My name is Joan Pellisa and I am a guitar maker, that is, a luthier of plucked instruments. Some twenty years ago, I picked up family’s musical keenness and I started learning to play some traditional wind instruments from my homeland, Catalunya. Soon after, I was already studying them from an interpretative point of view, which lead me to broaden my research towards the instruments themselves, as well as to the repertoire and musicians associated to them.
My first steps were a series of trips with my father to the neighbouring villages, in order to meet the few gaiters –pipers– (the word for dolçainer or graller in the central region of the Catalan Countries) who were still alive in the area. I wanted to learn how they played music, how their instruments were made and their repertoire, which they were about to take to their graves. Those first interviewees became my friends, and now I can say I am a gaiter and that I learned from the elderly, which makes me feel really lucky.
I moved from popular instruments to academic ones, and I started studying oboe at Juan Pedro Carrero music school in Barcelona. However, a series of quite serious muscular problems made me abandon my career right before finishing the Advanced-Degree Qualification in Music.
After that, while I was somehow trying to find my way, I ended up registering for a very basic workshop on ancient-guitar making for amateurs. In a few weeks, I built up my own workbench, I bought four really bad chisels, some nicer planes and I closed up my first soundbox. Yes, my first creation did not sound at all like an instrument.
At that time, the director of Barcelona’s Museu de la Música, Romà Escalas, contacted me and offered me a little job in which I had to document their collection of instruments. That little assignment developed into 10 years of documenting and cataloguing the museum’s sound and instrumental fonds.
During the period I worked in the museum, I manipulated hundreds of instruments of all types, from 17th century clavicords to music boxes from the 19th century, including lutes, trumpets, organs… That experience provided me with a kind of information that no book or school can provide: learning directly form historical instruments.
In parallel, I continued my training as a guitar maker. I learned from Jaume Bosser, a great master and a better friend; from my beloved Raül Yagüe and from many others. However, José Luis Romanillos was the man who marked a turning point in my training period. I’ve learned many things from him, some related to guitars and many other related to other aspects of life. I am very proud to say that he has been and still is a great master and, above all, a great friend.
Apart from studying old instruments and making new ones, another source of information for my job has been my research about old Catalan guitar makers. I have analysed documents from the 13th to the 19th century and presented that research in several articles and conferences in places such as the Universitat de Barcelona or the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya. I have also carried out some jobs for the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Junta de Andalucia (the regional Catalan and Andalusian governments respectively). My most recent work on this topic is a monograph about the Catalan school of guitar makers and is available at the publishing house Amalgama (Tritó).
A few years ago I quit my job in the museum and I started working full-time as an organological researcher and guitar maker. My wife and I moved to my hometown, la Fatarella, from where I offer you my guitars: instruments with their own personality, based on everything I have been tought by instruments and masters, and which I try to translate into those pieces of wood.