Keeping the ancient art of lutherie alive

As a young boy in the 1990’s, Doug Coghill spent time with his Grandfather (a retired Viola player and self-taught luthier) in his tool shed making instruments, surrounded by a myriad of tools and beautiful wood. It was there, under the guidance of his Grandfather, that Doug learnt the art of lutherie and went on to make his first viola in his high school woodwork class.

Fast forward to 2021, and although his Grandfather is sadly no longer with him, Doug is keeping his memory alive. He now runs his own luthier business, Coghill String Instruments, from his home and workshop in Moonah.


Doug, what draws you to the art of lutherie?


There is such a strong tradition with instrument making which I really love. There is also a practical element to what I do.  New instruments are very expensive, and living in Australia means we are so far away from Europe where you have the ability to see and try different instruments with ease. This way I have control over the creative process and can create my own instrument tailored to what I am looking for.

So, what are you looking to create when you make a new viola?

Unlike the violin which has a standard size and shape, the ideal viola can vary, so you have the scope to try different approaches in design and size. There are lots of boxes to tick. The viola needs to respond quickly with flexibility and versatility, have great sound (both small and large) and it needs to be light.

Do you have mentors who help you hone your craft?

I’ve been refining my skills with the help of Denis Witt, a local instrument maker. He is an absolute perfectionist. He has a boat builder background but now makes violins, violas, and cellos. Denis produces everything to the highest quality.

What are you currently making?

I am currently working on a number of viola commissions which will keep me busy for the rest of this year. I then have plans for two cello commissions in 2022, which is really exciting.

Lastly, what has been a luthier career highlight so far?

A few weeks ago, the TSO had their Big Rehearsal with the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra (TYO). I had two players either side of me who were both playing violas I had made. That was a magic moment!

We love celebrating our musician’s achievements, and urge you visit Doug’s website to see his beautiful creations.


If you’d like to see Doug making a viola, please visit our #TSODaily Dose Making a viola with Doug Coghill film.