Impressive to see that the fountain of guitar makers that emanates from the city of Granada has not dried up. Year after year young people continues to emerge who dedicate all their time and energy to learning this fascinating job with such a long tradition in the city.
An example of this is Juan Fregenal, at only 27 years of age and currently, one of the youngest guitar maker in the city is already showing the talent necessary to build this kind of quality classical guitar.
It is interesting to see in this interview the passion that radiates in such young guitar makers as Juan for his work and his discovery of this profession and all that it entails. To see the first steps in the professional life of a guitar maker.
In this interview, Juan explains his current way of seeing the instrument and the approach he is taking in his first years as a guitar maker. His concerns, his admiration for historical guitar makers and for tradition. How he has managed to learn to make classical guitars. The influence of the internet today and the opportunities it offers for young people to see the work of others and be inspired.
At the same time it is also impressive to see the quality he has already achieved in his guitars even though he has many years ahead of him to perfect and refine his work. His guitars already have a style, a good balance between bass and treble, and a very good volume. It is also noticeable that Juan was already a guitarist before making guitars. This has undoubtedly helped him a lot to make an instrument that is very comfortable to play.
It is a pleasure to see people like Juan Fregenal who, with humility, the intense daily dedication of many hours in his own workshop, and a very receptive mind to capture the best in guitar making, is already making his way in this exciting classical guitar-making world.
Please contact us if you are interested in a guitar made by him at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am Juan Fregenal I am a young guitar maker of 27 years old\ who has been already for three years dealing with the issue\ of trying to find a sound in the guitar world I started playing music, electric guitar, jazz, blues\ and getting up to jam sessions always playing\ with more musicians, but always the instrument subject and how it responded to me was an\ unknown question because testing good guitars\ was always complicated They were not easy to find. And hence a bit of a quest\ Also to try to find myself personally looking for a sound that I like or that is characteristic, but that also\ realising that it’s a lifelong pursuit,\a full working job. From being a musician\ to being a luthier there’s such a long way. They really are two worlds\ so connected, but at the same time so different\ that one is always in need of good musicians to build your work as a luthier and as a craftsman need to work with them continuously The working approach is always mainly artisanal. The top I prefer to keep doing\it all the time to brush them by hand\because in that way you understand the character of the wood and its nature. The truth is that if one works always with the machines, one does not acquire that personal characteristic of the wood. You have to feel it with your hands and touch it with your hands to go deeper with it in a way, the machines give precision, speed, they are efficient, but the hand gives it\ the character it is of that what we’ve been talking about how to get sound character in guitars. But the approach is traditional Spanish. I started building with\ a different Italian method it’s called Milano tail\ like with the making of violins. called like that because of the shape\ of the Milano bird’s tail is similar it is a frictional joint that fits well.\ And really with no glue the guitar could withstand the 34-30 something kilograms of tension\ to which it is subjected, but the Torres method I started to like more because his way of working is to start with a continuous axis that never you can actually lose\ Not connect two axles in one If you start with one continuous axle you start with the top and the neck it is more concise. The fact that is not going\ to be variations in the axle, the fretboard,\and the construction itself. Granada is one of the roots in a certain way of\ the classical guitar instrument in Spain and in the world,\ because Cremona was for the violin with Amati, Guarnieri, Stradivarius… Granada has represented\ a lot in what is the guitar… the classical guitar all over the world,\ you could say that there are\ so many makers in Granada that it’s hard for it not to be so magical. the instrument here And therefore the competition\ between us we force each other\ by the work of others to look for an improvement\ that we really always are for the improvement, \ because as we all want to get better,\ we finally managed to create better product with\ our own competition. I don’t know, I don’t think there’s a magical secret\ when it comes to making a guitar to hide aspects that make your guitar works.\ It’s more the person’s work what’s in there,\ it’s not a secret or magic. It’s just trying\ to do the best you can for many years and you find yourself a work path at the end. If anything is referential\ in my search for sound with respect to this model\ and this guitar. it is to obtain a\ moderate-high sustain that the guitar\Nsustains well on the notes with enough fundamental overtones if it can be that\Nthe root of the chord it has presence.\ But I’m also still trying to look for something\ characteristic in my guitar that has different kind of sounds, a large palette of colour tones, not only one ultramarine\ or cobalt blue, but to open a large palette\Nso that the instrument does not cause a restriction\ for the musician freedom, that he feels free, free as he will be his creation \Nas long as he will not try to condition it \ to only one way, that it is more the musician\ with his instrument rather than the musician\ adapting to the instrument. Lately I’ve been using the ebony because I have another\ guitar project there that I’m going to start making in ebony too. But here talking with Alberto and the benefits that has the\ Rosewood that it really is a wood that you can get with some exceptional radial cuts,\ with magnificent medullary rays, and shades from violet to brown Rosewood is a quintessential wood, The way you work with. The pleasure of using it as it is appreciated by musicians\It is an exceptional wood Also maple I like it, though it has more presence\Nin the Italian building tradition than in the Spanish one, because\Nthey don’t grow up here. Those trees are more in the area of the Italian Piamonte around there, and the good spruce tops many come from Piamonte too. Actually that I’ve ended up\making guitars, my passion for this comes\Nto be able to also inspire more musicians \Nto always have something that does justice\Nto what art represents for them In the end it’s simple,\Nthat’s all there it’s a unity with the musician To be able to create and\Ncontinue to contribute to this wonderful art world. The purpose is simple, it is to contribute the better you can to it. I enjoy making the guitar. If there’s one thing I enjoy,\it’s when someone else is being inspired by it, that someone is spending her\joys and sorrows with this guitar. that’s what makes sense. Without that it would be emptier Art for me… I would die for art. I did a deal with life\as also many already did… I accept it. It’s simple,\I’ve already signed it there’s no turning back. One of the points that made me\discover the value that tools have in this world was to look into Japan, because in Japan, the tool culture has been\very deeply rooted for a long time. many years since the Middle Ages\and the Edo time They have continued\Nto maintain that the tool has the value of\the person who made it and is passed down from\generation to generation. For example, this brush in Japan they stamp it with\Ntheir kanji and with the name of the artisan who\forged it in his days and he is proud to put it there and moving from one family to another, the name of his generation, And in the West it’s something that we hadn’t taken it\to that extreme in the west we are masters\Nof making products that work well at\Na more normal cost. And more functional. But Japan still maintains the use of the same tools as used 500-400 years ago and\they are still signing them by the people who\are still making them. And I really believe\Nthat in the world you can’t obtain tools with so much dedication as great as they get to it. It is unbelievable that tools last for a lifetime really\Nand for a lifetime they’re working like the first day, they require maintenance,\Nthey are complex tools even if apparently they are simple\Nand they’re just a piece of wood with a blade,\Nno more, no less. But you need to understand them in winter and summer\Nthere are changes of humidity, the wood state fluctuates… that is why these tools\Nare more complicated than the normal\Nwestern ones that we have Heavier brushes, but they have the versatility of\Nbeing easier to adjust, easier to sharpen, easier to understand, but in the finishing\Nthey don’t get that level Working with your hands,\Nyou can always be more introspective with\Nwhat you have in your hands. and the wood that\Nyou’re working with. It speaks to you in a way. If its nature is more … It costs you less effort \to work with the wood or it is a wood more resistive which has more knots, has more interlacing in the grain… or is not so…what luthiers are looking for cuts that are more stable for the humidity has\Nlittle effect on the guitar. The temperature has a relatively\Nsmall effect on the guitar. If a musician is one day in Madrid and has to go down to play on the beach, the guitar doesn’t fluctuate so much with humidity. It’s going to do it, obviously Wood is hygroscopic and it tends to absorb humidity very easily the sound in a guitar changes that’s a fact Our ability is also to understand how those factors come into play within it. To avoid cracks and to avoid very abrupt changes in sound. It’s a road that thanks to the musicians\Nwe are building. the nature of the grain\Nof the grain itself. The most beautiful part is\Nthe part that you see from the face. It’s called the face grain But when you take the\Ngrain in this way it’s called “testa”\in Spanish or end-grain it’s more muddy the finishing,\it’s not so clear than this face grain that\Nallows to show the medullary rays and the grain itself of the wood. That’s why this rosette. I tried to highlight the whites due to the way \in the cut of the wood If I put it visually upwards and not like that, and lot of guitars with mosaics with small veneers.\NThose are very nice, the motif is beautiful, but always the end grain is going to be darker. It’s not going to do justice\Nto the beauty of the grain But it is easier to work with (end grain) That’s why, as long\Nas you want to to get brighter whites\Nand vivid colours in the wood you have to use the cut that is more difficult to work with\Nand more fragile (face grain) Hence many guitars are looking for\Nanother way to make it. Another approach really,\Nbut trying to always work with the face grain it gives the most beautiful result this one can be beautiful\Nyou can see the wood rings, But, The grain is always on the upper side. it’s an extra effort to take out the oriented veneers… but get this face and not this one that\Nwouldn’t give that tone The cut of the wood is fundamental when looking at this beauty. Something I learned\Nfrom Víctor Quintanilla also talking about the medullary rays, once I asked him,\Nwhen I didn’t have much experience That I thought that\Nthe meduallry rays was like a feature per se of the wood… and when he said the cut, the cut…\NI didn’t understand, but of course,\Non the same piece of wood… may or may not have meduallary rays\Ndepends on what you choose the right grain to show it. Then always the cut of the wood has a big influence on\Nhow it’s going to look It’s a direct variable, it’s fundamental. From the same cut you can always\N take out better pieces, one big piece of wood \Ncan be arranged to get the best cuts from it. then you get the desired result\Nwhen you see a brighter tone for example in the maple. Not with the ebony\Nthat is a dark wood it’s not going to vary that much,\Nbut white woods yes are the ones that you have to pay\Nmore attention to when cutting. The woods … the first thing is\Nto feel it in your hand… and visually that\Nit gives you a good feeling. But if anything\NI think it determines a wood is the cut How in the sawmill\Nor how they treated the big log from which they took the guitar backs we are going to use Because there are a lot of\Nluthiers that buy large maple planks and they make \Nthe thickening to them at their workshop, so that’s why, to prevent\Nthe cut is not as good as you want it to be. If you buy the board\Nand cut it yourself. it’s always going to be\Naccording to your criteria of how you choose\Nthe grain direction It’s more of a priority for me the quality of the cut beyond\Nthe draw or the wood grain It is important how stable it’s going to be if it has a good cut,\Nthe guitar will be more stable. the thicknesser is an essential tool really for all of us\Nwho are luthiers to the fact that it allows us\Nfor very hard timbers such as exotic ebony that have a grain\Nthat is always very interlocked that makes curves like that\Nsometimes comes in one direction Sometimes it goes in another direction.. when you try to brush them off\Nit’s a lot of effort But at the end the tops it’s always two woods,\Ncedar or spruce, and it seems to me that if I do it with the machine it would lose a little bit of the feeling The most characteristic sound of a guitar that’s on the top. That’s why I continue working brushing the top off with hands\Nso I don’t lose that fundamental characteristic of wood. All tops, I do it myself trying like many luthiers searching with the muscle memory\Nof my fingertips with the index fingers\Ntry to understand the Young’s modulus\Nthan in physics levels, it’s all about the\Ndeformation of the material, if it’s homogeneous\Nand if it’s not homogeneous, if it deforms well\Nthroughout its structure, You can just lick it\Nwith your fingers. what luthiers trying to do is\Nlook at the flexibility, the twisting and determine the properties\Nof that wood. Because in their database,\Nthey know what flexibility can bring one sound characteristic or another. Well, I really thanks many of the luthiers That I have indeed met through the “window” of what is\Nthe world of the internet whom have been very participative\Nwith sharing their work, with not feeling that there’s\Na blanket covering their work and it’s a secret of secrecy,\Nso to speak, there are people who are\Nvery willing to disclose how they have conceived\Nthe sound on the guitar, their work… and I think\Nwe, the luthiers,… we look a little bit at everybody to get create\Nour own method, but obviously based\Nin many opinions of many luthiers, of many ways of working. Because just like music,\Nif you compose a work you’ve been inspired by many artists, also throughout your life,\Nto compose that work has not come somehow\Nout of the air. but with a job of\Ninvestigating more musicians. And realising that the “cult” of the vast majority of people who work well,\Nwith the tools, is exceptional,\NTalking about your tool is like talking about\Nyour work in a way. There’s always a union\Nwith the respect that you have with it, how you care for it, the coat of oil you always put on it\Nbefore you put it away. How …. It’s your way of making a living therefore, the respect\Nthat you have to have. And the Japanese\Nhave a very good proverb that the tool neither you lend it nor leave it,\NIt must given away as a gift because if you lend your tool to someone who doesn’t value it, it’s disrespectful first to\Nthe craftsman who made it. and also to you that you don’t value what it cost you to sharpen it what it took you\Nto get it up to the point where you say it works. This tool works. That’s unmistakable\Nin all good luthiers. If there’s one thing\NI’ve learned from them, it’s that all have\Na “cult” for their tools and for how sharp the tools are. Because without a sharp tool you can’t build anything. Absolutely nothing. There is no control\Nof what is being done. or how much wood\Nis being removed… when the tools are sharp you can remove\Nas much wood as you want at the time of your choice and with a exceptional control\NFor example, I saw a luthier Luciano Lovadina that he glued the bridge and then the bridge sides he made them with the bridge\Nalready glued on the top, ie, so much skill\Nwith the chisel really, cause any slip of the chisel\Ncan go and strongly damage the top. So he understands that he can do that task in that way because of how sharp his chisel is,\Nhow he understands it, for what it means to him as well. Something incredible like one person with his tool is a person himself not two things separately. There was a guitar maker that\NI consider that I like very much, how he started to see the guitar as well It’s Hermann Hauser,\Nbut I reckon that after watching his guitars, pictures, way of constructions…\Ndigging into how he did it, I consider that he went quite deep into the sound of the guitar. The quality of the instrument itself the finishing is exceptional. The way it’s been worked,\Nthe selections of the wood cuts it seems to me… Actually is a guitar not big at all Hauser didn’t have a very wide template it’s unbelievable how he got that sound also with his way of looking at it I get so interested in the way he worked… sometimes the harmonic bar, the fact of releasing\Nthe two bar sides so that the struts go through it he gets less stiffness in this area and therefore, we get\Nthe top vibrate easier because well, the less stiff is the top the more sensitive is to vibration,\Nthat’s a physic fact well, a I saw i t in\Na lecture by an engineer with guitar maker John Ray\Ntalking about how the struts stiffness\Ntake part in the result how that contributes to the fact\Nthat when you hit the top and then you look at the \Nspectrum of data info is varying from one side to the other. If I summarize a little bit what I consider that is my work on the guitar is something simple. I’m trying to look for\Nget very close to the essence the essence of things,\Nto the simplicity of things when it is discovered or it’s made up,\N(the two are always linked). Things that are simple are like an invention and\Na discovery at the same time. But not to move away from what once worked. the guitar instrument is both simple and\Nhighly complex at the same time But my interpretations\Nwant to take it to something more to\Nthe essence on that level to keep it simple …not so modern building. Respectful with tradition… I still want to try\Nto adapt tradition on my instruments tradition for me\Nis something exceptional, already working for many years,\Na sound already developed But if anything I want\Nto characterize myself it’s simplicity.\NIn terms of aesthetics as well. I don’t like the aesthetics very overloaded. “Less is more” well, it is\Na very redundant expression, but I don’t consider that I want to make the guitar very modern. Double tops…\Nnothing fancy on that level. I admire a lot at the sound\Nof the traditional guitar All the music repertoire by Villalobos, Agustín Barrios… the guitar has adapted to a repertoire. I understand that musicians evolve, and the guitar will evolve with them but I would like to keep the essence of something that is already\Nin Granada a long time or at least keep looking for it, because I consider that my work is really just beginning.