Victoria Velasco. Jose began working with Manuel Contreras Senior in 1984 and after Manuel died in 1994 Jose continued working with Pablo (Manuel Contreras jr). Victoria joined Contreras in 1989 using her knowledge and experience as a guitarist and teacher to assist in quality testing concert guitars and prototypes. The knowledge, skills and traditions of the World famous name of Contreras carries on, maintaining a worldwide reputation in Concert Guitar construction. The name of Contreras has been associated, during the last 50 years, with the newest theories of guitar construction and will continue to do so.