|Industry Leadership Award 2016 - Robert Ruck|
I, Robert Ruck, have been making guitars since 1966. It has been my full time occupation and profession since the age of 20. Having had an interest in woodworking since my youth and an interest in music, guitar making felt to me like the perfect occupation. As a child I was forced to take keyboard lessons and not being particularly interested in the keyboard, I did not progress well. At the age of 16 I chose to play classical and flamenco guitar.
In high school I studied as a machinist in a technical program and gained skills in accurate workmanship. Then going on to college I studied art history and basics in drawing and sculpture but did not complete a degree. I thought that a career as a guitarist was for me and enrolled in Milwaukee Conservatory of Music.
However, being musically challenged to be politically correct, it seemed to me that as a musician I would have to live a life of poverty. Later, while studying for a career as a classical guitarist, the desire to make guitars came to me. A fine woodworker and friend, Irishman John Shaw tutored me in the fundamentals of fine woodworking. So I began to make guitars, without having studied the art and craft of guitar making under a master. Over 49 years have passed and I have made in excess of 1075 guitars as well as other musical instruments. Other instruments that I have made are the Spanish lute, Dulcimer, Renaissance lute, Viola Da Gamba, Vihuela, Baroque guitar (small guitar tuned to G) Alt guitar, 10 string guitars, 8 strings, and 7 string guitars. I still continue to study the playing of classical and flamenco guitar.
I have worked out several standard models to meet the needs of most classical players. However, it is my interest and desire to produce fine classical guitars custom made for the player, taking into consideration their personal requests and needs. So I adjust my standard designs and models to accommodate the personal requests of my customers. Having worked with many patterns, bracing systems, woods and finishes I can draw from long past experience to produce an instrument that is tailored to a players needs. However, there is the obstacle of communication between player and maker. How does one describe the sound of a guitar or any other experience for that matter? In this case it is not simply expressing about a shared experience or otherwise. I must translate from words and create a specific sound.
I create a specific sound by clearly having and hearing in mind the sound that I want to build. From there I choose the woods for the guitar. Then working the wood and key design elements, the sound of the guitar is shaped. I have outlined as follows the key defining factors that determine the tonality, response, and the sound of an acoustic guitar.
They are as follows:
1. Body size
3. The bracing of the top and back
4. Graduation or thickness of top and back
5. Tension of the top and back
6. The varnish or finish that is applied to the top
7. The bridge, including its overall design and height of the saddle.
To the above key factors I must apply my senses, past experience and vision to shape and create the sound.