In the workshop of Didac Zerrouk, a professional luthier, a poster “Perfect or nothing” reminds this craftsman of the demands of his profession. We met this guitar maker, one of the select few in Luxembourg, before he locked himself into his workshop in search of perfection.
“Being a luthier is a bit like playing detective, he has to solve riddles. Customers come in with a specific problem, a strange sound that bothers them while playing, and I have to find out where it’s coming from.”
A luthier is a craftsperson that builds and repairs string instruments that have a neck and a sound box. A good ear for music, patience, perfectionism and precision are indispensable qualities for this profession. “Specialisation is necessary from the moment you enter the school to become a luthier. In three years, it is not possible to learn to repair just any instrument,” explains the instrument maker.
Didac Zerrouk chose the guitar. As a teenager, he learned to play it at the Conservatoire de la Ville de Luxembourg. He quickly became interested in how to repair his guitar to give it a better sound. “When I went to music shops, I was told to buy a new guitar. This was highly frustrating because I knew there were alternatives.” So, he started watching videos on how to make wooden string instruments. “I immediately liked the atmosphere around the craft, the precision, the calmness it requires, and the satisfaction of making instruments with your hands.”
After three years of stringed musical instruments-making school in Limal (Belgium), Didac Zerrouk set up his own business. Owner of a music shop in Clervaux (DZ Guitars, 35 Grand-Rue, L-9710 Clervaux), where he sells guitars and accessories, it is also where he meets customers who bring him their overworked, worn or broken instruments. The luthier not only repairs but also builds guitars from scratch. For almost 5 years, Didac has been building 7 instruments in the silence of his workshop. Classical and acoustic guitars, ukuleles and also Ouds (Plucked string instrument widely used in Arab countries). “I made one of them at the request of the Ministry to present at the Luxembourg pavilion in Dubai.”
About 200 hours of work are needed before a guitar can produce a sound. It is a long, precise and solitary process. “Beforehand, I discuss the playing style with the musician, frequency and position while playing, so that I can create the perfect instrument for them.” When you say guitar, of course you say wood. Cedar, spruce, maple, birch, mahogany, the choice of wood is varied but crucial. Didac Zerrouk tries to use wood from within a 200 km radius of Luxembourg. “I recently made a guitar with wood from the Grünewald forest,” he says proudly.
No two instruments that leave the luthier’s workshop are alike. “It’s a long wait, but it’s a working tool, and musicians count on me.” This instrument is guaranteed for life by the luthier. Perfect, or nothing.
Pictures: Caroline Martin