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A luthier ( ) is someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments. The word luthier comes from the French word luth which means "lute".

The craft of lutherie is commonly divided into two main categories: stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed, and those that are bowed. Diverse places and cultures have given rise to numerous types of stringed instruments. The following lists provide examples of instruments in each category still in use today.

Plucked or strummed instruments: autoharp, archlute, angelique, bandura, banjo, bouzouki, charango, cittern, appalachian dulcimer, guitar, harp, kantele, kithara, kora, koto, lute, lyre, pipa, mandolin, theorbo, torban, kobza, oud, shamisen, sitar, ukulele, and veena.

Bowed instruments: cello, crwth, double bass, erhu, fiddle, mouthbow, nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, rabab, rebec, sarangi, viol, viola, viola da braccio, viola d'amore, viola da gamba and violin.

Since bowed instruments require a bow, the second category includes a subtype known as an archetier, a French word meaning one who makes bows. While the division of luthiers into different categories may seem arbitrary, there are those who are passionate about the difference between these branches of the craft.

Workshop of a luthier in Cremona

Plucked strings


Important luthiers who specialized in the instruments of the lute family (lutes, archlutes, theorbos, vihuelas etc.):

The varnishing of a violin
and in our time:


Two important early luthiers in the guitar category are Antonio Torres Jurado of Spain, who is credited with developing the form of classical guitar that is still in use today, and Christian Frederick Martin of Germany who developed a form which later evolved into the steel-string acoustic guitar.

Orville Gibson was an American luthier who specialized in mandolins, and is credited with creating the archtop guitar.

John D'Angelico and Jimmy D'Aquisto were two important 20th century luthiers who worked with archtop guitars.

Lloyd Loar worked briefly for the Gibson Guitar Corporation making mandolins and guitars. His designs for a family of archtop instruments (mandolin, mandola, guitar, et cetera) are held in high esteem by today's luthiers, who seek to reproduce their sound.

Paul Bigsby's innovation of the tremolo arm for archtop and electric guitars is still in use today and may have influenced Leo Fender's design for the Stratocaster solid body electric guitar, as well as the Jaguar and Jazzmaster.

Concurrent with Fender's work, guitarist Les Paul independently developed a solid body electric guitar. However both Fender and Paul were preceded by Adolph Rickenbacher's Bakelite "frying pan" solid body electric guitar developed with and patented by George Beauchamp.

A company founded by luthier Friedrich Gretsch and continued by his son and grandson, Fred and Fred Jr., originally made banjos, but is more famous today for its electric guitars.

Bowed strings

To put the bowed stringed luthiers into some sort of manageable order, it is prudent to begin with the purported "inventor" of the violin, Andrea Amati. Amati was originally a lute maker but turned to the new instrument form of violin in the mid 16th century. He was the progenitor of the famous Amati family of luthiers active in Cremonamarker, Italymarker until the 18th century. Andrea Amati's son, Nicolò, was himself an important master luthier who had several apprentices of note including Andrea Guarneri, Francesco Ruggieri, Antonio Stradivari, Giovanni Battista Rogeri, Matthias Klotz and possibly Jacob Stainer.

Two other important early luthiers of the violin family were the double bass player, son and nephew of two violin player Gasparo da Salò of Bresciamarker, Italy and Gasparo Duiffopruggar of Austriamarker who were each originally credited with invention of the first violin. However, this attribute has since been removed but is still often incorrectly cited. da Salò had at least five apprentice: his son Francesco, and helper named Battista, the french Alexander of Marsiglia, Giacomo Lafranchini and, last, the most important is–Giovanni Paolo Maggini who inherited da Salò's business in Brescia upon da Salò's death. Valentino Siani worked with Giovanni Paolo Maggini. In 1620 he moved to Florence.

Of those luthiers born in the mid 17th century, there are Giovanni Grancino, Carlo Giuseppe Testore and son Carlo Antonio Testore, all from Milanmarker. From Venicemarker the luthiers Matteo Goffriller, Domenico Montagnana, Sanctus Seraphin and Carlo Annibale Tononi were principals in the Venetian school of violin making (although the latter began his career in Bolognamarker). The Bergonzi family of luthiers were the successors to the Amati family in Cremona. David Tecchler who was born in Austria later worked in both Venice and Romemarker.

Important luthiers from the early 18th century include Nicolò Gagliano of Naplesmarker, Italy, Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi of Milan and Giovanni Battista Guadagnini who roamed throughout Italy during his lifetime. From Austria originally, Leopold Widhalm later established himself in Nürnbergmarker, Germanymarker.

The early 19th century luthiers of the Mirecourtmarker school of violin making in Francemarker were the Vuillaume family, Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin, and Collin-Mezin's son, Charles Collin-Mezin, Jr..

Jérôme-Thibouville-Lamy was the most important musical instrument maker in France. The firm started making wind instruments around 1730 at La Couture-Boussey then moved to Mirecourt around 1760 and started making violins, guitars, mandolins and musical accessories. It was very successful, and opened offices in Paris, then in London. It made thousands of quality instruments that were exported throughout the world.


16th–19th centuries

20th century


Experimental luthiers

See also


Other sources

  • The Consortium of Violinmakers "Antonio Stradivari" CREMONA
  • Historical Lute Construction by Robert Lundberg, Guild of American Luthiers (2002) ISBN 0962644749
  • The Complete Luthier's Library. A Useful International Critical Bibliography for the Maker and the Connoisseur of Stringed and Plucked Instruments. Bologna, Florenus Edizioni 1990. ISBN 88-85250-01-7
  • The "Secrets" of Stradivari by Simone Fernando Sacconi
  • The art of violinmaking by Chris Johnson and Roy Courtnall
  • 25 masterpieces by Guarneri del Gesù Peter Biddulph
  • Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology by Cumpiano and Natelson
  • Build your own Acoustic Guitar by Jonathan Kinkead
  • Steel String Guitar Construction by Irving Sloan
  • Classic Guitar Construction by Irving Sloane
  • Making an Archtop Guitar by Bob Benedetto
  • Big Red Books of American Lutherie by the Guild of American Luthiers
  • Lutherie Tools edited by Cindy Burton and Tim Olsen
  • Making Master Guitars by Roy Courtnall
  • Classic Guitar Making by Arthur E. Overholtzer (Out of Print)
  • Clapton's Guitar by Allen St. John
  • Make your own electric guitar by Melvyn Hiscock
  • The Fretboard Journal (quarterly magazine)
  • The Secrets of Stradivari by S. Sacconi
  • The Art of Violin Making by Roy Courtnall (Preface by Lord Yehudi Menuhin)
  • A Comparison of Wood Density between Classical Cremonese and Modern Violins by Behrend Stoel & Terry Borman, The Public Library of Science, PLoSOne, July 2, 2008 [60633]

External links

Historical Luthier manuals and books




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