Richard Morgan is a maker (luthier) from Australia and a member of theMandolinTuner community. From the moment that Richard joined theMandolinTuner we started exchanging e-mails and I was very happy to read about his work, especially as Richard mandolins (and mandolas, mandocellos, etc.) are truly innovative, featuring a unique sound-board design and lots of other innovations as well.

Soon, I start thinking of Richard as a friend of mine and I shared with him my vision of creating a section for luthiers within theMandolinTuner, something I believe would be very interesting for theMandolinTuner community. I am happy to say that Richard liked my idea and what you read now is the first article in a series of articles we have planned as the first step towards realising this vision. I named  this article series “A Luthier Journey”.

So, enjoy Richard describing his journey as an instrument maker.

– Chris Rizos 

Introduction

All makers or luthiers have a love of the instruments that they build. Although each maker has a unique journey and therefore a unique style of instrument there seems to be a common thread for the need of deep understanding.
Being a maker and member of the Mandolintuner Chris has asked me to share my beliefs and experiences on design and materials. I am more than happy to do this and I hope it will be of some use.

1. The Patient Dies

The road I travelled to become a maker of instruments in the mandolin family started nearly 50 years back when my sister kindly gave me her classical guitar. I played the same few things over and over and probably drove anyone within earshot completely mad.

Strange as it may sound 20 years later it turns out that my ability to play the same few things is useful support to singers and melody players. After playing rhythm guitar in a Celtic group for about 10 years I finally became bored. In an attempt to resolve this problem I tried to learn melody. I discovered I was too slow and if I could keep up the pace I was not adding to the music. Fortunately there was one remaining avenue and that is counter melody.

Counter melody for me meant learning the major and minor scales in the main keys which turned out to be mainly D G A C F and Bb. Of course there are many other modes apart from minor and major. I find counter melody lots of fun and it can nearly always adds ” colour ” to music.

The problem with playing melody or counter melody on an acoustic guitar like a dreadnaught is that it is too quiet and can only work effectively with a small number of players before being drowned out. I can remember one occasion not being able to hear my own instrument when attempting to join in with a group of piano accordionists. To get more acoustic power was the initial motivating force behind my decision to build my own instrument. Since my skills lay in the area of fibre glass and carbon fibre my first instrument was a composite of glass carbon fibre and timber. It was constructed by simply taking measurements from an existing instrument.

The resultant instrument was no where nearly as good as I believed it to be at the time. I played it with friends for a couple of months and then brimming with confidence took it to a very successful maker for appraisal. I can clearly remember that meeting 20 years back as if were yesterday.

After looking over and listening to my instrument carefully for a minute or so Brian looked at me squarely and uttered one word. . .” Why “. . . .” Why are you building instruments?” My response was that is was something that I had to do. He went on. . . “This instrument is like a doctor who has performed a brilliant operation but the patient dies.” He then asked if I knew the meaning of intonation which he then kindly described in detail for me. He also pointed out the need for accuracy in a number of other areas. When looking at some of his finished instruments the attention to detail was astonishing. It was a truly eye opening experience. Probably the most useful thing he told me was that less than one in 20 makers are successful at it becoming their full time source of income. Initially this one piece of information bothered me but it ultimately was the catalyst that gave me the freedom to chose my own path of discovery in the art and science of luthiery.

Hopefully the following articles will shed some light on some of the successes, failures and odd synchronicities I have experienced over the last 20 years.

Regards Richard Morgan

 

About the Luthiers Journey article series

Richard Morgan is a maker (luthier) from Australia and a member of theMandolinTuner community. From the moment that Richard joined theMandolinTuner we started exchanging e-mails and I was very happy to read about his work, especially as Richard mandolins (and mandolas, mandocellos, etc.) are truly innovative, featuring a unique sound-board design and lots of other innovations as well.

Soon, I start thinking of Richard as a friend of mine and I shared with him my vision of creating a section for luthiers within theMandolinTuner, something I believe would be very interesting for theMandolinTuner community. I am happy to say that Richard liked my idea and what you read now is a series of articles we have planned as the first step towards realizing this vision. I named  this article series “A Luthiers Journey”.

So, enjoy Richard describing his journey as an instrument maker.

– Chris Rizos 

 

Instruments by Richard Morgan

Instruments by Richard Morgan are featured at www.extraordinaryinstruments.com

Mandolinist Christos Rizos Extraordinary Instruments