10 Questions We Ask Everyone

Andrea Ballarin (Manne Guitars Italy)

Andrea 'Manne' Ballarin is a benchmark of the Italian lutherie, intended as art, tradition and innovation; an industry's cornerstone at trade fairs and exhibitions, whether in Italy or abroad. His guitars were compared to Ferrari, icon of the ‘Made In Italy’ standard for quality and character, and it's not hard to understand why: just look, touch and play them.
Andrea is the guitar-maker who goes by car to Poland to recover his stolen guitars at the Frankfurt fair, the artist who makes guitars from Lagavullin Scotch whisky barrels, and even from a briccola, the wooden pole of the Venetian lagoon used to show the way to follow. Perhaps the same way that allowed Andrea to sell more than 2,700 instruments worldwide. Andrea creates wonderful instruments, tailor-made or following his tastes and standards. But above all, he always has a smile to give to those who are interested in his creations. Andrea is a great guy.  


1. GUITARS EXCHANGE: How did you end up becoming, or start out as, a luthier?

ANDREA BALLARIN: It was pure chance. A bass guitar maker in my city needed someone to help him out with what he was doing; I worked with him for a year. We should have set up a company but the project fell through and so I started up Manne Guitars on my own: I had found a job that had a thousand skills and things to know about it; I was smitten and the demand for hand-crafted instruments was very high.    

2. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What inspires you to design and manufacture a new guitar?

ANDREA BALLARIN: The search for sound, aesthetics, ergonomics. There are some basic rules that have to be followed, but there is also a lot of room for new ideas and improvements, to find answers for the musicians' needs. I also try to maintain a common link in the models I produce, a common philosophy with a certain feel to it.    

3. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Do you look for a given sound for any particular reason?

ANDREA BALLARIN: After 28 years in this profession, more than anything else I feel like a chef – satisfying the musicians' most exquisite tastes, trying out new mixes of herbs, spices and exotic ingredients in order to achieve a certain result. This is my mission. Over the years, with each creation I have applied criteria that have changed over time, gradually getting closer to where I want to be and satisfying the demands and preferences of each client.    

4. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Select one and talk about: soul, jazz, blues, rock, pop…or other.

ANDREA BALLARIN: Throughout music's history, the same instruments have been used to play surf, rock, country and jazz. What counts is the tone, the dynamic response that the instrument has with the musician. I am against the homologation of instruments and think that what some musicians want is some specific thing to reflect their expression and their voice, and not just to 'wear' some icon.    

5. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Are you a jobbing artist or a solitary artisan?

ANDREA BALLARIN: Many people see my work as art, but the truth is that it's all I know how to do. I put my all into it. It's true that you get on with the job a lot better when you’re working alone, when you get wrapped up in what you're doing without any distractions. I become a solitary recluse when I walk out in the mountains and take photos!    

6. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What was the last record or CD you bought? And listened to?

ANDREA BALLARIN: Buying and listening for me are one and the same thing. I may get to see and hear a lot of music for free, but if I find something that I really like, I buy it. The last CDs I've bought are Croz by David Crosby and Snarky Puppy's latest. I am also given many records from the musicians and I listen to them all, no matter what their genre.    

...ONE BODY...

7. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Electric or acoustic?

ANDREA BALLARIN: In my instruments, it is the body, together with three other key elements, that provide the sound's colour. It's the deciding factor that enriches or sucks out the harmonics and determines the sound. The body is acoustically active, or perhaps one should say, physically active, as it influences and affects the strings' vibration.    

...ONE NECK...

8. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What is the secret behind your choice of wood?

ANDREA BALLARIN: I have been working on the neck's composition since the first fair back in 1987, looking at the results obtained by varying the humidity and temperature. Six or seven years ago I found an ideal formula that is quite unique. In my opinion, it is crucial to both the sound and the performance. It's an effective and perfectly-balanced solution.    


9. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Why should we consider luthier-crafted guitars as a viable option to guitars made by the large manufacturers?

ANDREA BALLARIN: It's an alternative for those who don't buy depending on the instrument's colour or who plays or has played that model. An alternative that affords immense satisfaction, a true professional having understood your needs and preferences and subsequently building exactly what you are looking for. It's on another plane to just going into your local shop or supermarket, choosing one, paying at the till and that's that. It's an alternative with a service that not only guarantees the instrument's quality, but also the client's 100% satisfaction. To do so, you have to look into an instrument's workings more intensely, distinguishing, understanding and appreciating the different tonal properties involved.    

10. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Who plays your guitars? Who would you like to have play your guitars?

ANDREA BALLARIN: Talented professionals and all those who appreciate what I do, understand my work and like it. All of them have helped me to create innovative, original instruments with their own character. Who would I like to see playing them? I honestly couldn't say. My main source of satisfaction is receiving enthusiastic feedback (and praise!) from my clients, which means I've done a good job.  

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