Visit to guitar making school at Newark College

The students guitars lined up and ready to be plucked!

Last week I visited the guitar making school at Newark College.  It was graduation day and my role was to play as many of their finished instruments as possible, give them feedback from a performers point of view and then select what I considered the best instruments to perform on in the evening.

Talking to the student makers.

I think this must have been my fourth or fifth visit to the College over the past eight or so years and it is always a very enjoyable and interesting experience.  As players we very much focus on the sound they produce and how they feel to play but seldom do we really take stock of the sweat, pain, frustration and amazing amount of hours that go into producing a really first rate guitar.  Going up to the college every now and again gives me a glimpse of these very factors and certainly makes me much more appreciative of what an amazing amount of skill goes into each and every instrument that we play.  

A Torres copy made by Pablo Sanchez Otero

Most of the 28 current students come with some woodworking experience and have a special interest in the guitar (some play pretty well as well!).  They come from all over Europe to study at Newark, currently from the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Iceland.  The course lasts for two years and their first guitar is very much led by templates and expert guidance given to them by tutors James Lister, Adrian Lucas and Mal Brady. In their second year they are given much more freedom to experiment by themselves.  Some students choose to take this to quite an extreme level whilst some devote more time in consolidating what they learnt in their first year.  In my experience of playing all these guitars over the years the students who just develop their skills further whilst still staying within the guidelines of their first guitar are far more successful in achieving a really lovely second instrument.  Nonetheless occasionally a guitar that has looked quite strange and pretty rough around the edges produces a lovely tone but this is quite rare.    

From left to right, guitars made by; Ferdinand Boucherat, Jordan Wencek, Pablo Sanchez Otero, Laura Fallarino & Merlin Grote.

Here are the five guitars that I eventually chose to perform on.  Obviously I had only played each instrument for a matter of 10 minutes each before deciding but you get a gut instinct as soon as the first note has sounded.  These five certainly jumped out at me and although there were certain problems with a few notes here and there were really very commendable instruments.  I would like to make special mention to both the prize winners Pablo and Merlin who show great promise for the future. A big congratulations to all the graduates in the guitar making school and many thanks for making me feel so welcome once again.

2 thoughts on “Visit to guitar making school at Newark College

  1. Hi Mark,

    Just a comment on the pictures. I met Pablo Sanchez Otero in Sigüenza in Spain a couple of weeks ago during the guitar making course of José Romanillos, and played his Torres copy pictured here. I liked it so much that I bought it from him. But on the picture of you playing his guitar on this web-page, it is clear that it is not Pablo’s guitar you are holding, but the one made by Jordan Wencek. On the picture of all five guitars, it’s the one on the left from Pablo’s. Just thought you’d like to know.
    I’m meeting up with Pablo again in October to try the guitar he started at the Romanillos course. He is a supreme talent and I think he has a great future if he continues as he has started.

    Cheers,
    Svein Enart

  2. Hi Svein,
    Thanks for letting me know. Yes his guitar was really very nice. Hope you enjoy the instrument.
    All the best
    Mark

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