The American maker talks about the importance of spending quality time with string players
The following article is published as part of a larger ‘Life Lessons’ interview with luthier Gregg Alf in The Strad’s April 2017 issue, out now – download on desktop computer or through The Strad App.
Playing the violin as a child helped immensely with my development as a maker. Crafting an instrument is about much more than just gluing together pieces of wood; it’s about creating a sound. As a jury member at lutherie competitions I often hear beautifully made instruments let down by their tone. Often enough, these are instruments crafted by makers who don’t actually play.
I don’t mean that makers need to be virtuosos – I’d have had a miserable life as a player! It’s more about training the ears and eyes to observe and analyse great musicians at work. I’ve never been able to make a violin that’s of a higher calibre than the players I’ve spent quality time with: listening to someone perform in a concert is one thing, but if you’re able to hear them practise and rehearse you get a much better feeling for how they overcome challenges and work together with their instrument.