Talking Guitar: Mirabella Guitars
Cristian Mirabella is one of the world's most critically acclaimed archtop builders. We first announced that we were representing Cristian's work back in 2016, when we ordered two of his Crossfire models.
Those two much anticipated instruments have just arrived and they are very much worth the wait! We caught up with Cristian to give you the opportunity to get to know this very talented builder, and find out more about his Crossfire design.
Ben Montague: Hi Cristian, How are you? Please tell our readers what’s new with you.
Things are very exciting here at Mirabella Guitars as we head towards the summer. Some big announcements and some really cool guitars will be coming soon. Equally thrilling is the arrival of the Mirabella Crossfires at TNAG. The first Crossfires in the UK! Really hoping everyone that has the opportunity to check them out, enjoys them and I look forward to the feedback...
BM: For those readers who don’t know the history of Mirabella Guitars and your journey as a luthier, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in the industry?
My Story begins with my father and his hope that I would be a classical guitar player beginning at the age of 5. However at that time "Matchbox cars" seemed way cooler and held my young mind's attention far longer then strict classical guitar lessons. So, the guitar wasn't to be..... Just yet.
Then in the fall of 1981 my world changed forever....
First with the tragic passing of my father.
Now just 9 years old and feeling quite devastated and lost, my cousin gave me a couple of albums to try and cheer me up one day, stating "it's not what your dad listened to, but I think you'll like it!".
My house when my father was alive was filled with Classical and Opera....My cousin brought me, Jimmy Hendrix! And from the worst thing to have ever happened, came the best..... I loved it! And the sound of Blues and Jazz guitar...
I again started to play the guitar, taught myself "Alfred's Book" 1and 2 then saved my paper route money to buy a cool guitar..... And find a guitar teacher.
Only a year later I would buy a used 1979 Anniversary Fender Strat in desperate need of a setup, so I was told by my guitar teacher to go to this local Guitar Shop to get the work done.Two minutes in this shop had me asking for a job.
Now unbeknownst to me, was the fact that this shop was one of the top repair and restoration shops on all of the East Coast and the owner had been the personal guitar tech for John Lennon after leaving the Beatles as well as other noted celebrities.
Ronnie was also a noted player in his own right, signed at one time to RCA Victor and a member of the Lester Lanin Orchestra, having played for five Presidents and the Queen.
I would stay with Ronnie's shop for nearly 15 years and then go off on my own and start Mirabella Guitars in the winter of 1997.
BM: How did growing up in New York, the epicentre of jazz, influence you as a guitarist and then as you became a luthier?
Growing up in New York, on Long Island as well as in the 80s and 90s was the epitome of "right place right time"!
Everything was an influence!
Everything was right there ! From the players, to the guitars. To being able to be around Jimmy D'Aquisto and John Monteleone and others
It was just the best place you could be...
BM: Can you please describe the ‘Mirabella’ sound?
The Mirabella sound.... the Mirabella sound is a full-bodied, well balanced sound. Warm and rich, yet very articulate and open on every note all the way up the fingerboard.
It's my hope that when a player hears the "Mirabella sound", they hear the sound they been hearing in their head. The voice that will best convey their thoughts and emotions through their music to the people they share it with...
BM: When searching for a specific tone from an instrument, what qualities do you look for in a particular set of wood?
It will really depend on what those specific tones might be, and what you're hoping to get out of the instrument. That will dictate what it is you are looking for in the wood. As you work the wood, it will tell you where and how it wants to be shaped so you get the most and best out of it.
BM: You have been acclaimed as one of the world’s finest builders of arch tops, what would you say are the most important things you learned from the likes of James D’Aquisto and John Monteleone during your apprenticeship?
Well thank you for those very kind words.
I think the most important thing I've taken away from the influence of Jimmy D'Aquisto is that the instrument has to be balanced and work as one. No part of the instrument can fight another. If the guitar isn't fighting itself then the player won't find it difficult or a fight to play. And that will then allow the player and instrument to then becoming one.
I think John Monteleone really instilled in me the fact that you can make the guitar "Art" as well as a functioning tool. First and foremost it has to be musical instrument, but once you've gotten that down, then it's equally important to say something with the lines of the instrument.
Create a style and look that defines you as well as the sound...
I also think both Jimmy and John as well as D'Angelico show, that there is a foundation to the guitar that's built in tradition, and with that foundation the ablity to explore an instrument's possibilities are endless...
BM: Every luthier has their own magical techniques for creating their identity of sound. What is your approach to voicing your guitars?
I approach voicing my instruments by again, looking at the guitar as a whole. From the carve of the top and braces, to the angle of the neck. Changing the footprint of the bridge to influence the tone, or the size of the saddle.
Each can contribute to the voice, and finding that balance, well there's the magic.
BM: Please can you describe your bracing structure?
I use an "X" brace. Usually symmetrical, all thought at time there may be a need for an asymmetrical "X" bracing..
I can manipulate the bass and treble response moving through the top by how the brace is carved and shape.
BM: This is a classic question we like to ask all our luthiers. What are your favourite materials to work with?
I truly love them all! From the European maple, which is excellent at getting an even and balanced tone. To the ebony for sculpting and shaping tailpieces & bridges. To the Pearl, Aluminum and brass for accents and inlays..
All the materials are the best and most fun, because they bring you to that completed instrument and idea you saw and heard in your head..!
BM: Do you get to play your guitars much yourself?
I have a couple. But I do play each of the new guitars I create for a little bit of time before I deliver them. I want to know that the guitar is the best it can be. That it's responding and playing perfectly. That it's comfortable and feels good.
So I do spend a little time with each of the new instrument, to insure that.
BM: How does it feel to have seen your guitars in the hands of some of the world’s greatest jazz players?
Wonderful and amazing!
As a kid I had hopes of being a great player and playing with all these great players I looked up to.
With the opportunity to growing up around many of them, I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be the player that I wanted to be, but I could be the builder that I hoped to be, so I put all my efforts into guitar making.
When I see a player with one of my guitars, it allows me that opportunity to be up there playing with them. The guitar takes my place , but it does something I could never have done as a player, my guitar giving these amazing players their voice, and allow them to play and express themselves like I could only have dreamed to... So absolutely, Wonderful and amazing!
BM: We have just received our first Crossfire guitars from you, what can you tell us about these instruments?
The Crossfire is very special instrument..
The idea was born out of the fact that many of the new modern Archtop guitars had really stepped away from a true vintage archtop voice.... Big, Warm with a lot of bloosm to the notes.
I wanted to see if I could make a guitar that would have all the modern ability in clarity and articulation on the fingerboard but would have an equally strong and warm vintage voice and tone like a D'Angelico or D'Aquisto.
The Crossfire achieves that , and weather in the hands of a "traditional jazz player" or a "modern player" possibility not even playing jazz at all, the guitar works and gives them a voice and tone many other guitars just can not....
BM: How do you deal with obstacles in the build process?
I really don't see things as obstacles in the building process. You'll sometimes deal with something that won't work how you wanted or thought it would.
Thinking a piece sounds a certain way, but as you carve it, you see that another piece will be better and more fitting to the sound you're trying to achieve. So you just make that change.
Or a design line the doesn't flow or compliment the guitar as it should.
I sometimes like those little snags. It lets you know you're paying attention. Truly putting everything you have into your work and letting you know that you're watching it, to make sure that everything comes out right and is the best you can give of your work.
BM: What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
The rest of 2018 holds a lot of cool things for myself and Mirabella guitars. Again, some big and exciting announcements to be made shortly. But mainly as in the past, and hopefully for a very long future, having the wonderful ability to create guitars for some of the most amazing and wonderful players ...
With 20 years on my own and 36 years all together, 2018 hold the wonderful window of opportunity for the next 36 years!
We have just received two fantastic new Crossfire archtops from Cristian. One has already sold but one is still available!
Mirabella Guitars Crossfire 17" Archtop - £18,250
- Sound Board - German Spruce
- Back - European flamed Maple
- Sides - European flamed Maple
- Neck - One piece Maple
- Nut Width - 1.75"
- Headstock Veneer - Ebony
- Scale length - 25.375"
- Fretboard - Ebony
- Nut - Bone
- Saddle - Bone
- Bridge - Ebony
- Bindings - Ebony
- Tuners - Gotoh
The Mirabella Crossfire 17" Archtop is in stock now. Click here to find out more.