Lessons with a Master Luthier

It is not often that the opportunity to learn from such an experienced luthier comes about, so I was delighted to hear that world-renowned luthier Richard Howell was now offering private classes. I have known Richard for 25 years and have spent many an hour in his workshop discussing the ins and outs of guitar construction and the big questions in music generally relating to authenticity of sound, interpretation and the creative challenge.
What is striking about Richards method is his commitment to traditional methods and his ability to improve on them in order to meet the demands of the modern concert player. What is also important in a teacher is his ability to simply and clearly explain the intricacies of his work.

Richard has been making guitars for over 35 years and has made over 400 uniquely wonderful instruments. He has made guitars for such noted guitarists as Ricardo Iznaola, Eliot Fisk, Pepi Romero, Hubert Kappel, Norbert Kraft, Sarn Dyer, John Feeley, Earl Klugh and Tommy Emmanuel to name just a few. He has also exported guitars to many countries including South America, U.S.A, Canada, England, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, France, Italy, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Greece and The Netherlands. He was one of a handful of luthiers invited to exhibit an instrument at the centenary celebration organized to honour the life and work of Maestro Joaquin Rodrigo (1903-1999) in Spain 2003.

Richard teaches classical guitar construction, his classes are one-on-one and cater for both beginner and advanced students. In them he will share the insights upon which his success is based.

Students will learn how to thickness the top and back, how to pitch the woods, both the Spanish slipper heal and dove tails methods of construction, how to calculate the frets and string compensation, how to make and design a traditional rosette and how to finish and both French polish and lacquer an instrument. These are the techniques Richard will be teaching but I must emphasise that the real important learning will happen around the technical questions which, though essential for good guitar construction, are never the dominate consideration in the art of the luthier.

It is his understanding of sound and wood, or what Richard calls the Art of Listening, that in fact lies at the heart of his work. It is this subtler level which any aspiring luthier will be most fortunate to explore with Richard Howell.

Marcus Bussey
University of the Sunshine Coast

Richard's workshop is located on the Mornington Peninsula, about 60 minutes (50km) south of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Click here to contact Richard Howell.

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Attaching the heal block

Bending the sides

Guitar Construction

French Polishing