How did your passion and subsequent devotion to guitar-making begin?
Actually, the idea was born out of frustration. I was a car mechanic apprentice at the time, and things weren’t going very well. I used to play the guitar, and one day I started wondering how guitars were made, and from then on I thought of nothing else.
Initially I couldn’t find anywhere to study guitar-making (the luthier trade). Then, through my life circumstances and people I had met, I gradually started learning on my own. I read books and did some courses with a very important guitar-maker, José Luis Romanillos, when I lived in Germany.
I consider myself to be self-taught, because I’ve never seen a guitar master make an instrument first-hand. In a way I’m glad about that, because I don’t have a blueprint of how to do it, so I’m more open to investigation. Perhaps that’s why my guitars are recognised for their sound.
Do you consider your work as a luthier to be a profession or a passion?
For me it’s a vocation; I like my work and I’ve never done it out of a desire for success. My obsession was guitar-making and later, over time, people became interested in my instruments. In the beginning, I couldn’t make a living from guitar-making alone. Gradually, highly renowned musicians started playing my guitars and it became my profession.
What drew you to Granada over thirty years ago?
Ever since I was a teenager I’d been curious and impatient to leave Germany. I have some Latin blood – my father was Italian, hence my name, Marvi. In 1985, a friend bought a house in this village, Ferreirola, in the Alpujarras, and we came here on holiday. Previously I’d travelled by train in Spain, and I’d been to Seville, Granada… In 1987 I moved here permanently. I bought a house and started to renovate it. I’d started making guitars many years before, and so I set up my workshop here.
What influence does a place like the Alpurrajas have on your guitar-making?
This place is wonderful for the work I do. Nobody interrupts you when you’re working and you reach an almost meditative level of concentration.
I think that if you’re at peace with yourself and relaxed, anywhere is good enough.
For me, my workshop is a space of meditation: I’m concentrated, I listen to music and my mind is focused on the present. When I come in here, I’m not aware of anything around me. And so that does influence the piece that my hands create.
Your customers come from all over the world – how do they find you?
It’s essential to make contact with musicians and to attend festivals and fairs where you promote your pieces. At the beginning, when I started off in this profession, I used to go to fairs in Germany where there were only two of us selling our guitars, whereas now there are lots more. I also sell my guitars in shops.
Which countries have your guitars travelled to? Where do you receive orders from?
Marvi is a mark of distinction in the world of guitars. I receive orders from Asian countries like Korea and Japan, but also from Europe: Germany, France, England, Switzerland… and Spain.
What is the process between the moment a client orders a guitar and the moment they receive it at home and can play it?
First of all, the client chooses the type of guitar they want, either classical or flamenco, and each one is practically tailor-made. I start with some standard measurements but they change according to the customer. Right now I have a waiting list of between 12 and 15 months. It is a very exclusive product that takes time. Recently there’s been high demand for flamenco guitars – the musicians themselves talk about them and then the orders start coming in.
What elements are essential to make a guitar sound right?
It’s hard to define. My guitars sound how I am feeling: the feeling I am working with at that moment is the one that stays in the instrument. But of course there’s a part of the design process that must be done mathematically. That’s where I try to be as precise as possible. I always say, “Look for what you feel and where you feel comfortable in order to create.” Part of the sound goes beyond the actual material used; there’s an emotional part that affects the sound of the guitar.
Does the sound of your guitars reflect anything of Andalusia?
Yes, definitely. People tell me this when they play one, but I don’t know exactly why. It could be an illusion, because I’m in Granada…
How does a Marvi guitar sound?
The “Marvi” guitars I make stand out for their rich harmonics, with long, balanced tones; in other words, there are no bass frequencies in certain tones. It’s a guitar that responds to whatever the musician needs; it maintains the tone. The colours of the tones also make it distinct. More than anything else, every musician has very different tastes.
Have you ever found it hard to part with a guitar?
Often, but then I say to myself “I’m going to make an even better one.”
Recommend some of your favourite places to visit in Andalusia.