You are on page 1of 4

COLUMN Guitars with Guts


By R.E. Brun

ecently retired, many consider Daniel made a guitar patterned after an Antonio
Friederich (b. January 16, 1932) to be de Torres he owned.Inspired by Aubin,
the greatest living contemporary guitar Friederich made his first guitar in 1955. In
maker.From a line of cabinet makers on both the 50s, the Parisian guitar maker Robert
sides of his family, he grew up in the Faubourg Bouchet was enjoying worldwide acclaim and
Saint-Antoine district of Paris, where all of the making inroads to the Spanish guitar market
citys cabinet making shops were located.Ap- as a pioneer non-Spanish maker.
prenticing at age 13, he completed a rigorous In 59, Friederich showed his 15th guitar to
four-year course where he ranked 11th out of Bouchet, asking his advice.Bouchets profes-
400 students, studying not only the technical sion was artist and professor of graphic arts,
aspects of woodworking, but art history, drafting, and he was making guitars as a quasi-hobby,
and related subjects required to be certified as a being very selective about who he would
master cabinet maker in those days. build for.He developed a friendship with
In 1948, Friederich bought his first guitar and Friederich, who would often assist the older
was studying with Christian Aubin, one of Bouchet with more-energetic operations such
the leading figures in the Paris scene.Aubin as planing wood.Bouchet was never formally
was not only a player and teacher, but had trained in woodworking, so he benefitted
Full Friederich: Felix Salazar.

VINTAGE GUITAR 64 September 2016

Fan braces

immensely from Friederichs expertise, Alirio Diaz.Friederich was awarded the gold (ABOVE) Friederich in his shop; many of
while Friederich benefitted from Bouchets medal for craftsmanship and the silver medal the hand tools were made by him.
unorthodox approach to guitar making. for sound. Friederich was introduced to Fleta,
Much to his fathers disapproval, Frie- and later supplied the Fleta family with woods luthier Masaru Kohno took the gold medal for
derich opened his f irst sound in this competition,
shop at rue Ramponneau having earlier studied under
No. 21.As business grew Spanish maker Arcangel
and his skill improved, Fernandez.In Japan, this
though, his fathers attitude honor was parlayed by the
changed.Young Friederich astute Kohno into a multi-
made three models the Ar- million dollar empire that
pege, Recital, and Concert includes guitar making,
along with a few Flamenco publishing, and concert
models.Only the Concerts promotion.
were numbered starting From 1970 onward, Frie-
with 100.However, early on, derich made only numbered
he assigned lower numbers Concert models, which are
to some, and himself admits distinguished by carved
that his numbering system heads t hat beca me his
was at first arbitrary and signature design.That year
capricious. he also began laminating
In 1966, he moved to rue the sides, usua lly w ith
Sergent Bauchat, where he mahogany or light-colored
remained until his recent rosewood on the inside, later
retirement; this shop is also Sapele (African mahoga-
located in the Faubourg Dated label ny), which is very similar to
Saint-Antoine cabinet mak- genuine mahogany.In 74,
ers district of Paris.1967 he began using cedar for the
was a banner year for Friederich, as he entered and varnish-making supplies which were hard tops, beginning with guitar No. 378 made for
a guitar-making competition in Liege, Bel- to come by in those days in Spain, but read- the South American virtuoso Turibio Santos.
gium, judged by luthiers Robert Bouchet and ily available in Paris.This type of collegial Friederichs list of clients reads like a whos
Ignacio Fleta along with the blind Spanish assistance is very common in the lutherie who of the classical guitar world, and every
composer Joaquin Rodrigo (Concerto de world, and is one of the things that makes our instrument has been documented in his note-
Aranjuez) and virtuoso Venezuelan player world so delightful.Coincidently, Japanese books with detailed notes on construction

September 2016 65 VINTAGE GUITAR

COLUMN Guitars with Guts

(LEFT) The notebook page for instrument No. 776 with detailed technical and and Arpege models, with Friederichs personal commentary. (BELOW) Friederich
musical annotations.Friederich has recorded most of his guitars in this notebook. sitting in the corner of his shop in the exact spot he tests every guitar in order to
(RIGHT) Two pages from his early catalog listing the specifications of his Recital control the acoustic variables when assessing the tonal characteristics.

and tonal characteristics.He always his instrument became heavier and

tries out instruments sitting in the same more robustly constructed compared
spot in his tiny shop, an area where he to his earlier guitars, which is more
is intimately familiar the acoustics and closely based on the traditional Spanish
can assess each creation. models of the early 20th century.The
sound of the Friederich instrument
RATIONAL APPROACH has evolved considerably along with
Friederich is a very analytical, ratio- his designs, confirming that sound is
nal maker who carefully and honestly primarily a manifestation of design.
assesses each instrument.Beginning
in the early 60s, he was introduced THE INSTRUMENT
to the Acoustics Laboratory at Paris Our example this month was made
IV University, where he conducted in 1967, the same year Friederich won
extensive testing over time with the the medals in Belgium.Like the earlier
motive of improving the guitar using Recital models, this one is very Spanish
more-scientific principles rather than in concept and sound, having seven
instinct and luck the method since beautifully sculpted fan struts and two
time immemorial. closing V fans by the tail a simple and
Consequently, Friederich conducts traditional Torres-based design. The
careful tests and measurements of spruce top and Indian rosewood sides
the woods used in each instrument and back are worked to delicate thin-
to determine their long grain and ness, and the top and sides are joined
cross grain stiffness, correlating this with individual triangular glue blocks,
information with recorded impres- with the cross struts only slightly scal-
sions of each instrument so he was loped on the ends, which are supported
able to gradually refine and improve by longer, sturdy pillars.Some earlier
his instruments.As he continued, Friederich instruments were made

VINTAGE GUITAR 66 September 2016

COLUMN Guitars with Guts
with Brazilian rosewood,
later models were usually
Indian rosewood.
Externally, the rosette
and inlays are perfectly
executed and the light
original French polish is
thin, transparent, and well-
preserved, with minimal
fading of the pumice fill.
The rosette is slightly sim-
plified from the Concert
model, with outer borders
of tiny checkers of black
and white rather than
the fiendishly difficult
wheat arrows which are
a Friederich Concert model
The neck is made of
Spa nish ceda r w it h a
grafted head and stacked
heel, and the machines are
basic German engraved
and anodized black with
imitation mother-of-pearl
buttons. Its an instrument
intended, as the name sug-
gests, for the player who
requires maximum sound
for the minimum outlay (TOP LEFT CLICKWISE) Personal letter from Friederich
of cash. to the author describing his model history.His letters
Like most early Frie- in English were written by his French-Canadian
derich guitars, this has wife, who was fluent in English which Friederich did
a voice most accurately not speak.His Spanish however, is excellent.
described as Spanish, 1969 Letter from Julian Bream to Friederich. Bream
with an immediacy and apparently never owned a Friederich, however.
quickness that is almost 1964 letter from Sophocles Papas, inquiring to represent
flamenco in character Friederichs instruments in the U.S., with an additional
very colorful, with round, handwritten note (in French) by Alexandre Lagoya
throaty basses and a fo- and Ida Presti, a famous classical-guitar duet.
cused treble that is almost
operatic. His later instruments have a amples of the finest lutherie of our
more-piano-like character noted for their time.
uniformity and calm clarity.These earlier
instruments are much like the girl you dated Special thanks to Daniel Friederich for
who your mom never approved of. sharing his personal files, and also to Dr.
David Levin and Ray Mueller.
CONCLUSION Richard Brun began making guitars in
Now 84 years old, Daniel has retired.When 1966 and is a former professional flamenco
I visited Paris many years ago, I sensed he guitarist.He has published many articles and
was weary of the business of making guitars contributed to many books, the most recent
for a living, but still animated about the being the second edition of the Sheldon Urlik
process.Personal difficulties and the vaga- book, A Collection of Fine Spanish Guitars From
ries of dealing with talented (but destitute) Torres to the Present. His clients have included
musicians takes a toll on luthiers, and Daniel Andrs Segovia, Julian Bream, Sabicas,
admirably maintained his honor and facili- Juan Serrano, Earl Klugh, the Romeros, and
ties throughout his career.His instruments, many other artists. You can write him at
which are highly sought today are veritable 800 Greenwood Street, Evanston IL 60201
gems of the lutherie world, remarkable ex- or visit

VINTAGE GUITAR 68 September 2016