I have been making and playing lutes ever since I made my first one and became bewitched first listening to Julian Breams 'Woods so Wild' album and Anthony Rooley on TV playing a 10crs lute and a Holborne piece 'Sir Philip Sidneys' Funeral' many years ago it feels! I made my first lute at school in Etwall Derbyshire, same site as the missing Etwall Hall Lute Book (still missing) Of course this is not a usual activity for a school boy as I was made aware by some peers. Still, to this day I am met by some 'comments' from people in the industry for making quality and affordable lutes available for those who don't want to or can't spend too much on their first instrument, like myself years before. At school I was given a B for making my first 13 course lute, shocking some members of the lute society, friends and family, nevertheless it inspired me to do better and become completely obsessed! I have gained experience since then and now have a loyal customer base and get repeat customers due to my affordable quality 'student' lute range allowing customers to buy a second instrument with the saving or spend on facsimiles/ music or to pay for lessons. I like to see it as the next step from the EMS lutes as I told Zachary Taylor once, with respect, not replacing them. Nevertheless I couldn't possibly make them as cheap as the ones made in Asia but I make them plain but with a good setup
I first bought an 8 course Renaisssance lute by Arthur Robb from the Festival of Early Music to get me started; its quality craftsmanship was an inspiration and helped my interest grow. I started collecting tablature and soon realised the wealth of surviving music which has been made more accessible today with free tablature on websites and through the Lute Societies' regular newsletter.
While I was obsessing over tablature acquisitions I was becoming drawn to beauty of the Baroque lute after listening to Silvius Leopold Weiss' music being played by Nigel North. I did not have a Baroque lute at that time, so I began studying every lute making article or book I could find. Also, I learnt the basics from long conversations with a luthier called Tim Thurston (and other makers) on the finer points of lute making based on their experience, it was interesting to see the variations of techniques. This is when I built my first Baroque 13 course lute at school. A few years later I performed at the local radio station and gave recital at lunch time at the University of Derby.
While studying Contemporary Furniture Design at College I also wanted to dig deeper into the history of the lute to understand how it evolved (or devolved in some cases).I wanted to know more about the Chitarrone with its entrancing re-entrant tuning. During this time I was making an Archlute which is like a Chitarrone except that it is tuned like a Renaissance lute and it has a smaller body and extended neck. I played this instrument at my graduation show.
After graduation, I became a buyer and manager in contemporary lighting which was a total contrast to the lute world. It was all about knowing what good contemporary design and manufacture were and trips to Milan to buy the latest designs. During this time I regularly performed at Bartok Bar in Chalk Farm on Renaissance Lute, Baroque Lute, Archlute and Theorbo. I thought the hard-socialising atmosphere could be 'tamed' or seduced with calming lute music!
Once I had moved to a place large enough for a workshop, I started making Renaissance lutes for the Early Music Shops outlet in London (The Early Recorder Centre). I also made a Chitarrone and a Baroque Guitar during this time. The parchment rose of the Baroque guitar was time consuming but the most rewarding, almost as much as the beautiful sound it makes.
Today, I make a variety of custom made lutes and stock ready to buy. The student lute range is designed to make attractive lutes more affordable to a wider or new audience. The Student Chitarrone will allow existing lute players to indulge themselves in continuo without spending too much. The large Chitarrone is a copy of the RCM Tieffenbrucker but with 17 ribs instead of the usual 51! which helps reduce the price! The Sellas Theorbo is a smaller alternative and has been very popular with young musicians starting their career in Early Music. I made my first Electric Baroque lute as a commission from Dr Dale Harris in 2010, putting in a pick up and power jack in a traditionally constructed swan neck baroque lute after Widhalm. So it has all the good qualities of the lute including the octave stringing and tension but tuned like the guitar. I am currently (2013) developing the next one for seducing the guitar players that don't want to learn tablature but have the qualities of the lute and tension closer to the guitar