Giulio Negrini, the man behind the Swiss/Italian guitar brand GNG, is regarded as one of Europe’s foremost modern guitar builders. His philosophy is far from mainstream guitar making and includes multistring, multiscale, outstanding inlays, ergonomics and not least True Temperament. Read the interview here!
As mentioned above you´re a modern guitar builder that have adapted multistring guitars, fanned frets, extended scales, cutting edge inlays and finishes, and so on. What made you take that step?
– Honestly, my customers. As said, they are like me: experimental with a precise outcome. Express a need and find the solution. The first multiscale/multistring I made was an 8-string, back in 2008, where nobody but Novax (Fanned Fretting the first designer, applied on electric guitars) was doing it as far as I knew, this guy asked me to do something on that line alongside with his ideas and I did, challenged and stimulated by the project. Then another musician came with an idea about a 10-string guitar and I felt like a kid on a Christmas day!
And you have also since some years back the True Temperament Fretting System as an option. I guess True Temperament speaks to your own cutting edge, modern high end guitar philosophy?
– Yes! When I first saw it in 2009, I was enthusiastic, to say the least! I desperately wanted to try it, I remember back then I send you some necks to be retrofitted, and when I tried I remember I laughed so hard by myself from the joy of playing the high complex chords, and hearing that fantastic equilibrium and peace of acoustic feelings.
– I am so grateful to be able to offer this option on my guitars: it matches perfectly my philosophy of tone research, exquisite manufacture, and eyebrow-raising people.
You got a Master Luthier’s degree in the Violin and Bow making School in Gubbio Italy in 2007. How usable is that classical knowledge when building your modern electric guitars?
– I applied this mindset to the building of the electric guitars too: learning classical violin making first and getting the Master’s Luthier degree. I made a few violins and understood more the physics of sound transmission in the acoustic instruments, knowing that the electric is exactly the opposite helps, somehow. It also deepened a lot my woodworking skills, find quick and effective solutions to solve tasks, I’ve also learned wood selection, seasoning.
Being a musician and guitarist yourself, I suppose it has given you some valuable insights.
– It has, I can feel how comfortable an instrument is in milliseconds, as well as the subtle details of the tone: I believe there are some minute details only a good guitar player can fully understand, and look for. At least, following my own expectation of what a great guitar should feel and sound like. That was the reason why it all started for me: the eager desire of making a guitar that sounded as I wanted, and very easy to play. I was graduating in a famous rock guitar school in Firenze (Lizard) studying for many hours/day and really needed a good guitar. So I made it, and found an even greater need to research/learn/improve via the creation of musical instruments, compared to the music itself.
– I was raised in a family where classical music was the thing, my mother being a pianist and opera singer, my brother an excellent clarinet player, uncle professor of piano etc. I started with piano myself at four years old, trumpet at seven.
– Yet, my father was used to listening to Deep Purple, Yes, and Queen, when mom was out. Guess who had a guitar hidden in a closet? That said, I had the fortune to have a background in both classical and rock music, my curiosity drew me to the most complex thing I could find at the beginning of my music exploration, so progressive (mainly metal, but not limited to, Prokofiev is quite prog too) is definitely my thing.
– Regarding the guitarists, I can tell you the biggest influences I had when studying techniques and chops: Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Vai, Mattias IA Eklundh, Michael Romeo. My actual favorites are Claudio Pietronik and Michele Vioni.
Who are your customers?
– Mainly, people like me. Guitarists with the desire to have a very performing guitar, comfortable, with a great tone that is also distinctive and well made. Of course, speaking of tone it can be subjective: I’ve developed my research into shred, rock, and heavy styles and that is where my guitars shine at best.
Have you had any role models when designing your own guitars?
– Not really, I found the traditional electric guitar shapes very boring and not very comfortable (especially in the higher frets area) and I was looking for something the was modern and outrageous. My Morgoth shape raised some eyebrows and straightforward hatred. I knew I was on the right path then.
If you were to describe a typical Negrini guitar. What are the basics and ingredients? Tonewood, hardware, pick ups etc.
– Actually, the recipe follows the customer’s needs. But I can tell you there is a growing interest in a particular configuration I find magical for seven strings in particular: mahogany, Italian poplar top, Amaranth neck, and Ebony fretboard. Matched with a fixed bridge, a True Temperament multiscale and my building solutions and we have the perfect machine for the modern player.
We must not forget your inlay work, which is just amazing!
– Yes, I have a huge passion for inlays, my first one was on a wooden sword I made when I was 7-8 years old. Copper and aluminum vines over a black stained piece of pine. It was awesome for fighting dragons in the woods. Since my first project, I was fascinated with the idea of customizing the guitar with inlays, so I developed further with a fantastic class I took a few years ago in Vienna, with the Master of inlays and engraving William ”Grit” Laskin. That expanded my customer niche with collectors and art aficionados in general: it is my parallel project to express art using my guitars as functional frames.
Can you briefly desbribe your models and the differences between them.
– Morgoth is my main shape, designed back in 2004 and slowly improved during the years. Distinctive, easy access on the higher notes, comfortable grip when seated, and perfectly balanced when standing up.
– Brea was introduced as a softer version, actually rounding out the Morgoth shape and mixing here and there some solutions from the market to make it like a good lasagna: many layers of guitar-making history into a perfect, tasty composition.
– Feanor was my first headless Bass shape, designed with a customer, introduced last year as a headless guitar version with TT frets.
– Shen was also designed with the customer requesting it, having ten strings it can be held in three different positions to access different styles of playing it. It also has scalloped frets and a fretless area on the bass side.
– Rohan is a flat-top in line with the actual market of djent guitars, presented for the first time at the Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin in 2014, now available from six strings and up. The names are all inspired by the works of JRR Tolkien (The Lord of The Rings/Silmarillion), books that fascinated me since I was a kid and had to pay a little tribute here.
How many instruments do you make a year?
– Around 20, I’m trying to push down the number since more complex inlay works are taking place, and they require a lot of time.
There is currently a lot of interest around boutique-made, locally produced guitars, amplifiers, pedals etc. I´m sure you have noticed this yourself?
– Indeed! And the quality is raising so high is hard not to notice the difference with big branded products. I’m very grateful to be in this market at the right time.
What do you see in the future of the guitar?
– You know those weird bicycles with the huge front wheel, back when it was first introduced? It looks awkward now, but it was a needed passage to refine the transportation tool as we now know. The same happened to the classical guitar, violin family, brasses (some funny turns on those), and woodwinds. The electric guitar is still a recent addition to the musical instrument world, I think right now we are still experimenting, searching for a more defined balance. My guess is that is still not reached, and I’m very curious what my next customers will ask for! Ulf Zackrisson ©