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Occupation type
Instrument maker, instrument repairer

A luthier ( /ˈltiər/ LOO-ti-ər) [1] is a craftsperson who builds and 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. [2] 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

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


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 important luthiers of the early 19th century connected with the development of the modern classical guitar are Louis Panormo and Georg Staufer. [3] Antonio Torres Jurado is credited with developing the form of classical guitar still in use today. Christian Frederick 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. The important 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. 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. 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. [4] 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. Vintage guitars are often sought by collectors.

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 famous 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 an important master luthier who had several apprentices of note, including Antonio Stradivari [5] (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). [6]

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

Gasparo da Salò of Brescia (Italy) was another important 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.

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—the most important—Giovanni Paolo Maggini. Maggini inherited da Salò's business in Brescia. Valentino Siani worked with Maggini. In 1620, Maggini moved to Florence.

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 [7] 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). [8] 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.

Important 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.

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, March 1888 – May 1962), beside traditional lute works, experimented the making of "pear-shaped" violins.

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

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.

Antonio Stradivari Italian stringed instrument maker

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 survived, including 450 to 512 violins.

Jacob Stainer (1619–1683) was the earliest and best known Austrian and Germanic luthier. His violins were sought after by famous 17th and 18th century musicians and composers including Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and George Simon-Lohein.

Carlo Bergonzi (luthier)

Carlo Bergonzi was an Italian luthier and is the first and most noted member of the Bergonzi family, an illustrious 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.

History of the violin

The violin, viola, and cello were first made 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 Academie 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.

Gasparo da Salò

Gasparo da Salò is the name given to Gasparo Bertolotti, one of the earliest violin makers and an expert double bass player. Around 80 of his instruments are known to have survived to the present day: violins, alto and tenor violas, viols, violones and double basses, violas designed with only a pair of corners, and ceteras.

Gagliano family

Gagliano is the name of a famous family of Italian luthiers from Naples, dating back to the early 18th century. The Gagliano dynasty - particularly Alessandro, Nicolò I and Gennaro - are considered the high point of Neapolitan violin making. There are as many as eighteen Gagliano violin makers known worldwide today. Below is a family tree of a few of its most recognizable luthiers.

Giovanni Grancino

Giovanni Grancino (1637–1709), son of Andrea Grancino, was one of the early Milanese luthiers, and may have worked with his brother, Francesco.

Giovanni Paolo Maggini

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.

Francesco Rugeri, also known as Ruger, Rugier, Rugeri, Ruggeri, Ruggieri, Ruggerius, was the first of an important family of luthiers, the Casa Rugeri in Cremona, Italy. His instruments are masterfully constructed. His violins are inspired by Nicolò Amati's "Grand Amati" pattern. Francesco was the first to develop a smaller cello design, which has become the standard for modern cello dimensions. Today, Rugeri's instruments are nearly as renowned as Nicolò Amati's instruments.

Giovanni Battista Rogeri was an Italian luthier, who for much of his mature life worked in Brescia. Together with Gasparo da Salo and Giovanni Paolo Maggini, Rogeri was one of the major makers of the Brescian school.

Giuseppe Fiorini

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.

Nicolas Lupot

Nicolas Lupot was one of the most illustrious French luthiers of his time.

Nicola Amati

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

Andrea Amati

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.

Traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona

The Traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2012, during the 7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee in Paris. The Cremona's traditional violin making is an ancient form of handicraft typical of Cremona (Italy) where bowed string instruments like violins, violas, cellos and double basses have been made since the 16th century.

Museo del Violino 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.

Vincenzo Rugeri

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.

Tullio Bassi Italian violin maker

Tullio Bassi is an Italian violin maker. He made instruments for members of a number of renowned orchestras. He studies and follows the techniques of the renowned luthier, Antonio Stradivari.


  1. Oxford Dictionaries
  2. "Arts, Music, Instruments, Stringed". DMOZ . Retrieved 2006-11-03.
  3. 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).
  4. Gruhn, George. "Rickenbacker Electro Spanish Guitar". Archived from the original on 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2006-11-04.
  5. 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.
  6. Pollens, Stewart (1995) The Early Pianoforte. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  7. 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.
  8. Bartruff, William. "The History of the Violin" . Retrieved 2006-11-03.

Further reading