About JM Instruments
I have been making and playing lutes since I made my first one and became bewitched first listening to Julian Breams 'Woods so Wild' album and Anthony Rooley on TV playing a 10crs lute on a programme about the heart. I made my first lute at school in Etwall Derbyshire, site of the Etwall Hall and the [still] 'lost' Etwall lute manuscript) Unless it could be MS 139 I found online, currently in Harvard see here called Lady Elizabeth Cromwells Tablature book, c1684. The names of John Port (of Etwall Hall & Ilam) and Mercia Fitzherbert and William Fitzherbert (of Tissington Hall) are written in the manuscript. The tune on page 40 is 'The Beggar', a piece with the same/similar title is said to have been in the Etwall Hall Ms too ( Source: Old English Popular music, by William Chappell 1893 Vol 2, p.16; The blind beggar). Is it possible Dr.Rimbault, the first to find the Etwall Manuscript in 1851 at Etwall Hall was looking at this 'Gitarre' tablature book thinking it was lute tablature book? Some may say this is too tenuous but some interesting coincidences based on the little we know of where the Etwall Hall Lute book is. Alternatively it may be sitting in the library of Doddington Hall, home of the Delves Broughton family and related to the Cotton's of Etwall. Lady Spickernell in 1938 donated some inherited clothing/contents to the V&A belonging to the Cotton family of Etwall Hall seen here.
Back to the origins of my obsession, with help from a former lute maker at West Dean my first lute was made as an A level project. I was awarded a 'B' grade for making it at Etwall John Port School, but I have improved my skills since the mid 1990's so hopefully would get an 'A' by today's standards. Fast forward a few years and a degree in furniture design, a career in the contemporary design field I started making lutes again, and have been making full time since 2005. A decade later the student lutes range has proved popular and is somewhat flattering to see other lute makers making a simplified Hans Frei model too. I chose this model as the archetypal student lute, with it's original rose for an affordable price, inspired by the early music shop philosophy of making instruments affordable. As a result of the student lute range I hope more will be encouraged to stick with the instrument as therefore helping, with the lute societies across the world, to encourage playing the music to a wider audience. The affordable price is partially due to less expensive woods and a simpler design but mostly due to working at a lower rate of pay so the instrument is not made in haste, as it would have to be in a factory. The savings made can be spent on facsimiles/lute society editions/lute tutor books or to pay for lute lessons from a lute/guitar teacher.
Most customers prefer to customise their instruments to make them unique, as would have been done, choosing from the decorative extras and other adjustments such a string spacing, creating a lute to fit you rather than a pre-determined model. New and rare student instruments have been created to encourage using the lute in new areas of music. Most recently is the Electric 19th century mandora seen here, the affordable folding theorbo(2012) seen here, the electric lute for a rock guitarist (2010) seen here, the children's lute (2011) seen here, and for 2019 the student 6crs Early Romantic Guitar (2019) seen here.The electric lute and and student mandora/gallichon (2014) have all the good qualities of traditional lute construction including the octave stringing but tuned like the guitar, or the same intervals. Earlier models such as the Wandervogels and Bohemian lute guitars tend to be much heavier to handle thus the earlier mandora/gallichon is lighter to hold but is easier for a guitarist to play. Also for guitar players who like the lute look and the unique sound but prefer to play from staff notation transcriptions then a 7crs mandora/gallichon is another good choice, you can hear it being played seen here. If you can't afford to buy one then hire one via the lute society at £35 per month (mine is No 48 on the list), especially useful if your a guitarist who wants to try/experiment with a new sound for a track, or two!