The biggest inspiration for my building of guitars comes from science. Three of the most important words in science are I don't know. Not knowing implies a Universe of opportunities—the possibility of discovery and surprise. The above-cited text is a part of the preface of Laurence Krauss’s book The Edge of Knowledge. The same scientific I don't know moves the world forward and allows exploring and deeper understanding of particle physics, cosmology, and acoustics of stringed instruments. But it always assumes a lack of final, indisputable knowledge. I believe I understand how a guitar works, but I am ready to change my view if discoveries challenging current knowledge are made. Especially since a guitar is such a complex system, and we only understand its greatly simplified models.
The person who influenced my work the most is Ken Parker. I have incorporated many of his design ideas into my guitars, and I am grateful for Ken’s generosity and encouragement.
I never wanted to build a traditional guitar for the sake of tradition. Everything evolves. Would you like to ski on skis designed in the 50s? High-tech wooden tennis racket, anybody? There is a lot to draw on from tradition in guitar building. Lloyd Loar’s L5 was such a revolutionary product. But the combination of the economic crisis in the 30s and the electrification of guitars killed archtop’s development too early. Traditional guitar design can and should be improved. Copying the L5 with some aesthetic changes was not an interesting subject to me. When I started to design my guitar and was looking for solutions, Ken Parker became my hero.
Ken Parker, like Jimmy D’Aquisto, has focused on the further development of the Archtop Guitar. Whenever Ken identified an inherent problem with traditional archtop design, he did not hesitate to break “the rules”. His solutions, at times are revolutionary. I am not copying Ken’s guitars, though, and I have made very different design decisions in a few crucial areas.
There are others who inspire my work:
- Joseph Curtin, a superb American violin maker and innovator;
- Jim Woodhouse, a British violin maker and professor of physics, author of an excellent online book on the acoustics of musical instruments https://euphonics.org/;
- Helen Michetschläger, from whom I have learned the old way of bending plates for violas;
- Kim Walker, from whom I took the courage to build the main beam into the box of my guitars,
and many others.
Some of my inspirations are from old instruments.
For example, I have designed the tailpiece holder taking inspiration from Viola da Gamba (shown in the picture). It is the same, in principle, but new materials made it possible to make it smaller, stiffer, and lighter. Additionally, I added an option to change the strings' angle after the bridge, which changes the top loading and the way the guitar sounds.
Picture above - source: https://www.liedmeier.nl/ENG/fotogallery
Hundreds of careful design and aesthetic decisions are embedded into each carefully designed and hand-made instrument. One may say metaphorically that the instrument designer and builder has embedded his/her DNA into the final product. Indeed this is true. One can forget, though, that this DNA is partially inherited from all the great builders that came before. It is easy to find Parker’s designs in my guitars, but I also borrowed from Lloyd Loar L5 and Kim Walker’s Solo Novo, Jimmy d’Aquisto, and others. The evolution of a good instrument is based on all previous successful generations of instruments. When innovating, we all want to find new, improved, and successful paths and want to avoid evolutionary mistakes which could lead to perished solutions. The DNA of the past is so important.
Through building a new instrument by hand, which is long, exhausting hard work, there is another DNA in play. There is a lot of sweat to build a handmade instrument and it is not rare that a drop (or two) of sweat or blood is shed and embedded, together with DNA, into the instrument for good. There is a builder DNA metaphorically and quite literally embedded into the instrument.