Last updated
Workshop luthier.jpg
Modern luthier's workshop, Cremona (2007)
Occupation type
Instrument maker, instrument repairer
A Luthier tunes the bridge of a violin. Instrumentmakare - Malmo 1988.jpg
A Luthier tunes the bridge of a violin.

A luthier ( /ˈltiər/ LOO-ti-ər; AmE also /ˈlθiər/ LOO-thi-ər) [1] [2] is a craftsperson who builds or repairs string instruments that have a neck and a sound box. The word "luthier" is originally French and comes from the French word for lute. The term was originally used for makers of lutes, but it came to be used already in French for makers of most bowed and plucked stringed instruments such as members of the violin family (including violas, cellos, and double basses) and guitars. Luthiers, however, do not make harps or pianos; these require different skills and construction methods because their strings are secured to a frame.


The craft of luthiers, lutherie (rarely called "luthiery", but this often refers to stringed instruments other than those in the violin family), is commonly divided into the two main categories of makers of stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed and makers of stringed instruments that are bowed. [3] Since bowed instruments require a bow, the second category includes a subtype known as a bow maker or archetier. Luthiers may also teach string-instrument making, either through apprenticeship or formal classroom instruction.

Plucked strings


Oud luthier on Mohamed Ali Street in Cairo, Egypt Oud maker at Mohamed Ali Street in Cairo, Egypt.jpg
Oud luthier on Mohamed Ali Street in Cairo, Egypt

Early producers of lutes, archlutes, theorbos and vihuelas include the Tieffenbrucker family, Martin Hoffmann and Matteo Sellas.


A luthier building classical guitars in Madrid, Spain Madrid luthier.jpg
A luthier building classical guitars in Madrid, Spain
American guitar luthier Robert Benedetto in his studio (c. 1976) Luthier Robert Benedetto in 1976.jpg
American guitar luthier Robert Benedetto in his studio (c. 1976)

Two luthiers of the early 19th century connected with the development of the modern classical guitar are Louis Panormo and Georg Staufer. [4] Antonio Torres Jurado is credited with developing the form of classical guitar still in use. C.F. Martin of Germany developed a form that evolved into the modern steel-string acoustic guitar.

The American luthier Orville Gibson specialized in mandolins, and is credited with creating the archtop guitar. [5] The 20th-century American luthiers John D'Angelico and Jimmy D'Aquisto made archtop guitars. Lloyd Loar worked briefly for the Gibson Guitar Corporation making mandolins and guitars. His designs for a family of arch top instruments (mandolin, mandola, guitar, et cetera) are held in high esteem by today's luthiers, who seek to reproduce their sound.[ citation needed ] C. F. Martin apprenticed to Johann Georg Stauffer, a guitar maker in Vienna, Austria and Martin & Co. was born, with the X bracing being developed in the 1850s. Martin & Co still produce acoustic guitars. Paul Bigsby's innovation of the tremolo arm for archtop and electric guitars is still in use and may have influenced Leo Fender's design for the Stratocaster solid-body electric guitar, as well as the Jaguar and Jazzmaster.[ citation needed ] Concurrent with Fender's work, guitarist Les Paul independently developed a solid-body electric guitar. These were the first fretted, solid-body electric guitars—though they were preceded by the cast aluminum "frying pan", a solid-body electric lap steel guitar developed and eventually patented by George Beauchamp, and built by Adolph Rickenbacher. [6] A company founded by luthier Friedrich Gretsch and continued by his son and grandson, Fred and Fred, Jr., originally made banjos, but now mainly produce electric guitars.[ citation needed ]

Bowed strings

An engraver's impression of Antonio Stradivari examining an instrument Antonio stradivari.jpg
An engraver's impression of Antonio Stradivari examining an instrument
Contemporary luthier varnishing a violin Varnishing a violin.jpg
Contemporary luthier varnishing a violin

Bowed instruments include: cello, crwth, double bass, erhu, fiddle, hudok, morin khuur, nyckelharpa, hurdy-gurdy, rabab, rebec, sarangi, viol (viola da gamba), viola, viola da braccio, viola d'amore, and violin.

The purported inventor of the violin is 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 Amati family of luthiers active in Cremona, Italy until the 18th century. Andrea Amati had two sons. His eldest was Antonio Amati (circa 1537–1607), and the younger, Girolamo Amati (circa 1561–1630). Girolamo is better known as Hieronymus, and together with his brother, produced many violins with labels inside the instrument reading "A&H". Antonio died having no known offspring, but Hieronymus became a father. His son Nicolò (1596–1684) was himself a master luthier who had several apprentices of note, including Antonio Stradivari [7] (probably), Andrea Guarneri, Bartolomeo Pasta, Jacob Railich, Giovanni Battista Rogeri, Matthias Klotz, and possibly Jacob Stainer and Francesco Rugeri. It is even possible Bartolomeo Cristofori, later inventor of the piano, apprenticed under him (although census data does not support this, which paints this as a possible myth). [8]

Gasparo Duiffopruggar of Füssen, Germany, was once incorrectly credited as the inventor of the violin. He was likely a maker, but no documentation survives, and no instruments survive that experts unequivocally know are his.[ citation needed ]

Gasparo da Salò of Brescia (Italy) was another early luthier of the violin family. About 80 of his instruments survive, and around 100 documents that relate to his work. He was also a double bass player and son and nephew of two violin players: Francesco and Agosti, respectively.[ citation needed ]

Da Salò made many instruments and exported to France and Spain, and probably to England. He had at least five apprentices: his son Francesco, a helper named Battista, Alexander of Marsiglia, Giacomo Lafranchini and Giovanni Paolo Maggini. Maggini inherited da Salò's business in Brescia. Valentino Siani worked with Maggini. In 1620, Maggini moved to Florence.[ citation needed ]

Luthiers born in the mid-17th century include Giovanni Grancino, Vincenzo Rugeri, Carlo Giuseppe Testore, and his sons Carlo Antonio Testore and Paolo Antonio Testore, all from Milan. From Venice [9] 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 Bologna). [10] Carlo Bergonzi (luthier) purchased Antonio Stradivari's shop a few years after the master's death. David Tecchler, who was born in Austria, later worked in both Venice and Rome.

Luthiers from the early 18th century include Nicolò Gagliano of Naples, 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 Nürnberg, Germany.[ citation needed ]

The early 19th-century luthiers of the Mirecourt school of violin making in France were the Vuillaume family, Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin, and Collin-Mezin's son, Charles Collin-Mezin, Jr., Honore Derazey, Nicolas Lupot, Charles Macoutel, Charles Mennégand, and Pierre Silvestre. Nicola Utili (also known as Nicola da Castel Bolognese) (Ravenna, Italy, 1888–1962), beside traditional lute works, experimented the making of "pear-shaped" violins.[ citation needed ]

The Jérôme-Thibouville-Lamy 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.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amati</span> Family of Italian violin makers

Amati is the last name of a family of Italian violin makers who lived at Cremona from about 1538 to 1740. Their importance is considered equal to those of the Bergonzi, Guarneri, and Stradivari families. Today, violins created by Nicolò Amati are valued at around $600,000. Because of their age and rarity, Amati instruments are mostly kept in museum or private collections and are seldom played in public.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mandolin</span> Musical instrument in the lute family

A mandolin is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is generally plucked with a pick. It most commonly has four courses of doubled strings tuned in unison, thus giving a total of 8 strings, although five and six course versions also exist. There are of course different types of strings that can be used, metal strings are the main ones since thay are the cheapest and easiest to make. The courses are typically tuned in an interval of perfect fifths, with the same tuning as a violin. Also, like the violin, it is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antonio Stradivari</span> Italian luthier (1644–1737)

Antonio Stradivari was an Italian luthier and a craftsman of string instruments such as violins, cellos, guitars, violas and harps. The Latinized form of his surname, Stradivarius, as well as the colloquial Strad are terms often used to refer to his instruments. It is estimated that Stradivari produced 1,116 instruments, of which 960 were violins. Around 650 instruments survive, including 450 to 512 violins. His instruments are considered some of the finest ever made, and are extremely valuable collector's items.

The Guarneri, often referred to in the Latinized form Guarnerius, is the family name of a group of distinguished luthiers from Cremona in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries, whose standing is considered comparable to those of the Amati and Stradivari families.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Archtop guitar</span> Type of steel-stringed acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar

An archtop guitar is a hollow electric or semi-acoustic guitar with a full body and a distinctive arched top, whose sound is particularly popular with jazz, blues, and rockabilly players.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carlo Bergonzi (luthier)</span>

Carlo Bergonzi was an Italian luthier and is the first and most prominent member of the Bergonzi family, a distinguished group of luthiers from Cremona, Italy, a city with a rich tradition of stringed instrument makers. Today his instruments are highly valued for their workmanship and tone. Although he was historically assumed to have first apprenticed with Hieronymus Amati or Antonio Stradivari, he is now known to have been the student of Vincenzo Rugeri.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sound hole</span> Opening in the body of a stringed instrument

A sound hole is an opening in the body of a stringed musical instrument, usually the upper sound board. Sound holes have different shapes:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Violin family</span> Class of wooden bowed stringed instruments

The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the 16th century. At the time the name of this family of instruments was viole da braccio which was used to distinguish them from the viol family. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and (possibly) double bass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the violin</span>

The violin, viola and cello were first built in the early 16th century, in Italy. The earliest evidence for their existence is in paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari from the 1530s, though Ferrari's instruments had only three strings. The Académie musicale, a treatise written in 1556 by Philibert Jambe de Fer, gives a clear description of the violin family much as we know it today.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giovanni Paolo Maggini</span>

Giovanni Paolo Maggini, was a luthier born in Botticino (Brescia), Italy. Maggini was a pupil of the most important violin maker of the Brescian school, Gasparo da Salò.

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Giuseppe Fiorini (1861–1934) was an Italian luthier and is considered one of the most important Italian violin makers. He built his first instrument at the age of 16 while working in Bologna. He established Rieger and Fiorini in Germany from 1888, then lived in Zurich during World War 1 and Rome from 1923.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicolas Lupot</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicola Amati</span> Italian master luthier (1596–1684)

Nicola Amati, Nicolò Amati or Nicolao Amati was an Italian master luthier from Cremona, Italy. Amati is one of the most well-known luthiers from the Casa Amati. He was the teacher of illustrious Cremonese School luthiers such as Andrea Guarneri and Giovanni Battista Rogeri. While no clear documentation exists for their being apprentices in his shop, Amati may also have apprenticed Antonio Stradivari, Francesco Rugeri, and Jacob Stainer, as their work is heavily influenced by Amati.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrea Amati</span>

Andrea Amati was a luthier, from Cremona, Italy. Amati is credited with making the first instruments of the violin family that are in the form we use today. Several of his instruments survive to the present day, and some of them can still be played. Many of the surviving instruments were among a consignment of 38 instruments delivered to Charles IX of France in 1564.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Museo del Violino</span> Musical instrument museum in Cremona, Italy

The Violin Museum is a musical instrument museum located in Cremona. The museum is best known for its collection of stringed instruments that includes violins, violas, cellos and double basses crafted by renowned luthiers, including Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vincenzo Rugeri</span>

Vincenzo Rugeri, was an Italian luthier of string instruments such as violins, cellos, and, violas in Cremona, Italy. His instruments are noted for their craftsmanship and tone quality. Vincenzo came from a distinguished family of luthiers, the first of whom was his father, Francesco Rugeri. Despite the local tradition of artisan families laboring together through generations, Vincenzo left the family shop and set up a successful shop of his own in the center of Cremona. Vincenzo was the third son of luthier Francesco Rugeri. Vincenzo's work, like Francesco's, is influenced by Nicolò Amati's Grand Pattern model, however Vincenzo's work was distinguished from his father's by utilizing a lower arch inspired by Antonio Stradivari. An analysis of the body of his work reveals that the quality of Vincenzo's instruments is remarkable, perhaps even more so than his father's. Vincenzo's instruments, though less numerous, are valued at least equal to those of his father. A violin by Vincenzo Rugeri realized $502,320 on October 3, 2011 at Brompton's Auctions in London. Carlo Bergonzi was a distinguished apprentice of Vincenzo Rugeri.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tullio Bassi</span> Italian violin maker

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  1. Oxford Dictionaries
  2. "luthier". Wiktionary. Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  3. "Arts, Music, Instruments, Stringed". DMOZ . Retrieved 2006-11-03.
  4. The Guitar (From The Renaissance To The Present Day) by Harvey Turnbull (Third Impression 1978) – Publisher: Batsford. p. 68 (Ponormo) and p. 70 (Georg Staufer) – Chapter 4 (The Development Of The Instrument).
  5. Gruhn, George (1991). Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars. San Francisco: GPI Books. p. 73. ISBN   978-0-87930-195-8.
  6. Gruhn, George. "Rickenbacker Electro Spanish Guitar". Archived from the original on 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2006-11-04.
  7. Hill, W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill and Alfred E. (1963). Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work, 1664–1737 (New Dover ed.). New York: Dover. p.  27. ISBN   0-486-20425-1.
  8. Pollens, Stewart (1995) The Early Pianoforte. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  9. Pio, Stefano (2004). Violin and Lute Makers of Venice 1640–1760. venezia, Italy: Venice research. p. 383. ISBN   978-88-907252-2-7. Archived from the original on 2018-03-13. Retrieved 2020-03-20.
  10. Bartruff, William. "The History of the Violin" . Retrieved 2006-11-03.

Further reading