Harpsichord Red, Ioannes Ruckers, University of Edinburgh , CC BY-NC-SA

Introduction

Instrument makers have ranged from the individual who occasionally makes instruments through to the mass production of factories. The most highly prized instruments have generally come from small businesses, typically with a proprietor (who would give his name to the firm), a small number of skilled employees and one or two apprentices. In such a business the proprietor would handle the commercial transactions and might oversee or carry out the design of the instruments and the finishing.

Larger firms have more opportunity for division of labour, with more experienced staff concentrating on the most skilled tasks. Larger firms can therefore be more efficient than small businesses, but are less well adapted to responding to the needs of individual musicians. Some larger firms contracted out the manufacture of component parts.

The term "luthier" is used for individual skilled instrument makers and the heads of small workshops, in particular for makers of stringed instruments. Some makers have become famous for the musical excellence of their instruments and their craftsmanship, others are best known for their inventions and advances in instrument design.

Trompettes droites, 1879, Adolphe Sax, [These trumpets come from the brass band of the Paris Opera which was directed by the inventor and maker Adolphe Sax from 1847 to 1892. They were specially made for first French performances of Verdi's opera Aïda in 1876 at the Theatre des Italiens and in 1880 and the Opéra de Paris. These trumpets were designed to comply with the wishes of Verdi, who wanted the instruments on stage to be look like ancient natural trumpets, with the valves hidden as far as possible.], Cité de la musique / Albert Giordan MIMO, CC BY-NC-SA
Trompettes droites, 1879, Adolphe Sax, [These trumpets come from the brass band of the Paris Opera which was directed by the inventor and maker Adolphe Sax from 1847 to 1892. They were specially made for first French performances of Verdi's opera Aïda in 1876 at the Theatre des Italiens and in 1880 and the Opéra de Paris. These trumpets were designed to comply with the wishes of Verdi, who wanted the instruments on stage to be look like ancient natural trumpets, with the valves hidden as far as possible.], Cité de la musique / Albert Giordan MIMO, CC BY-NC-SA

Stradivari

Antonio Stradivari (1644 - 1737) is perhaps the most famous of all luthiers, and the maker whose instruments (many still in use) command the highest prices. He is best known for violin family instruments, but he also made viols, guitars, mandolins and harps. Little is known about how he managed his business and how many staff he employed, but even with his long life the number of instruments bearing his name is too high to have been produced by a solitary craftsman.

Stradivari was born and worked throughout his life in Cremona, Italy. He may have been apprenticed to Nicolò Amati. Stradivari's success, both in his own lifetime and subsequently, can be attributed to sound judgement in the design of instruments to meet needs of musicians, and strict implementation of the highest standards of quality control.

Although Stradivari's instrument design to some extent anticipated future needs, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was found necessary to re-build his instruments to meet the demand for wider dynamic range and more virtuosic playing styles. Very few of his instruments survive unaltered.

Violoncello, 1690, Antonio Stradivari, [Stradivari adopted several models and sizes for his cellos during his activity. This instrument is one of the only three that survive with the original very large proportions that he adopted in his early production. The large size of the soundbox allowed a deeper tone in the bass, and was later abandoned probably due to innovations in the making of strings.It was made in 1690 as a gift to Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663-1713), and was part of quintet formed by two violins (one surviving in Rome, Accademia di S. Cecilia), an alto viola (now in Washington, Library of Congress) and a tenor viola (Florence, Collezione Cherubini).A rare early document survives about the sound of this instrument: it is a letter written as soon as the instruments were delivered stating that «all the virtuosi [of the gran-ducal court] […] are of the same mind in approving them as perfect, but above all speaking of the violoncello they frankly confess they have never heard a more pleasing or more sonorous one.], Galleria dell'Accademia Dipartimento degli strumenti Musicali, Firenze, CC BY-NC-SA
Violoncello, 1690, Antonio Stradivari, [Stradivari adopted several models and sizes for his cellos during his activity. This instrument is one of the only three that survive with the original very large proportions that he adopted in his early production. The large size of the soundbox allowed a deeper tone in the bass, and was later abandoned probably due to innovations in the making of strings.It was made in 1690 as a gift to Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663-1713), and was part of quintet formed by two violins (one surviving in Rome, Accademia di S. Cecilia), an alto viola (now in Washington, Library of Congress) and a tenor viola (Florence, Collezione Cherubini).A rare early document survives about the sound of this instrument: it is a letter written as soon as the instruments were delivered stating that «all the virtuosi [of the gran-ducal court] […] are of the same mind in approving them as perfect, but above all speaking of the violoncello they frankly confess they have never heard a more pleasing or more sonorous one.], Galleria dell'Accademia Dipartimento degli strumenti Musicali, Firenze, CC BY-NC-SA
Guitare, 1711?, Antonio Stradivari, [This guitar came from the workshop of the great violin maker Stradivari in Cremona in 1711. It is similar in form to other Cremonese guitars, and follows the surviving paper patterns used in Stradivari’s workshop. It is a significant example of the aesthetic developed by Stradivari in the field of plucked string instruments. It is lightly built of cypress wood, with a deep sound particularly suitable for accompaniment] , Cité de la musique / Albert Giordan MIMO, CC BY-NC-SA
Guitare, 1711?, Antonio Stradivari, [This guitar came from the workshop of the great violin maker Stradivari in Cremona in 1711. It is similar in form to other Cremonese guitars, and follows the surviving paper patterns used in Stradivari’s workshop. It is a significant example of the aesthetic developed by Stradivari in the field of plucked string instruments. It is lightly built of cypress wood, with a deep sound particularly suitable for accompaniment] , Cité de la musique / Albert Giordan MIMO, CC BY-NC-SA
Violino piccolo, Antonio Stradivari, [The body of the beautiful instrument bears typical characteristics of Stradivari's master hand, e. g. the form of the f-holes. Bottom and ribs are made of sycamore, the table is made of spruce. The neck, which is too long in comparison to the body, the fingerboard and the lower part of the pegbox are renewed, however, the scroll is probably origina], Museum für Musikinstrumente der Universität Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA
Violino piccolo, Antonio Stradivari, [The body of the beautiful instrument bears typical characteristics of Stradivari's master hand, e. g. the form of the f-holes. Bottom and ribs are made of sycamore, the table is made of spruce. The neck, which is too long in comparison to the body, the fingerboard and the lower part of the pegbox are renewed, however, the scroll is probably origina], Museum für Musikinstrumente der Universität Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA

Ruckers

The Ruckers family were builders in Antwerp (present-day Belgium) of stringed keyboard instruments which enjoyed a wide and lasting reputation. The first prominent member of the family involved in instrument making was Hans Ruckers (1540s - 1598) who built both harpsichords and organs. His son, Joannes Ruckers (1578 - 1642) also became a harpsichord and organ maker, and with brother Andreas Ruckers I (1579 - after 1645) became partners in their father's business upon his death, Joannes becoming sole owner in 1608. His nephew Joannes Couchet joined his workshop around 1627, taking it over after Joannes's death. Andreas Ruckers II (1607 - before 1667) was the son of Andreas Ruckers I.

Ruckers family members operated their businesses internationally and offered models for the French and British markets. Their instruments have continued to be valued for their acoustic and decorative design, and high standards of workmanship. Such was their reputation that their designs were not only copied but copies were also passed off as genuine Ruckers instruments. As musical demands changed in 18th century, many Ruckers harpsichords were rebuilt with extended range.

Clavecin à double clavier combiné à un virginal, 1619, Ioannes Ruckers, [One of the most curious instruments to have come out of the Ruckers workshop is undoubtedly this harpsichord with virginal. The rectangular sound-box houses both a two-manual harpsichord and a small virginal that is set on the curved side of the larger instrument. In accordance with Ruckers family tradition, the sides of the box are decorated with printed strips of paper and with depictions of sea horses, as well as stylized motifs.], Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels, In Copyright
Clavecin à double clavier combiné à un virginal, 1619, Ioannes Ruckers, [One of the most curious instruments to have come out of the Ruckers workshop is undoubtedly this harpsichord with virginal. The rectangular sound-box houses both a two-manual harpsichord and a small virginal that is set on the curved side of the larger instrument. In accordance with Ruckers family tradition, the sides of the box are decorated with printed strips of paper and with depictions of sea horses, as well as stylized motifs.], Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels, In Copyright
Virginal, Ioannes Ruckers, [In a former restoration the compass was extended to C-c3 chromatically (49 keys). When the museum acquired the instrument, the compass was restored to the original with short octave C/E-c3 (45 keys). The original left part of the front and a part of the soundboard have been lost and have been replaced. The gilt rose shows a harp-playing angel between the letters “I R”.], Musikmuseet, Stockholm, CC BY-NC-SA
Virginal, Ioannes Ruckers, [In a former restoration the compass was extended to C-c3 chromatically (49 keys). When the museum acquired the instrument, the compass was restored to the original with short octave C/E-c3 (45 keys). The original left part of the front and a part of the soundboard have been lost and have been replaced. The gilt rose shows a harp-playing angel between the letters “I R”.], Musikmuseet, Stockholm, CC BY-NC-SA
Harpsichord Red, Ioannes Ruckers, [Apart from the soundboard and perhaps the lid, the decoration dates from various periods after 1637. The painting on the wrestplank and the treble part of the soundboard is modern. The outside of the case, the keywell and the soundwell above the soundboard are decorated with English eighteenth-century lacquer work with a vermilion red ground and gold-coloured bronze powder vinework decoration. The latter has been highlighted with pen work and sepia wash. The inside of the lid flap has an anonymous seventeenth-century Flemish painting of St Cecilia playing the organ 1637], University of Edinburgh , CC BY-NC-SA
Harpsichord Red, Ioannes Ruckers, [Apart from the soundboard and perhaps the lid, the decoration dates from various periods after 1637. The painting on the wrestplank and the treble part of the soundboard is modern. The outside of the case, the keywell and the soundwell above the soundboard are decorated with English eighteenth-century lacquer work with a vermilion red ground and gold-coloured bronze powder vinework decoration. The latter has been highlighted with pen work and sepia wash. The inside of the lid flap has an anonymous seventeenth-century Flemish painting of St Cecilia playing the organ 1637], University of Edinburgh , CC BY-NC-SA

Sax

Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) is best known as the inventor of the saxophone. The successful invention of a completely new instrument is a rare occurrence. Antoine-Joseph Sax was born in Dinant (Belgium) and later took the name Adolphe. His father, Charles-Joseph Sax, was an important instrument maker. He studied clarinet and flute in Brussels. His first influential invention was an improved bass clarinet which he patented at the age of twenty-four; his work on the saxophone family soon followed and his saxophone patent was taken out in 1846.

In 1842 Sax moved to Paris and set up a factory to produce wind instruments. He continued to invent and take out patents: many of these were for brass instruments. His saxhorns were widely adopted by brass and military bands in France and Britain. The established instrument makers in France were hostile to the ambitious Sax, and a series of court cases were brought against him. The main issue was whether his brass instruments were sufficiently original to be protected by patents.

Sax was more successful as an inventor than as a manufacturer: his business flourished in the periods when he held government contracts for military band instruments, but suffered through litigation: he was bankrupt three times and died poor.

Sopransaxophon, Adolphe Sax Company, [Although Adolphe Sax is best known for his patent for the Saxophone in 1846 the instrument's importance for the lower voices of military music, he conceived the saxophone family in sizes from sub-contrabass up to soprano. Today, with the sopranino saxophone and the "Soprillo", there are two even smaller sizes. The instrument shown here represents the smallest size conceived by Sax himself. While Sax attributed to the saxophones a sound close to bowed string instruments, but much louder, Belioz characterised the sound as penetrating, but without the shrill timbre of small clarinets.], Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Foto: Günther Kühnel, CC BY-NC-SA
Sopransaxophon, Adolphe Sax Company, [Although Adolphe Sax is best known for his patent for the Saxophone in 1846 the instrument's importance for the lower voices of military music, he conceived the saxophone family in sizes from sub-contrabass up to soprano. Today, with the sopranino saxophone and the "Soprillo", there are two even smaller sizes. The instrument shown here represents the smallest size conceived by Sax himself. While Sax attributed to the saxophones a sound close to bowed string instruments, but much louder, Belioz characterised the sound as penetrating, but without the shrill timbre of small clarinets.], Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Foto: Günther Kühnel, CC BY-NC-SA
Bassklarinette, 1842, Charles-Joseph, Adolphe Sax, [Bass clarinet made of three parts, the upper part and the bell made of brass, the middle part of boxwood. The instrument has 14 (+7) brass keys but traces on the middle part show that some keys have been moved. The instrument is an experimental piece and possibly a prototype for the version introduced into military bands in 1845, which were manufactured entirely from brass.], Museum für Musikinstrumente der Universität Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA
Bassklarinette, 1842, Charles-Joseph, Adolphe Sax, [Bass clarinet made of three parts, the upper part and the bell made of brass, the middle part of boxwood. The instrument has 14 (+7) brass keys but traces on the middle part show that some keys have been moved. The instrument is an experimental piece and possibly a prototype for the version introduced into military bands in 1845, which were manufactured entirely from brass.], Museum für Musikinstrumente der Universität Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA