Hugh Jones is one of Australia’s leading musical instrument makers whose work embraces the fields of harp making, pipe organ making and early keyboard instrument making. This impressive body of work has come from a lifelong commitment to making fine-toned instruments of superior quality and craftsmanship. He has achieved ten world-firsts in mainstream acoustic instrument design (nine in harps and one in clavichords). He is the only person in Australia who has designed and built an orchestral harp, and has now designed more harps than any person in the world.
Following a childhood fascination with instruments and their tonality, he has been making musical instruments professionally for over 30 years. From his first performable instruments for a school play in 1956 he has gone on to develop innovative approaches to the design and construction of traditional instruments. His approach combines contemporary design with traditional features to produce instruments which have a unique visual and tonal quality.
Instrument making isn’t just about craftsmanship – it’s about sound! As Hugh says, “I start off with a sound in my head and then I think how can I trick bits of wood into making that sound, and that’s the essence of it” Australian Wood Review (29), 2000.
He works wherever possible with Australian timbers, to capture their natural beauty, thereby adding further distinction to the product and has researched over 150 Australian timbers for use in his instruments.
The workshop is equipped with computer-controlled machinery and an operating system capable of producing any known wooden instrument.
Highlights of his work 1979 – 1985
- Worked on over 300 pipe organs, mostly in New South Wales, Australia, with organ builders Brown and Arkley, Roger Pogson, and Ron Sharp, builder of the Sydney Opera House organ.
- Studied Violin making with Harry Vatiliotis, Australia’s leading violin maker.
- Construction of 8 portative organs
- Construction of a chamber organ for the Canberra School of Music
- Restoration and maintenance work on major organs such as Sydney Opera House, Sydney Town Hall, Sydney University, Goulburn Cathedral and many other metropolitan and country organs in New South Wales and elsewhere.
1985 to date
- Design and construction of:
– 16 different models of non-pedal harps
– 7 models of orchestral harps
– Early keyboard instruments: harpsichords, clavichords, baroque house organ, portative organ
– Hammered dulcimers
– Violas da gamba
- Restoration of many instruments including work for the National Trust of Australia
- 1st prize for concert harp in the Outback Timbers Competition, Brisbane
- Invited exhibitor Woodmasters at the ABC, Sydney.
- 1st prize for concert harp in General Woodworking category, Working with Wood Show, Sydney, 2006
- In 2008, awarded an R&D grant by the Australian Government,the purpose of which is to examine the acoustic and mechanical behaviour of ochestral harp soundboards with an aim of correcting tonal imbalance in these large instruments.