I'm delighted to introduce Carlos Juan Busquiel from Alicante, Spain.
Q1. Could you please tell us a little about your luthiery and its history?
I trained to be a violinist and music teacher. In fact, I worked as a music teacher for nine years. Being completely self-taught, I built violins for two years. Through this, I discovered this fascinating world of luthiery. After this experience I attended a guitar-making course by Rafael López Porras in Cádiz. After that, I left violin-making and focused on guitar making, completing my knowledge with various books, asking advice from other guitar makers and attending a viuela-making course given by José Luis Romanillos. When I managed to get sufficient orders, I decided to quit my teaching job in public education and to dedicate myself professionally and exclusively to guitar building.
Q2. Please describe your idea of a good sounding guitar, and what you do to achieve it?
I love traditional Spanish guitars. Of course, Torres is my model, but so are all those who followed his path. I admire very much the work of the Catalan school led by García y Simplicio, such as the instruments of Santos Hernández and Hauser. I have been fortunate to have actually held many of these instruments in my hands — for me, it is important to follow the path of these famous makers.
I firmly believe that old guitar makers were making very good guitars and we can't make progress without a thorough knowledge of their techniques and methods.
Taking this into account, I focus my work in a very traditional way. I try to achieve the sound that I hear from those classical instruments. I don't pretend to have invented anything new, but rather to make the most of the woods and the methods that have already been established for so many years. I seek depth in the basses and separation of the voices. I want an interesting sound, which allows musicians to express themselves without limits and keep interest and astonishment in what he/she hears.
Q3. Please tell us about your idea of improving playability, and what you do to achieve it?
One of my priorities, maybe the biggest, is to build a guitar which is comfortable for the guitarist. For me, that implies that the strings have a certain flexibility, in both right and left hands. I try to achieve this by making the top not too rigid and by a light-weight build. The sound should come out fast and it should be easy to produce different dynamics. Especially, the piani shouldn't have a limit. I think the Traditional Spanish building makes it easy to achieve these goals.
Q4. Please tell us your opinion about the traditional finishing method (French polish) and new methods (lacquer, catalysed finishing, etc).
Without doubt, I think that an authentic quality-instrument should be finished by hand-applied French polish. I don't conceive of any other way. It is the most transparent finishing in terms of sound. I don't see any sense in designing each part of the guitar in a very specific way, to then obscure all of it with a plastic layer. It might work for somebody, but I don't want it for my guitars.
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?
I'm a supporter of the standard 650mm scale. I prefer to develop an ease of playing the instrument through other means such as I've already mentioned before. Having said that, yes, I've made guitars with shorter scale like 645 or 640. It can be significant for players with smaller hands. In these cases, you have to take into account that the string tension is also reduced and should be compensated with strings of different tension if necessary.
Q6. Do you have a preference for any particular string type or tension when you design/make your guitars?
I prefer using normal-tension nylon strings, particularly, D'Addario EJ45c. Either way, I think that my guitars work well with both normal and hard tension. Also, there are guitarists who use carbon strings with good results. In the end, this will be a guitarist's decision.
Q7. How does the increasing rarity of some woods, rosewood for example, impact on your methods, and the quality of the end product?
I love Indian Rosewood. I think it suits to make excellent instruments. I also use cypress, maple and sometimes Madagascar Rosewood. Occasionally, I'm asked by clients if I can make a guitar with Brazilian rosewood. I simply tell them that I haven't got any stock and offer them alternative materials. There are very interesting initiatives like the Leonardo Guitar Research Project, which shows that magnificent instruments of the highest quality can be made using only sustainable woods.
Q8. How do you see the future of this beautiful tradition in the 21st century?
Actually, the only inconvenience that I see is the rarity of woods. It's increasing as years go by. I hope musicians become accepting of non-traditional woods to allow this profession to continue.
In terms of the future of this profession, I'm convinced that there will be demand for traditional hand-made instruments as long as there are musicians. Moreover, the knowledge is easily transmitted, thanks to the internet - and skilled young guitar makers are appearing — I'm sure they have much to say, and will find their space in this world.