Episodes

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The Instrument Makers2016021020181015 (R4)

In their workshops Verity Sharp meets people dedicated to making fine musical instruments

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

The Instrument Makers2016021020181015 (R4)

In their workshops Verity Sharp meets people dedicated to making fine musical instruments

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

01A Guitar Is Born2018050120181022 (R4)

Guitar maker Roger Bucknall invites Martin Simpson and Richard Hawley to his workshop.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

01New Strings Attached2018051520181029 (R4)

Gwenan Gibbard and Robin Huw Bowen visit the Teifi Harps Factory in Llandysul.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

0101A Guitar Is Born2018050120181022 (R4)

Guitar maker Roger Bucknall invites Martin Simpson and Richard Hawley to his workshop.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

Martin Simpson and Richard Hawley visit master luthier Roger Bucknall, who reveals the extraordinarily painstaking and creative labour of love involved in making an acoustic guitar.

On a tour of his workshop, Roger shows not only a passion for instrument-making, but for the pure pleasure in working with wood. In the vast store of tonewood, we hear about the aural and decorative properties of centuries-old Claro Walnut, Bearclaw and the incredibly rare Snakewood. Roger discusses some of the fascinating and surprising stories behind his stock including the Giant Redwood, reclaimed from the Big River at Mendocino, and the 2,000-year-old Alaskan Sitka Spruce windfall.

We find out how Roger acquired some rare Brazilian Rosewood from the folk musician Mike Waterson and crafted it into three guitars, one of which Richard Hawley owns. "If anybody's ever seen Harry Potter, then they'll understand what the word Horcrux means," he says. "Roger, you're going to live forever with this 'cause part of your soul, without doubt, went into this guitar."

Roger explains the minute detail and precision employed here, with bespoke machinery and hand-made tools, from steam-bending and curfing to the hammering-in of frets with a hammer thought to have now made more than two million blows. "I have a deep passion for frets," says Martin Simpson. "It's how we do what we do. They are beautiful things, and when they're properly finished it makes all the difference in the world."

And who knew bits of guitars and mandolins could be made from old snooker tables or whiskey barrels? Or why Rosewood is called Rosewood?

A unique insight into a popular and much-loved instrument and three friends' obsession with it - with stories, laughs and music along the way.

A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

Guitar maker Roger Bucknall invites Martin Simpson and Richard Hawley to his workshop.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

0102Thinking Inside The Box2018050820180512 (R4)

Andy Cutting and Katie Howson go to France to meet accordion maker Emmanuel Pariselle.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

Emmanuel Pariselle welcomes renowned musicians Andy Cutting and Katie Howson to his home, just outside the picturesque French city of Poitiers, where he builds diatonic button accordions for some of Europe's finest players.

In his workshop, Emmanuel combines technical skill with a passion for problem-solving, as he aims to build the perfect squeezebox for every musician. Here, he discusses how the instruments are built and maintained, the special relationship between a musician and a maker, and what qualities make a great musician.

We hear how the arrival of the Sheng from China in the early-1800s gave birth to the whole accordion family, including harmonium, mouth organ, concertina and melodeon, and how the instruments have travelled around the world to Ireland, Portugal, South Africa and Quebec.

Emmanuel talks us through the key process of tuning the reeds, operating the bellows with a foot pedal and filing off tiny amounts of steel each time to adjust the pitch.

Later, we hear him take a nervous Katie's two-row button accordion apart to try and diagnose a clickety rattle in the action. And, on a box he designed and built with Emmanuel, Andy demonstrates the difference in what the left-hand and right-hands do and explains that the longer he plays the instrument, the more it plays how he wants it to play.

Ever wondered what a free reed is? Or what distinguishes an accordion from a melodeon? Or whether you can make a musical instrument from plywood? This is a unique insight into this fascinating instrument - and three friends' relationship with it - with stories and music along the way.

Produced by Kellie While
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

Andy Cutting and Katie Howson go to France to meet accordion maker Emmanuel Pariselle.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

Emmanuel Pariselle welcomes renowned musicians Andy Cutting and Katie Howson to his home, just outside the picturesque French city of Poitiers, where he builds diatonic button accordions for some of Europe's finest players.

In his workshop, Emmanuel combines technical skill with a passion for problem-solving, as he aims to build the perfect squeezebox for every musician. Here, he discusses how the instruments are built and maintained, the special relationship between a musician and a maker, and what qualities make a great musician.

We hear how the arrival of the Sheng from China in the early-1800s gave birth to the whole accordion family, including harmonium, mouth organ, concertina and melodeon, and how the instruments have travelled around the world to Ireland, Portugal, South Africa and Quebec.

Emmanuel talks us through the key process of tuning the reeds, operating the bellows with a foot pedal and filing off tiny amounts of steel each time to adjust the pitch.

Later, we hear him take a nervous Katie's two-row button accordion apart to try and diagnose a clickety rattle in the action. And, on a box he designed and built with Emmanuel, Andy demonstrates the difference in what the left-hand and right-hands do and explains that the longer he plays the instrument, the more it plays how he wants it to play.

Ever wondered what a free reed is? Or what distinguishes an accordion from a melodeon? Or whether you can make a musical instrument from plywood? This is a unique insight into this fascinating instrument - and three friends' relationship with it - with stories and music along the way.

Produced by Kellie While
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

Andy Cutting and Katie Howson go to France to meet accordion maker Emmanuel Pariselle.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

Emmanuel Pariselle welcomes renowned musicians Andy Cutting and Katie Howson to his home, just outside the picturesque French city of Poitiers, where he builds diatonic button accordions for some of Europe's finest players.

In his workshop, Emmanuel combines technical skill with a passion for problem-solving, as he aims to build the perfect squeezebox for every musician. Here, he discusses how the instruments are built and maintained, the special relationship between a musician and a maker, and what qualities make a great musician.

We hear how the arrival of the Sheng from China in the early-1800s gave birth to the whole accordion family, including harmonium, mouth organ, concertina and melodeon, and how the instruments have travelled around the world to Ireland, Portugal, South Africa and Quebec.

Emmanuel talks us through the key process of tuning the reeds, operating the bellows with a foot pedal and filing off tiny amounts of steel each time to adjust the pitch.

Later, we hear him take a nervous Katie's two-row button accordion apart to try and diagnose a clickety rattle in the action. And, on a box he designed and built with Emmanuel, Andy demonstrates the difference in what the left-hand and right-hands do and explains that the longer he plays the instrument, the more it plays how he wants it to play.

Ever wondered what a free reed is? Or what distinguishes an accordion from a melodeon? Or whether you can make a musical instrument from plywood? This is a unique insight into this fascinating instrument - and three friends' relationship with it - with stories and music along the way.

Produced by Kellie While
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

0103New Strings Attached20180515

Gwenan Gibbard and Robin Huw Bowen visit the Teifi Harps Factory in Llandysul.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

Making harps in Wales is a tradition stretching back centuries and is being preserved in Llandysul, at community enterprise Teifi Harps. Founder Allan Shiers, an apprentice to the late renowned maker John Weston Thomas, has been designing and making harps for over 40 years.

In the company of esteemed players Gwenan Gibbard and Robin Huw Bowen, we discover more about the Welsh harping tradition and the evolution of the instruments. Together, the two musicians engage in lively conversation about how this emblem of Wales is valued in society today and the challenge of interesting a new generation in making the instrument, as well as demonstrating the different types of harp made here.

In this former Victorian schoolhouse by the River Teifi, there is an interesting and evolving marriage of tradition and technology using hand tools and computer aided design to make the 350 parts that go into the making of a harp.

And it's more than just the rich history and tradition of these instruments that inspires Allan in his craft. There is a strong sense of community with a local artist and a local seamstress centrally involved in production. One harp's delicate ornamentation is based on harebells growing on the local church wall and another is named 'Gwyneth' after his wife.

Find out why one harp has a snail carved on the top, who played a harp made out of corned beef tins, and discover which of the three types of harp has a load equivalent to one sixth of an elephant on this unique journey into the heritage, tradition and practice of harp-making.

Produced by Kellie While for 7digital.

0104More Power To Your Elbow2018052220180526 (R4)

Mike McGoldrick and Jim Horan talk uilleann pipes with Manchester maker David Lim.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

World-renowned musician Mike McGoldrick, with friends and fellow pipers Jim Horan and David Lim, reveal the extraordinarily painstaking processes involved in making a set of Uilleann Pipes.

Uilleann is the Gaelic word for elbow, as it's the elbow which powers the pipes' bellows. We hear how this Irish bagpipe works, and how the ability to slide, bend and lean into notes gives it unique powers of expression. At his Manchester workshop, David makes 160 different parts for each full set of pipes - everything apart from the leather bag and twelve screws.

We discover the minute detail and precision required to make the various instrument parts. Five home-made reamers are needed to create a tapered bore inside the wooden chanter, which has to be accurate to within a fraction of a millimetre. Months must be left between each adjustment to allow the wood to shrink and relax.

And what issues really matter to players of this instrument? The semi-crouch posture they adopt and how that affects the body, how travelling to humid climates can stop the instrument from working and, crucially, the quality of the delicate reed inside the chanter. According to Jim, when Uilleann Pipe players meet, they spend more time talking about reeds than actually playing music. "If your reed is going well, you know your mental health is okay as well because your outlook changes if you've got a good reed."

There's also a visit to a North West Uilleann Pipers meeting in Manchester to see how the next generation is being encouraged to take up the instrument. The organisation, run by Jim and David, facilitates workshops, one-to-one teaching and supplies sets of practice pipes to local children.

Produced by Kellie While
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

Mike McGoldrick and Jim Horan talk uilleann pipes with Manchester maker David Lim.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

World-renowned musician Mike McGoldrick, with friends and fellow pipers Jim Horan and David Lim, reveal the extraordinarily painstaking processes involved in making a set of Uilleann Pipes.

Uilleann is the Gaelic word for elbow, as it's the elbow which powers the pipes' bellows. We hear how this Irish bagpipe works, and how the ability to slide, bend and lean into notes gives it unique powers of expression. At his Manchester workshop, David makes 160 different parts for each full set of pipes - everything apart from the leather bag and twelve screws.

We discover the minute detail and precision required to make the various instrument parts. Five home-made reamers are needed to create a tapered bore inside the wooden chanter, which has to be accurate to within a fraction of a millimetre. Months must be left between each adjustment to allow the wood to shrink and relax.

And what issues really matter to players of this instrument? The semi-crouch posture they adopt and how that affects the body, how travelling to humid climates can stop the instrument from working and, crucially, the quality of the delicate reed inside the chanter. According to Jim, when Uilleann Pipe players meet, they spend more time talking about reeds than actually playing music. "If your reed is going well, you know your mental health is okay as well because your outlook changes if you've got a good reed."

There's also a visit to a North West Uilleann Pipers meeting in Manchester to see how the next generation is being encouraged to take up the instrument. The organisation, run by Jim and David, facilitates workshops, one-to-one teaching and supplies sets of practice pipes to local children.

Produced by Kellie While
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

Mike McGoldrick and Jim Horan talk uilleann pipes with Manchester maker David Lim.

Documentary series meeting the people who make musical instruments.

World-renowned musician Mike McGoldrick, with friends and fellow pipers Jim Horan and David Lim, reveal the extraordinarily painstaking processes involved in making a set of Uilleann Pipes.

Uilleann is the Gaelic word for elbow, as it's the elbow which powers the pipes' bellows. We hear how this Irish bagpipe works, and how the ability to slide, bend and lean into notes gives it unique powers of expression. At his Manchester workshop, David makes 160 different parts for each full set of pipes - everything apart from the leather bag and twelve screws.

We discover the minute detail and precision required to make the various instrument parts. Five home-made reamers are needed to create a tapered bore inside the wooden chanter, which has to be accurate to within a fraction of a millimetre. Months must be left between each adjustment to allow the wood to shrink and relax.

And what issues really matter to players of this instrument? The semi-crouch posture they adopt and how that affects the body, how travelling to humid climates can stop the instrument from working and, crucially, the quality of the delicate reed inside the chanter. According to Jim, when Uilleann Pipe players meet, they spend more time talking about reeds than actually playing music. "If your reed is going well, you know your mental health is okay as well because your outlook changes if you've got a good reed."

There's also a visit to a North West Uilleann Pipers meeting in Manchester to see how the next generation is being encouraged to take up the instrument. The organisation, run by Jim and David, facilitates workshops, one-to-one teaching and supplies sets of practice pipes to local children.

Produced by Kellie While
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.