Against the Grain: Instrument Maker Paul Fischer

Against the Grain Paul Fischer

Paul Fischer and I spent the COVID-19 lockdown working together on his autobiography, Against the Grain: An Instrument Maker’s Journey, and I am pleased to say that it is finally published!

With Paul in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and me in North London, we did our writing and editing via long telephone calls and emails. Our initial idea of something much more modest grew to incorporate his early family history, his apprenticeship as a harpsichord maker with Robert and Andrea Goble, a long stint in the army in the 11th Hussars, and then a return to instrument making working with David Rubio at Duns Tew, before setting up his own workshop in Chipping Norton.

Against the Grain is very much Paul telling his life story in the way he wanted it told; in its 295 pages with 135 illustrations, there is much to be explored. The life of an instrument-maker is necessarily solitary, and although Paul Fischer has all the requirements for the mental and physical demands of his chosen profession, the other side of his personality is of an ‘action man’, who loves travel and sports. Paul’s interests and experiences include: the early music movement, Arnold Dolmetsch, Julian Bream, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Omega Guitar Quartet, Brazil and endangered woods, guitar-making in Germany, the guitar in Japan, the London School of Furniture, jazz and Antarctic exploration.

The Appendix includes articles by his long-term collaborator Dr Bernard E. Richardson from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University on guitar acoustics, as well his a list of his recommended PhD theses by others on the topic. The author and Shelley specialist, Julian RoachShelley’s Boat: The Turbulent, Tragic Last Weeks of Percy Bysshe Shelley – contributed an article on the process of making a copy of the Shelley guitar with Paul Fischer. A selection of Paul Fischer’s earlier articles on guitar-making have been edited and included there. We were also grateful to the guitarists and guitar makers who contributed: Sérgio Abreu, Badi Assad, Sérgio Assad, Christopher Dean, Siegfried Hogenmüller, John Mills, Juan Martin, Gerald Garcia, Thomas Liauw, Jasper Sender and Xuefei Yang,

Paul and I have known each other on a professional basis for over thirty years, and there was plenty of guitar gossiping – as well as writing and editing – that went on during our long telephone calls several times a week. Writing the book also gave us an opportunity to get in touch with a many guitarists from all over the world, who play Paul Fischer’s instruments and who have been an important part of his life. This was particularly important both to counteract the isolation caused by the pandemic, and also because Paul had had a devastating stroke a few years back. He has made a remarkable recovery but it has still has put limits on his ability to work and to travel to give masterclasses, to attend festivals, music fairs and concerts, which he always loved doing.

The Acknowledgements of the book do give thanks to the many people who supported the project and offered information, photographs and text, reading of draftings and welcome criticism and enthusiasm. However, it is with great sadness that two of the special people we were corresponding with during the writing process, Gilbert Biberian and Sergio Abreu, both died in February. We were grateful that writing the book put us back in contact.

Against the Grain: An Instrument Maker’s Journey, by Paul Fischer is available in

paperback and in hardback.

© Thérèse Wassily Saba 2023


4 thoughts on “Against the Grain: Instrument Maker Paul Fischer

  1. It’s good to see this post about Paul Fischer’s new book, and I’ll be ordering
    a copy soon. Previously I had gotten an earlier book called ‘Let the Wood Speak’, but this new one appears to be much more complete. Thanks.

    PS: the sound of the Fischer guitar that Eduardo Fernandez played on in the early-mid 80s is one of my benchmarks.


      • This is really neat! Yes, those first few Decca recordings- to my ear- are really
        special. I only saw EF once, around 1990 in L.A., and it was so memorable..

        You are surely better versed in these things than me, but there is a live recording that old Guitar Review magazine released as a premium that
        I like *even better* than the studio recordings. Such a combination of
        freedom and firmness, deep lyricism and spontaneity. I emailed him
        once to tell him that I hoped he would one day do a recording of viihuela
        music, as he had once mentioned in a 1987 (?) interview. What a musician, and player..

        Liked by 1 person

      • While I’m blathering on, I’ll mention another recording from that period I like very much: David Tanenbaum’s ‘Lute Masterworks’. This was my introduction to Francesco da Milano, and I still love it, despite being on guitar- though it could be that imprinting thing at work.. FdM, Dowland, Bach BWV995. Much different playing from Fernandez’s, but a disc I still play
        often with real satisfaction. On the other hand, I’ve touted this disc for years,
        and no one has yet said “yeah, that’s great!” Oh, well.. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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