Interview with classical guitar luthiers: Peter Barton (UK)

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I’m delighted to have Peter Barton from Bradford, UK.

 

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

I made my first classical guitars in the early 1980's. Subsequently I studied the traditional methods of instrument making under the guidance of Roger Rose at West Dean in Sussex where i learned to make Viola de Gambas. I set up my own workshop making classical guitars in 1986 and have made over 250 instruments since then. I mostly make concert classical guitars but also, steel string guitars,tenor guitars, citterns, ukuleles and mandolins.

 

 

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

The main elements in making a good sounding guitar are:

  • The finest tone woods
  • Good design
  • High standard of craftsmanship

 

 

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

Good playability comes from:

  • Good well balanced sounding instrument
  • Correct set up for style and level of playing.

 

 

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?

There has always been a demand from some players for shorter scale instruments. 640 to 650 scale classical guitars are very similar in tone and feel with no loss of volume or projection at the shorter scale length. Below 640 scale length guitars will still work well but may have less projection, although I wouldn't recommend going below 630.

 

 

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?

I suggest the following criteria for trying out guitars:

  1. it feels comfortable to hold
  2. the neck feels comfortable for your left hand and it is easy to fret
  3. the sound is clear and well balanced even when played lightly but it also responds when you play harder into the strings
  4. you love the sound almost immediately
  5. you love the look of the guitar

 

 

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

Any commissioned instrument of mine is always sold on the basis of the customers complete satisfaction.

 

 

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

Brazilian rosewood has always been the most prized wood for making the best classical guitars and with good reason, it is not only beautiful but is also a very fine tonewood. Sadly it is no longer available for export from Brazil being on the CITES list of endangered species. This means only luthiers with existing stocks bought before 1992 are still able to supply guitars made of Brazilian rosewood. However there are plenty of alternatives and supplies are good for Indian rosewood and others which also make very good guitars.

 

 

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

I think the standard of guitar making is very high and there are many very talented makers across the world. Hopefully they will continue to make beautiful handcrafted instruments of exceptional tone as long as there is wood to make them out of!

The standard of factory made guitars has also improved and offer students good quality cheaper instruments although there is still some inconsistencies in set up and tone. It is often necessary to try out a number of instruments of the same model to find the best one.

 

   

    

 

 

Website: Peter Barton ~ luthier

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