Classical Guitar Luthier Interview: Enrico Bottelli (Italy)

I'm delighted to introduce Enrico Bottelli from Voghera, Italy.

Q1. Could you please tell us a little about your luthiery and its history?

I began in 1980 building Steel string guitars studying with Ervin Somogyi a famous California based maker.

In 1987 I switched to classical guitars and learned initially the innovative method of US luthier Richard Schneider.
Then in 1994 I studied the Spanish classical guitar construction with J.L. Romanillos and since then I build traditional spanish oriented classical guitars. I studied deeply original instruments of A. De Torres, E. Garcia, H. Hauser I, José Romanillos and David Rubio.

Q2 Please describe your idea of a good sounding guitar, and what you do to achieve it?

First of all, a good instrument must have a beautiful tone quality with a lot of variability, it is fundamental to have a deep bass to sustain the music and a balance on the six strings with a warm round fascinating clear and sustaining treble. I achieve this result using only the best European spruce and a flexible but strong traditional spanish fan brace structure on my soundboards.

Q3. Please tell us about your idea of improving playability, and what you do to achieve it?

I try to build guitars with not too rigid soundboards and this produces less tension on the strings. It is also very important to have low actions and a neck shape and thickness which is comfortable for the left hand.

Q4. Please tell us your opinion about the traditional finishing method (French polish) and new methods (lacquer, catalysed finishing, etc).

French polished shellac is the best finish for the classical guitar because is so thin and light and does not affect the sound of the instrument, moreover is the best finish to bring out the beauty of the woods, lastly it is almost not toxic doesn't smell bad and it is not harmful for the ambient.

Q5. Please tell us your opinion regarding shorter-scale guitars such as 640, 628 and 615mm in terms of playability, design, sound quality and volume. Is there an increasing need to cater to smaller-handed or female players?

Shorter-scale instruments can have the same volume, and sound quality as longer scale instruments because the loss of tension is minimal and uninfluent. So I suggest them without any doubt to small handed players. I am having several requests for shorter scales recently.

Q6. Do you have, in your mind, any particular type and tension of strings to use when you design/build your guitars?

Generally after I complete one of my instrument I look for the best string available for that particular guitar (material, tension), sometime when I make copies of old instruments I know that they originally were stringed with gut so I also take count of that when building the instrument.

Q7. Do you offer any 'after-sales' service to customers - particularly customers who are nervous about making a substantial investment?

My instruments have a lifetime warranty, moreover if you are not satisfied with the instrument you are not obliged to buy it.
Anyway before starting building an ordered instrument I require as much info as possible to the customer to be sure of what he is really looking for.

Q8. How does the increasing rarity of some woods, rosewood for example, impact on your methods, and the quality of the end product?

I have a good reserve of old seasoned rare woods so I do not have to make compromises on the materials that I believe are more appropriate for each instrument, both aesthetically and sonically.

Q9. How do you see the future of this beautiful tradition in the 21st century?

Probably there will be space for high quality instruments for many years to come but what preoccupies me is that young generations are growing up listening to music on telephones with cheap headphones, so we are loosing the culture and the love for the quality of the sound, you need to be trained to really understand the sound beauty.