Interview with Jonas Anatol Schneele (August 2018)
Dear Jonas, welcome to Neuguitars, please tell us: how did you first get the idea of becoming a professional luthier?
In my teenage years I started an education as a carpenter and was pretty sure to have found the right vocation for myself. Unfortunately, most of the furniture was made from chipboard. This fact did not have very much in common with my personal idea of carpenting and thus I more and more enjoyed my weekly guitar lessons for classical guitar and jamming with my rockband. When I was sitting in front of my teacher´s brand-new concert guitar, I asked myself for the first time how such noble guitars were built – the beauty of curved surfaces, perfectly polished and constructed in a highly precise way…and this wonderful sound! Since that day, the idea of building guitars has become very strong in me. I immediately researched for apprenticeship training positions in Germany and found a school near my home town, the Staatliche Musikinstrumentenbauschule Mittenwald. I really wanted to go there! After my carpenter education I directly registered for the qualifying examination at this school, which I passed. This is where my career as a luthier started.
Where did you acquire your skills in guitar building?
After three years of education as a luthier in Mittenwald, I worked at the specialized guitar shop “dieGitarre.ch” for five years in Switzerland. I was in charge of the workshop and took care of the repair work. There, I also got to know renowned guitarists and luthiers. The cooperation with guitarist Michael Winkler of Eos Guitar was highly important for the development of my own guitars. Due to his knowledge and professionality I recognized the strengths and weaknesses of my first instruments and found new ways to improve them constantly. Later, I decided to return to Germany in order to study musical instrument building at Markneukirchen and to do my master´s degree in guitar building. I learned a lot during this time. Especially helpful was the intense communication with my fellow students and professors about the acoustic design of plucked instruments.
Did you also studied with a particular luthier?
For some time I could study with Franz Butscher and work on his instruments. His workshop was located in the Andalusian mountains where I got to know traditional methods of Spanish guitar building.
My second and longer period of cooperation was with Ermanno Chiavi at his workshop in Zurich, in the context of an internship during my studies. It was a great time for both of us! I learned from him a more efficient approach towards the whole building process due to innovative methods and gained a lot of knowledge on the restauration of plucked instruments.
When did you release your first guitar? And when did you start your own production?
I sold my first guitars already during my studies. Most of them were purchased by guitar teachers and students from Switzerland. My production on a larger scale started 3 years ago, from the moment I had my own workshop.
What are the features of your guitars? What kind of wood do you prefer?
The shape of my guitars is different from others. Ten years ago I designed my first individual outer line and kept on developing it over the years. The golden ratio plays a very important role in this context. Concerning their alignment and proportions, components of the inside space are arranged in a harmonious way in the corpus in order to create a balanced sound pattern.
I utilize the Spanish style of guitar building and combine it with modern elements and materials because I find the usage of traditional knowledge combined with innovative methods important. In this way, the art of guitar building is constantly developing.
For my guitars, I use carbon and build them with arched surfaces. I design their construction in such a way that most of the energy is emitted through the top. Thus, my guitars are destined for concert halls. It is easy for guitarists to play such a guitar and to produce an ideal volume.
For the top, I use spruce from the Alps and Western red cedar, for the bottom and the ribs mostly East-Indian rosewood and for the fretboard hard African ebony. But I also like to use local types of wood as in the model “Local” which is made from spruce, maple, plumtree and walnut. The current situation in our tropical forests is known to all of us, so it is time to use local types of wood and to protect our last primeval forests.
How many guitars do you release every year?
Apart from repair and restauration work I build about seven to ten guitars a year.
Do you only build classical guitars or are you also interested fabricating other types like baroque, acoustic or electric guitars?
Professionally, I fully concentrate on building classical guitars. But I would really like to build an electrical guitar or an archtop for my private use. A change from time to time makes us happy!
Last question: when will we see and hear your guitars playing in Italy?
I hope very soon, Andrea! Lately, one instrument has been on stage with Marcel Ege, guitarist of the Eos Guitar Quartet. The quartet celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, as it could well be that they also play a concert in Italy.