Gary Southwell, England
I have been making classical guitars and other stringed instruments professionally for over twenty years. During this time I have had the pleasure of working with many wonderful musicians; Julian Bream, Pat O'Brien, Leif Christensen and his wife Maria Kammerling, James Kline, Jacob Lindburg, Nigel North, David Starobin, Sting, David Tanenbaum, Scott Tennant and John Williams, to name just a few of my clients of whom you will have heard. Such collaborations produce a fascinating exchange of ideas, which inform all the work I produce.

During the years 1980-83, I studied at the London College of Furniture. My teacher was the wonderful Herbert Schwarz. I sometimes find myself tapping out a tune on a fret as I knock it home, the same tune that Herbert played when he first showed me how to fret. He told me that tapping this tune was a very important part of the process! His humor, along with his warm, caring, practical approach was all part of Herbert's teaching style. The fact that many of the finest makers and repairers working around the world today have been taught by him, or inspired by his student's work, shows the extent of his influence. I believe he stands at the centre of the modern British guitar making scene, which would not be so vibrant today without his unique input, though he was too modest to say such a thing. I had additional tutoring from Tony Smith, and on historical guitars, from Stephen Barber, whose fine work with Sandi Harris can be seen at

In 1983 I set up my own workshop in Nottingham specializing in 19th century classical guitars, the only maker specializing in this field at that time. I have worked with many leading guitarists who perform 19th century music. I write, lecture, as well as consult for other makers interested in this period. I have researched, and continue to research and document many instruments from around the world. I have worked on many collections: Edinburgh University, the V&A in London, the Paris Conservatoire and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In 1991 I was given a grant by the British Council to study guitars in Russia. I spent many fascinating weeks in Moscow and St Petersburg studying collections and talking to makers there at a time when Russia, or the USSR, was not easily accessible to the rest of the world.

I returned to modern classical guitar making in 1992 with my own concert guitars at which time I started developing my A Series Guitar with concert and recording artist David Starobin. I have been working with Julian Bream on Hauser guitars since 1995. I have also been working closely with John Williams developing systems for amplifying nylon string guitars. Most of my work schedule is now taken up with making my A Series guitars; with occasional special commissions (guitars made to customer specifications), or work on historical guitars. In 2002 I became Southwell Guitars Ltd. It doesn't hurt, and I don't feel any different (apart from a slight twinge in my left leg).

A good stock of top quality timber is vital to any guitar maker. Here at Southwell Guitars I have from the start of my career in 1983 always been careful to build up a fine supply of timber. I have an excellent stock of European spruce, which was substantially added to a few years ago when Julian Bream gave me some 200 fantastic soundboards he had bought in the 1970s with the help of David Rubio. Julian had been keeping these tops in his garage all this time. So I now have a superb stock of mainly German spruce all of which is at least 20 years old. In addition to this I have a large selection of Brazilian and Indian rosewood, mahogany, maple, ebony and some native fruit woods and other exotic species. I use traditional hide glues on all my guitars, for the sound quality it produces, for it's proven longevity and for it's practical properties in aiding repair work if ever needed. My choice of varnish is an amber oil varnish that I make myself to an old recipe. Creating this varnish is a smelly and potentially explosive operation! But the end product has a superb warm luster and excellent sound and wear qualities. I also make my own French polish which I sometimes use.

Guitars by Hermann Hauser I (1882-1952) are highly sought after and prized today by many players and collectors. I have examined many of his instruments and have made copies of a wonderful example of his work from 1940 with the kind permission of Rose Augustine and with the help and guidance of Julian Bream. My Hauser Homage guitar has a spruce front, Indian rosewood back, sides and bridge, a mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard and hand made rosette and purflings. It has a 650mm string length. I have worked closely with Julian Bream on this Hauser design since 1995, experimenting and refining certain aspects of it over the years. We have been particularly interested in the tuning of the front, back and body chamber; examining their relationship to each other and how this relationship affects the tonal quality of the finished guitar. The result of our research is that I can now produce a sound in my Hauser I Homage guitar which is reminiscent of the original Hauser I instrument.

The distinctive Southwell A Series guitar brings classical or nylon string guitar design into the 21st century in a unique way. Unlike the vast majority of guitars, which are based on the Spanish method, my A Series guitar is inspired by the Viennese style. The "A" stands for "adjustable" since this guitar features an adjustable neck system based on the invention of Stauffer and refined by myself for this guitar. This systen offers many advantages for the player; the string height or action can be adjusted in seconds if need be. Also, you don't have to spend time and money having your saddle piece altered! Finally, I have added an arm rest to this instrument. As standard, the guitar has a spruce front with back and sides of Indian rosewood and a 20 fret range with a 645 mm string length. The neck is figured maple, v-jointed to a stylish ebony head. It has tuning machines specially designed and crafted for this guitar by David Rodgers. Attention to detail goes right through to the individual hand-made rosette and purfling decoration, all of which reflect and enhance the stylish character of this instrument.

Most recently I have incorporated a cutaway into my A Series guitar. I originally designed this feature at the request of David Starobin, who wanted the guitar's higher positions to be more accessible due to the greater demands many contemporary composers' compositions make on players. The challenge here was to produce a guitar with improved playability, without compromising its sound quality, and while still maintaining the instrument's stylish look. The result is a guitar which sounds even better, is very comfortable to play and has an attractive contemporary appearance which, I believe, speaks for itself. David was so impressed with this guitar, he now says he won't play anything else! Many other discerning guitarists are now discovering the pleasures of performing on this new version of my A Series guitar. The most recent great artist to start playing this guitar is Paul Simon, I can't wait to hear his next album!

As in the past, the reason to change the guitar's design has mostly had to do with the music and players of the time. Today, much contemporary music demands a greater use of the guitar's pitch range, strong dynamics, extended techniques, and complex harmonic structures. As a result a modern concert guitar must be capable of being pushed further in terms of power, balance and flexibility, all of which are possible with my A Series. This guitar's adjustable neck system is based on a tension screw and a pivot mechanism. The neck is most easily adjusted by turning the tension screw. If further adjustment is required, the pins on which the neck pivots can also be adjusted to fine tune the guitar's tuning compensation. You don't have to spend time and money having your saddle piece altered! Another advantage of this neck system is that since the soundboard does not contact the fingerboard, the top has a greater vibrating area. Also, due to the raised height of the fingerboard, to play in the higher positions above the 12th fret is much easier.

The internal construction of my A Model guitar is influenced by other makers who have worked in the Viennese style, such as Stauffer, Scherzer and Hauser. A carbon fibre sub-frame supports all the stress exerted on the top when using a floating adjustable neck. By relieving this stress, the soundboard can vibrate more freely, improving the efficiency response and sound quality of this instrument. Inside the guitar I use a curved strutting pattern. These curved struts allow me to locate them exactly where I want them. A bent or curved strut has more strength than a straight one, so using this method of bent struts allows me greater control over this guitar's tension and strength to weight ratio. The arm rest is another new detail on this guitar. No matter how you sit with a traditional guitar, you will, to some extent, contact the soundboard where your arm extends over the edge of the guitar. This contact has a damping effect on a part of the soundboard that is particularly delicate and crucial to the sound of the instrument. The arm rest not only eliminates this damping effect, it also helps make the player's arm more comfortable and relaxed.


Modern Guitars

Tom Kerstens: Standing Wave BGS110
(Southwell A Series guitar)

Geoffrey Morris: In Flagranti ABC Classics 465 701-2
(Southwell A Serie Cutaway guitar)

Geoffrey Morris (with ETCETERA): Brian Ferneyhough: Solo
Works KTC1206
(Southwell A Series Guitar)

David Starobin: Quest Bridge BCD 9069
(Southwell A Series guitar)

David Starobin: Newdance Bridge BCD 9084
(Southwell A Series guitar)

David Starobin: Poul Ruders: Concerti Bridge BCD 9122
(Southwell A Series Cutaway guitar)

The Danish Guitar Duo: The Danish Guitar Duo Point PCD 5107
Southwell Concert guitar)

The Danish Guitar Duo: Night Birds Point PCD 5120
(Southwell Concert guitar)

Maria Kammerling: Maderna, Halffler, Borup-Jørgensen Paula PCD 60
(10-string guitar)

James Kline: Music of the Lost Cathedral Chamber CHCD 107
(11-string arch guitar)

Per Dybro Sørensen: Jolivet/Davies Paula PCD 63
(Southwell Concert guitar)

Ten Strings Duo: XX Century Works Chamber CHCD 203
(Southwell Concert guitar)

Historical Guitars

Leif Christiansen & Maria Kammerling: Virtusoso Overtures Paula PACD 54
(Terz guitar)

Holger Marschall: Benediction
Art Music LC 5607
(Hauser style)

Nigel North (with Lisa Beznosiuk): Concord of Sweet Sounds
Amon Ra CD-SAR 33

Duo Rossiniane: Romantishce Gittarrenduos aus Paris
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi HM 971-2
(7-string Roudhloff)

David Starobin: Giuliani: Guitar Music
Bridge BCD 9029

David Starobin: The Great Regondi, volumes 1 & 2
Bridge BCDs 9039 and 9055
Gary Southwell