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Classical Guitars

Gary started Southwell Guitars in 1983 and after almost 40 years is still making superlative bespoke classical guitars for an impressive list of distinguished musicians. If you are looking for the finest of instruments in both sound quality and beauty Southwell Guitars will make your dream come true. 

Not only is Gary acclaimed for his A Series nylon and steel stringed classical guitars, he is renowned for his restored and replica historic guitars. Gary always strives for excellence (it is his ethos) and Gary's experiments with alternative new materials have produced the Fenland Black Oak range of classical guitars. He has used 5,000 year old bog oak to pioneer a new range of classical guitars (and jazz). These are concert instruments of amazing sound quality and beauty.  He has led and others have tried to follow but this new range is the pinnacle of his illustrious career. It has even led to "Heartwood", an amazing CD recording of pieces played on his Fenland Black Oak guitars. These are all recorded by a fabulous collection of artists from around the world.

I now live and work in Northumberland. The beauty and history of this land is an inspiration to my craft. There is something wonderful about having a voice to your instrument which is part of your living environment and tradition. Here I continue to make my own uniquely designed classical guitars and replicas of famous historical ones.

The challenge of making guitars for special projects is something I have always loved. In recent years I have enjoyed working with Frank Bungarten making a 10 string Sherzer guitar for his Mertz recording “The Last Viennese Virtuoso” and a Torres guitar for his Pujol recording. I have also enjoyed making bespoke custom guitars for players who are looking for something far from the ordinary.


“Today we find many luthiers who are able to offer a good or even excellent classical guitar but still very few are really unique and outstanding. Those true greats never follow the mainstream but solely their own insight and vision. Gary Southwell is one of those very few. He is not only deeply entrenched in the tradition of the instrument and blessed with spectacular craftsmanship, but owns an intuition and affinity concerning the materials that goes far beyond what one can study or practice. The instruments from his hands are more than miracles of sound and playability. They are objects of art, even fetish that you just like to look at, smell, touch and adore every day again and again.”

—Frank Bungarten


“10 minutes to midnight, and I was still playing this magnificent guitar… I have never in my life owned a guitar (or anything else, for that matter) as fine as this, nor did I ever expect to. It just keeps revealing itself, little by little, and I can’t help but feel that everything I am getting from it now is only a hint of what is to come. The sound of this guitar is an entire world, a world I look forward to exploring, and spending a great deal of time in.”

—Michael McCartney


“Thank you again for your tremendous artistry and craftsmanship. I am in awe each time I play my Southwell guitar. I am inspired not only by its unique design and exotic woods that captivate the eye but even more so with each note as it speaks with remarkable tone and clarity in all registers. In this concert guitar I can actually hear all the parts to the music, most notably the inner voices. The instrument speaks in concert with itself making me want to listen more intently to the music I am playing.”

—John Doan


“My English falls short of the beauty of tone it is able to produce, very even through all the registers, differentiated, un-spainishly mixing mid-European romanticism with my here and now, down to earth and very high up in ethereality. And I haven’t said anything about its gorgeous looks yet. I am absolutely smitten.”

—Rudolf Ninks


“I've kept and enjoyed my Gary Southwell guitar for three decades now. The instrument has a winning combination of the innovative and the traditional, and in this case the traditional means even pre-Torres. This models the main interest of my performing career, which for the most part has skipped the heart of the 19th-century repertoire to focus on music from before and after that period. The instrument has fewer swimming overtones than most modern guitars do, but it features a rich, solid fundamental that results in a kind of purity of sound, which one can work with for all kinds of lines and colors. This guitar is not for sale!”

—David Tanenbaum


“It has been my good fortune to be a regular player and fan of Gary Southwell's guitars. Gary's highly developed sense of both the art, craft and history of guitar-making gives his instruments an excitingly adventurous range of possibility- fitting into a long tradition, but always striving to improve the state of our art. That he has succeeded superbly in the latter places him among the elite of contemporary classical guitar builders.”

—David Starobin


“I would like to thank you a thousand times for making me this guitar, but most of all for the extraordinary quality of this instrument. The clarity, responsiveness and the tonal colors amaze me, and for the first time I have a clue to some of the extraordinary tone colors that Segovia produced on his old Hauser.”

—Joseph Bacon


“My old 90’s Temperate Southwell guitar still blows people away in my studio.”

—Pat O’Brien


Scherzer 10 string made by Gary Southwell

Acoustic guitars page