Vita - Werkstatt - Workshop

Vita


My way to the lute building

After my studies as a physicist, I worked for many years in research and development at various research and educational institutions, until I switched from my enthusiasm for Renaissance and Baroque music to lute making. In several years I learned the construction of historical plucked instruments from instrument makers in Germany and Austria. From 2008 to 2012, I successfully completed a university degree in musicology at the Faculty of Applied Art Schneeberg in Markneukirchen. In 2012 I was awarded the German Musical Instrument Award Category 8-course Renaissance lute.

Unterschiedliche Lauten, Gamben und Gitarren in der Werkstatt - Different lutes, viols and guitars in my workshop
Unterschiedliche Lauten, Gamben und Gitarren in der Werkstatt
Different lutes, viols and guitars in my workshop

Lute building today

The sound of the lute instruments shaped the music of whole centuries, but after the French Revolution in 1789 the instruments disappeared from the music practice. After a break of almost 200 years, replicas of these instruments can now be heard again in concerts and in the private sector. Since the 1970s, musical instrument research has been focusing more intensively on historical sources such as the original instruments still available in museums and collections or ancient writings and pictures. Since that time, it has always been better to rediscover the lost knowledge and to approach the nature and sound of these instruments.

For me as a lute maker, the work with historical source material is a highly interesting work. Learning from the proportions and forms of historical instruments, their construction and construction techniques, the artistic design and ultimately the music associated with these instruments make this work so fascinating.

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My acoustic studies of lutes

As a physicist, I am particularly interested in the acoustic examination and exploration of the sound behavior of historical plucked instruments, which I make in various museums and my own workshop. These examinations provide important insights into the relationships between the construction of the instruments and their sound. They show that these instruments are much more often thought to have developed in an artistic AND scientific development process. Their builders not only had exceptional artistic and craft skills, they also had extensive scientific knowledge. The instruments they build are impressively ingeniously designed acoustic systems that cannot be created purely for aesthetic and artistic reasons.

Akustische Vermessung einer Laute in der Musikinstrumentensammlung im Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg - Accoustic examination of an lute in the instrument collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuernberg
Akustische Vermessung einer Laute in der Musikinstrumentensammlung im Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg
Accoustic examination of an lute in the instrument collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuernberg

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New construction after orginal instruments

In my workshop I make all kinds of historical plucked instruments from the 16th to the 18th century, the heyday of lute instruments, Renaissance and Baroque guitars, vihulas and cisterns.

Many of my instruments are created by drawings of historical originals, which I studied, measured and documented in museums. They can be customized according to the customers' requirements of sound, design and playing characteristics. In addition, I develop from the experience with historical originals always own models.

Anfertigung der Halsverzierung einer Schwanenhalsbarocklaute nach Originalbildern, aufgenommen im Museum-Making the neck decoration of a swan neck baroque lute after original picktures, taken in the museum
Anfertigung der Halsverzierung einer Schwanenhalsbarocklaute nach Originalbildern
Making the neck decoration of a swan neck baroque lute after original picktures

"Renoviret" - how to convert instruments

New instruments also arise from modification historical models, a practice that was common to all times of the existence of lutes. In the past, older, valuable instruments were often adapted to the requirements of new sound ideals. A good instrument would have been simply too good and valuable to throwaway. The surviving instruments in museums and collections show us how creative the former instrument maker were, for example, to increase the number of strings of older instruments or to modify instruments with additional pegboxes, new neck, bridges and sound boards. At that time these modifications often called "renoviret" and so we can read labels in some instruments with this note.

In my opinion, this process is still feasible because these changes are always designed to meet the sound requests or conveniences performances of the players or their wishes to the outer design and decoration. So it is quite possible, for example to use an model of a historical Renaissance lute to modify it to a Baroque Lute. Modifications of this type of historical templates will succeed if the properties of the materials and the construction of the template instrument to allow these changes. The necessary experience derived from many studies of original instruments.

Entwurf einer Barocklaute - Design of a baroque lute
Entwurf einer Barocklaute
Design of a baroque lute

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Choice of materials and tuning

The sound of a lute is significantly determined by the choice of materials and adjustment or tuning of its components to each other. For both, I take very much time. Often, the choice of material is given by a particular instrument or it is a customer request. Here each epoch has its typical materials they will determine the specific sound of their instruments. Most common materials for the lute bowl are maple, yew and rosewood and modern replicas are mostly built from these woods.

Often we find in the collections instruments that were built from other local woods. Also Thomas Mace wrote in his "Musick's Monument", London 1676, "there are exquisite lutes , which were made of plum, pear or ash."
These native woods are acoustically very good for the lute or guitar making and allow the construction of quite wonderful-sounding instruments, and very typical to the music of their time. If it pleases the customer, so I take such woods for body, neck or fingerboard.

Hobeln der Lautendecke auf die punktuell unterschiedliche Stärke - Planning the lute sound board to the selective different thickness
Mit Hobel und Ziehklinge wird die Lautendecke punktuell auf unterschiedliche Stärke ausgearbeitet
Planning the lute sound board to the selective different thickness

Often historical instruments use materials such as ivory, tortoise shell or wood from the tropical rainforest, especially during the Baroque period.Prohibits the use of these materials is now without question. But there are alternative materials that do not change the nature of the instrument. Therefore I use these surrogates for replacement.

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Tuning the lute belly - a liason of listening and measuring

Actually, each component of a lute determines the future sound, but the greatest influence, however, has the belly with barring layout and bridge. But also their relationship to the body of the lute has the greatest influence. Therefore, highest attention will be given in each phase of the construction of these parts. When working out the belly thickness distribution, acoustic measurements in my own acoustic laboratory accompanies the work. After the bridge and the bars were glued onto the belly the acoustic tuning will be continued. Here the shapes of all the bars have changed and this work will be finished until the tonal richness and the balanced sound impression in all pitches achieved an optimum. After setting the belly onto the bowl further fine-tuning may be followed. Only when the sound, the resonance of the instrument correspond the idea, this tuning will be finished.

Lautendecke mit aufgeleimten, aber noch nicht abgestimmten Deckenbalken -  Sound board with sound bars, not yet acustically tuned
Lautendecke mit aufgeleimten, aber noch nicht abgestimmten Deckenbalken
Sound board with sound bars, not yet acustically tuned
Akustische Vermessung einer Laute während des Bauens und typisches Grafik einer Messung - Acoustiuc measurement of a lute during construction and typical diagram of a measurement
Akustische Vermessung einer Laute während des Bauens und typische Grafik einer Messung - Acoustiuc measurement of a lute during construction and typical diagram of a measurement

The special sound generation on plucked instruments

The great importance of this approach lies in the nature of the sound generation on plucked instruments. For string instruments where continuous motion of the bow energy is supplied to the instrument. For plucked instruments the transmission of energy is finished at the moment when the finger has plucked the string. How well the instrument transmitted the energy in the desired sound can implement depends now on the design of the instrument, of its materials and their adjustment with each other.
Attention to this property of pluged instruments at any time during the construction is very important and I give her the appropriate attention by my choice of materials and tuning.


It is the main concern of my work to create musical instruments that meet all the needs and wishes of the musicians in all the characteristics from sound over design to handling.

When all the senses are satisfied, then the goal has been reached!

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Impressionen

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Andere Instrumente - Other instruments

Neben den klassischen Lauten und Gitarren stoße ich bei meiner Untersuchungen in Museen oder beim Arbeiten mit Literaturquellen immer wieder auf sehr interessante Instrumente, die im Alltag eines Lautenbauers nicht so häufig vorkommen. Beispiele dafür sind der Colascione oder das Orpheoreon, die Vielzahl der Cistern oder die Vihuelen. All diese Instrumente sind leider im musikalischen Alltag viel zu wenig vertreten. Sie sind ein Teil der Musikgeschichte und sollten als Soloinstrument wie auch als Mitglied im Ensemble zur Musizierpraxis in der Neuzeit dazugehören.
Für mich als Lautenbauer (und Physiker) sind die wenigen Originale eine sehr interessante Studienquelle und führen immer wieder zu einem Nachbau. Manche werden auch im Rahmen von Projektarbeiten untersucht, dokumentiert und gebaut. Wenn Sie Interesse an einem solchen Instrument haben oder Wünsche an Instrumenten haben, die Sie nicht finden können, so schreiben Sie mir. Vielleicht habe ich schon hierzu Informationen, vielleicht bringen Sie mich aber auch auf eine interessante Spur.

Hier einige Beispiele von Instrumenten aus meiner Werkstatt.

Altgambe, Franz Zacher, Ingolstadt 1697
Alt viol, Franz Zacher, Ingolstadt 1697

Copy of 6-course viol of an lutemaker from my hometown Ingolstadt Franz Zacher from the year 1697. The original label inside the instrument.
Franz Zacher / Lautenmacher
in Ingolstatt 1697
The original is in a very bad state, however, has escaped just so all later restoration attempts or contemporary rebuildings. So are all available parts determinant for sound are in the original state what does the copy especially interesting for me.

Altgambe, Franz Zacher, Ingolstadt 1697

 


Stille Bassgambe
Silent bass viol

Practicing on a stringed instrument can be a problem very quickly if it becomes a burden for all other family members or neighbours. I've looked for a way to reduce the sound radiation pattern of the viola da gamba.
Violins and cellos and double basses there are so-called "silent" instruments. These instruments have mostly no correct soundbox. The vibrations of the strings are captured with a pick-up and electronically amplified. Thus you can set the volume or hear with headphones.
The reduction of vibrations is done at my instrument with ever a pick-up under any bridge foot. The signals are boost with a preamplifier to the instrument to a level which can be used by any normal HiFi amplifier or any other amplifiers. Connected to the instrument is a usual 6.3 mm jack.

Stille Bassgambe

 

Pochette, Michael Ignatz Stadlmann, Wien 1775
Kit after Michael Ignatz Stadlmann, Vienna 1775

Original in Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nuremberg MI761
Exact replica from boat-shaped kit
Corpus: 11 rips from rosewood
with spacers from ebony
Length over all: 440 mm
String length: 255 mm

Pochette

 

7-chörige Silent Renaissancelaute mit Tonabnehmer
7-course silent Renaissance lute with pickups

string length 60 cm, string 6 x 2 + 1 x 1
solid body
rosewood fingerboard, neck and pegbox rosewood veneer, pear pegs
passive pickups, 6.3 mm jack

the instrument on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_TyPGeOyD4
www.electricluteproject.com

7-chörige Silent Renaissancelaute

Bei einer weiteren Version wurde auf den zusätzlichen Korpusumriss verzichtet.
In another version, the body outline was removed.

7-chörige Silent Renaissancelaute 7-chörige Silent Renaissancelaute

 

10-chörige Silent Renaissancelaute mit Tonabnehmer
10-course silent Renaissance lute with pickups

string length 60 cm, string 1 x 1 + 6 x 2 + 3 x 1 solid body
fine tuning pegs, activ pickup, 6,3 mm jack

10-chörige Silent Renaissancelaute

 

13-chörige Silent Barocklaute mit Bassreiter
13-course silent baroque lute with bass rider

Body shape and form after Hans Burkholtzer, Füssen 1596, Original in Kunsthistorischen Museum Wien Nr. 44/4056/N.E.48

Customer model left-handed
string length 65 cm, string 2 x 1 + 9 x 2 + 2 x 2
solid body
rosewood fingerboard, pear pegs, passive pickups, 6.3 mm jack
To enhance the very faint sound it can be connected via a typical guitar jack at any kind of amplifier.

13-chörige Silent Barocklaute mit Bassreiter

 

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