The Guitar Foundation of America is proud to include Daniel Friederich, luthier of some of the world's finest guitars, in the 2012 Hall of Fame. Mr. Friederich contributes the following personal story of his life:
I was born on January 16, 1932 in Paris. I built my first classical guitar at the age of 23 because I was learning to play the guitar and my teacher, Christian Aubin, thought that I needed a better instrument. As I could not afford a good guitar, I decided to build one for myself. It was a very simple copy of a Simplicio guitar.
Aubin helped me in the process; he had already made a copy of his own Torres, and had spoken to Robert Bouchet about the construction method. I completed fifteen guitars before I showed one to Bouchet in 1960, the year I became a full-time luthier. I received his help and advice over the courseof several years. In 1967, I anonymously entered a competition in which the jury included both Fleta and Bouchet. I was awarded a silver medal for the sound of my guitar and a gold one for the craftsmanship.
My earlier guitars were relatively simple, easy to play, and the sound was quite explosive. Since about 1973, I have increased the weight so the guitars have more sustain, and a richer, sweeter sound, but they are still easy to play relative to those of some other makers. (On the whole, modern guitars seem more difficult to play than those made thirty to fifty years ago, although they do give more vigor, contrast, color, sustain, and have more timbral and dynamic possibilities).
Between 1960 and 1970, I built two main models: The 'Concert' model, with a serial number on the label. This was the most expensive and advanced, with carved head, specially designed machine-head, wood of the highest quality, and purfling. The 'Récital' and 'Arpège' models, less expensive with no serial number on the label, with more standard (or experimental) fan strutting and machine head, using wood of perhaps less impeccable provenance. The 'Arpège' model has no inlay work on the bridge, the purfling are less elaborate but the general design of these models is the same.
Since 1970, I have been making only 'Concert' guitars with a serial number and year of making on the label.
It takes me more than two hundred hours to build one guitar. To make a career as a luthier, one must be fired by a total and enduring passion for it. One needs to study the various aspects of acoustics and musical theory. Above all, one must educate the inner ear and develop an acute ability to listen, as each note of the guitar is a great chord with the superimposed harmonics forming each sound.
When a guitar is finished, my ear quickly tells me if the result is successful. The guitar works as a complete harmonic unit and all its elements must be combined, like in a painting.
I don’t want to build guitars that behave like a tin-drum -- where the body is very heavy while the table is so thin as to be akin to a drumhead. In these guitars, the body doesn’t resonate, only the top. They sound very big as a result, with very forward bass. Their sound is "explosive”, but it decays very quickly and it is ultimately predictable and, I find, boring. I want my guitars to have a voice of their own. That voice will not be for everyone, but it will work for at least some players.
There are no great secrets, but there are a hundred components and a hundred parameters to master, to respect and to control. Guitar making will still be an art for a long time, in spite of the progress in building techniques and years of laboratory experiments.
As a footnote, from 1991 to 2004, I headed the panel in the national contest to identify the best craftsman/woman in France every year ("Meilleur Ouvrier de France”) in the guitar making category. And I am still building guitars today, in the workshop I have been in for nearly 50 years!