Hans van Velzen builds guitars in his hometown of Tilburg, Holland. His was initially trained as a mechanical engineer at the Leidse Instrumentmakersschool where he learned to design and make precision instruments for research, laboratories and prototypes. These "instruments" were mostly made in metal, and had nothing to do with musical instruments. Hans made his first musical instrument (an electric guitar) in 1986 purely on the side, as a hobby project. However, at the Leidse instrumentmakersschool he learned how to work very precisely, which would be a big advantage when he would eventually turn to guitar making.
Starting in 2004 he began his course of study in guitar making at the CMB in Puurs, Belgium and in 2014 became an officially qualified guitar builder after completing three areas of study: steel string guitar module, the restoration/repair module and the classical guitar module, all at the CMB. Hans cites Jacky Walraet and Walter Verreydt as two of his most influential teachers. Hans' direction over the last ten years has focused more and more on classical guitar building, and he has participated in the Leonardo Guitar Project
, which is a collaborative effort to build guitars with non-tropical tonewoods - Hans spent one month in Italy in 2015 working with Lorenzo Frignani on this project. In terms of sound, Hans cites the "golden era" of the Spanish guitar (roughly from 1870-1930) as his primary inspiration. Builders such as Antonio de Torres, Manuel Ramirez, Enrique Garcia and Santos Hernandez are his top models, and Hans builds replicas of instruments from these builders, aiming to capture both the sound and "look" of the original instruments as accurately and historically correct as possible. Hans' goal is to gain enough working knowledge of these old masters, that will soon result in a model of his own design.
Hans has won several prizes including First prize at the Dutch Guitar Builders meeting in 2011, and the "Golden Fingerplane" of the CMB in Belgium in 2014. His "Garcia" model won third prize
in the 2nd International "Antonio Marin Montero" Guitar Building Competition
in Granada, Spain in 2018.
In Hans' quest to understand the period of guitar making in Spain at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, he notes that Santos Hernandez built the Manuel Ramirez guitar that was given to Andres Segovia in 1912, which tells us something about the extraordinary skills of this man. From Santos Hernandez you can draw a line to the Granada school, especially in the work of Manuel de la Chica and Antonio Marin, which brings us into the 21st century. Hans deeply appreciates the way all these great builders are connected through history by building, sharing and refining based their mutual and accumulated knowledge. In his exploration to learn from this tradition, evaluating the work of Santos Hernandez is his focus for this instrument which is "based on" a 1933 Santos Hernandez. Hans likes to note that this is not an exact copy, for one thing because Santos Hernandez never used cedar tops on any of his guitars! Apart from that, all the dimensions are quite similar to the original guitar. The rosette is a copy of a different Santos, from 1919. The design of this rosette struck Hans as very modern and contemporary, so decided to use it. Compared with his "1917 Garcia" model
model, Hans feels his Santos model has a more "modern" sound. The main reason for this, apart from the different tonewoods used, is the type of bracing, which is more akin to flamenco bracing, even though this instrument is completely "classical" in its tone, especially assisted by the cedar top which gives added warmth to the sound. Cypress and cedar are not commonly paired, although it has been done by Jose Ramirez, Pepe Romero Jr, Edmund Blochinger and several others with outstanding results, just as Hans has done here.