Matthias Dammann – Germany

The ‘holy grail’ of contemporary double top guitars

One of the most sought after guitars in the world and played by a number of world renowned concert artists, Dammann burst on the scene with his double top design in the 80’s and his guitars quickly became the ‘must have’ guitar for some of the finest players on the planet…

Matthias Dammann has always been a free spirit, an inventor and researcher, and perhaps most important, has always been obsessed with sound.

Born in 1957, he took up the classical guitar in his late teens and immediately became his own teacher. Later he had private lessons and after some intense preparation he went to study at the music academy in Frankfurt. Upon completing his studies, he became a lecturer for guitar there.

From a very early stage he did small experiments on/with his own guitars. ( i.e. manipulating the soundhole diameter etc.) always trying to get closer to that ‘ideal sound’ that he carried in his head.

And of course, he loved instruments too! His own guitar was a beautiful 1968 Daniel Friederich, and in fact, the head profile that Matthias used until 1993 can be seen as an homage to Daniel Friederich. Later, and again as a kind of reverence to the Spanish guitar making tradition, he would change to a head design inspired by Manuel Ramirz/Domingo Esteso.

After some quite successful ‘top exchanging’ experiments on factory guitars, he became fascinated by the idea of actually building his own instruments, which is exactly what he did. Once again, he became his own teacher. Matthias received inspiration from the guitars of Daniel Friederich, Robert Ruck, Miguel Rodgriguez, and most importantly, Antonio Torres, and these Luthiers set the standards, both for craftsmanship and sound.

In 1984 he decided to leave Frankfurt, and set up a fine workshop in Eastern Bavaria, close to the Austrian border. He devoted all his time and energy into creating guitars that he himself would love to play.

Being an active musician he could critically judge his own work from an artistic point of view, and being a self taught sound researcher, he could thoroughly inspect the acoustic behavior of both his own instruments as well as any other guitars that came his way.

This combined artistic/scientific approach and the conclusions that he would draw resulted in instruments that other guitarists wanted to play as well and it helped him to win the Grand Prix in the 1988 Paris/ORTF International Guitar Maker Competition. Technically Matthias had always been fascinated by light weight constructions and materials, and at one point in his career when he was not quite satisfied with the quality of the wood that he could get, he had the idea of creating his own material: a “Sandwich top”. It turned out to be a concept allowing him to construct even lighter tops, and at the same time to gain even more control over the tops acoustic behavior. So he built the very first sandwich top guitar in 1989. Manuel Barrueco was the first internationally renowned guitarist who started playing a Dammann in 1993. Then came David Russell. Now, many world famous concert artists like Pablo Sainz Villegas, Tilman Hoppstock, Thomas Muller-Pering and Franco Platino, are using his guitars.

Matthias Dammann still lives in Eastern Bavaria in an old farm house, where he converted the old cow stable into his workshop. Apart from building guitars, he continues to do acoustic experiments and research hoping to understand a bit more of what the guitar actually does and is capable of doing, but his emphasis remains on the application of his interpretations and ideas. His goal has not changed: he still creates guitars that he would love to play-or- to listen to.

As a guitar dealer, I have had the pleasure of presenting many new and used Dammann guitars to my clients. Technically oriented players note that Dammann guitars possess low resonance frequencies of the air cavity and top modes, and strong fundamentals in relation to overtones. They are warm,full,round, rather dark and very powerful. Tonally they remind one of a traditional old Spanish guitar ( think Torres!) only with double or even triple the volume. I am very pleased to offer Dammann guitars to my clients from time-to-time, please contact me for further information.