I have been playing the lute since 1979 and making them since 1982, and my experience as a player and teacher of the lute has been enormously helpful in creating instruments that both sound good and are easy and rewarding to play. Making new versions of instruments whose heyday was between 250 and 500 years ago presents a number of issues for us in the modern age, first among which is that the hope implicit in the idea of a “copy” of an old instrument – that it will sound like the original on which it is based – is bound to be unfulfilled, depending as it does on the use of modern strings and playing techniques.
Confronted with this, the modern lutemaker has to use a great deal of intuition when creating instruments. This is why sometimes I make instruments which are very close to specific historical originals, or at other times a new design using elements from more than one source. This isn’t an attempt to produce something “better” than the surviving lutes, but rather to try to get closer to the ideal of an historical instrument of a particular time and place, especially if, as in many cases, there are no surviving examples.
I regard each new instrument as a project, a collaboration between the customer and myself in which all the details – including any historical model which may be used – are subject to careful consideration. The first, and most fundamental, is the required number of courses and string length – what will the instrument be used for? Other considerations follow from this – the shape/model, materials and general appearance, level of decoration and so forth. I always use the best available materials as the main cost of a lute is labour – it seems pointless to expend that amount of work on indifferent materials. Waiting time for a new instrument can be as little as a few months, and often I also make instruments for exhibition which are therefore available for immediate sale.
Once these details are settled, and any new drawings completed (and in the case of a new design a new mould made), construction can begin. Instruments are completely handmade – there is no automation, no shortcuts, only the use of a few powered tools here and there where necessary.
|6 courses||From the 15th century to the end of the 16th century||From £3500|
|7-9 courses||From the 1560s through to the 1620s||From £3750|
|10 courses||From c.1600, Renaissance & “transitional” tunings||From £4000|
|11 courses||French music to c.1700, also German to c.1750||From £4000|
|12 courses||17th-century lute popular in the Low Countries & Britain||From £6000|
|13 courses||From c.1720, the last flowering of the lute||From £5500|
|Theorbo||Instruments from the late 16th century for continuo playing||From £6000|
I carry out repairs on my own instruments either free of charge or at a substantial discount. I am usually willing to undertake repair work on other instruments, subject to inspection, when I will provide advice and an estimate of the likely cost. Such estimates may not accurately reflect the final cost if unforeseen problems arise once work has started.
I have considerable experience of teaching at all levels. Whether you are a complete beginner, an experienced player, or simply someone whose playing could do with a boost and some new inspiration, I have something to offer! I can also teach via Skype.
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