Classical Guitar Luthier Interview: Samuel Pérez (Spain)

I’m delighted to have Samuel Pérez from Murcia, Spain.

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

I was introduced to the world of luthiery by my violin teacher who showed me this art. I was convinced, from the very first moment, that I had to learn about this profession. Later, I decided to focus on handmade guitar making, and for that, I moved to Madrid where I started training with Arturo Sanzano, and after that, I was lucky enough to join Jose Ramirez's guitar workshop. There, I learned to love this instrument, and this profession in general. In 2012, after almost 10 years in this world, I decided to start new projects, and I set up my own guitar workshop in Yecla, Murcia.

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

To achieve the desired sound has given more than a headache to many guitar makers! I think this search could last a lifetime because the sound of an instrument is always tied in with it's current time, with an evolution, so the sound which is sought now would surely differ from the one sought in the future. The sound I look for for my guitars is the one which is well-balanced, and with broad volume, rich in harmonics, sustain, and powerful basses. I discovered a bracing system which helps me to achieve what I'm looking for, in addition to working well with the thickness of the timbers, especially the top.

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

The fact that a guitar is not comfortable to play depends mostly on the action and the fret board, and that's why I pay special attention to the height of the bridge, the thickness and width of the neck, nuts... In these processes, I like listening to guitarists' criteria, because there are always margins to adjust to personal preferences.

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

I worked for many years with synthetic varnishes, but in my current period I only use French polish. Though it's more delicate, it produces a much more natural sound and I like working with it very much. I think it gives me the sound I'm pursuing.

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?

Obviously, the scale is related to the tension of the strings. And if the design of the guitar is reduced, it also affects the sonority. I have made many guitars with different scales, including one with 530mm with a really good sound. I think it's possible to make good instruments with any scale. So it's nonsense to compare the sound with other guitars with longer scales... Though I have my preferences.

Q6. Many readers say they end up being very confused after trying many guitars. Could you give us some advice on how to examine the guitars' sound quality and playability at a shop or luthier, from the guitar-maker's point of view?

It's always difficult to choose a new guitar, and that's why you shouldn't underestimate the task. It's important to know that it will take us some time to adapt ourselves when we play a guitar which we're not used to. The principal thing is to find a harmony in all the nuances of the sound (balance, brightness, volume, basses, harmonics ...).

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

Anyone who buys a new instrument should have a guarantee of any necessary adjustment, such as action or other things . However, a guitar made by a skilled maker using a very precise process, should have very few problems.

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

It's necessary that woods are carefully regulated and we adapt ourselves to what nature offers to us. For that, we have to stop using certain types of materials. I see it as perfectly logical and the only sustainable solution. Personally, I think there are woods which are as good as Brazilian rosewood.

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

I think new guitarists with enormous musical qualities are connected with the evolution of this instrument, and are continually experimenting and adapting. As I said before, what nature provides us, combined with the traditional design, in search of new sounds.