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José Luis Romanillos

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José Luis Romanillos Vega – guitar maker

José Luis Romanillos Vega was born in Madrid in 1932 and apprenticed at thirteen to a Madrid cabinetmaker. In 1956 he moved to England to work in a hospital in Epsom and a few months later in London. Five years later, he made his first Spanish guitar in London.

In 1970 he opened a workshop as a guitar maker in the village of Semley, Wiltshire, inspired by the English guitarist Julian Bream. Romanillos guitars were recognized by guitarists internationally for both their sound and aesthetic appearance. The pure sound and harmonic balance of the strings is what Romanillos sought in his quest for the subtle “Spanish sound.” The Daily Mail called him “the Stradivarius of the guitar” and the Italian magazine Sei Corde “the most important living stringed instrument maker.”

He has given courses on Spanish guitar making in numerous countries and lectures and seminars on the organology of the instrument. He has also lectured on the history and development of the vihuela de mano and the Spanish guitar. For ten years, he was a member of the Crafts Council of Great Britain.

Since 1995 he has lived in Guijosa, a rural district belonging to Sigüenza, in the northern part of Guadalajara, Spain. In 2002, in collaboration with his wife Marian, he published an English-language dictionary on the makers of stringed instruments and guitars in Spain, entitled The Vihuela de Mano and the Spanish Guitar.

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