I have four “laws”, or I could say “considerations” when I approach the making of a guitar. They are basically my philosophy on creating a musical instrument and a way of keeping my focus and direction true. The important thing about these “laws” is the order they come in.  Like the “Laws of Robotics”,  the first is the one which you should consider foremost and is most important. The order of “considerations” must not be altered. But, like the “Laws of Robotics”, they are all closely related and interlinked.

1st Law.  Sound.

2nd Law.  Playability.

3rd Law.  Workmanship.

4th Law. The Look.

For me, the sound of the finished guitar is the first and most important consideration as I work. From the selection of wood, changes in design to polishing, these decisions should be made with the sound in mind before anything else. Everything you do will effect the sound of the finished instrument however small. There are lots of different ways of making a good guitar. You have to follow your instincts and stick by them. Another important aspect I think of came from Pepe Romero. He said the guitars he most liked were the ones that sounded different. That stood out from the rest. So I don’t think about making a better guitar, or one that sounds like a Hauser, but one that has a unique sound quality. This uniqueness is very important for me as a maker.

Second is the playability of the guitar. This is closely related to the first law as a good string action makes for a good sound. To create good sound and music the guitar needs to be relatively easy to play. Break angles, string heights and tensions, frets, neck shape all have to be perfected to back up the first law. However good the sound is, if you struggle to play the guitar its not going to happen. The perfect string action is not easy to achieve. I still have to work hard at it. As the sound of my guitars has evolved, the action of the strings has changed and therefore I have had to modify things.

Third law “Workmanship” is all about longevity mainly. If you have achieved a good sound with a nice string action, but then the guitar falls apart it’s not a guitar anymore. I’m always thinking of the structural integrity of the instrument. Of course, good workmanship will lead to a better working guitar, but one should not concentrate wholly on this and forget the first law. The method I use for constructing a guitar is free from any moulds or jigs, apart from a solera. I find moulds and clamps get in the way of my hands. Everything is glued in a controlled, unhurried way, and nothing is forced. Bending sides by hand to just a line means that the guitars shape may be slightly asymmetrical, but this is where beauty lies and leads nicely on to the fourth law.

Lastly is the look of the instrument. For me a good looking guitar is one that you want to pick up and play. Pickupability. I like to keep things simple in terms of embellishment, for  the guitar has a natural inherent beauty. Making the guitar an homogeneous sum of its parts are key, and keeping things simple is my way of doing this. I spent what was my apprenticeship working with my dad making toys and automata. I learnt most by watching his hands as he worked. He said, “You must do it with panache”. The best way to explain “panache” is the balance between precision/accuracy and slight imperfection. A spontaneity of action. I use mainly hand tools throughout my work, for this is the only way you can achieve this look I believe.

I stick to these rules in this order. Although they are closely related, for example the quality of workmanship will affect the quality of the sound in some way, if one considers (spends more time on) the 2nd, 3rd or 4th law above the 1st, then you are allowing the most important thing about a musical instrument, its sound, less thought. If you spend all your thought and energy on making every joint perfect, or hours getting a mirror like finish with the polish, then you are giving less time to more important aspects.

Going by these laws is the way I go about making guitars. I believe a maker like Torres, who I greatly admire, would have worked with similar considerations. Although he was a master at embellishment, which must have taken many hours of work, his main thought was to the sound of his instruments.

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