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Guitar Building School and Training Program Information

Guitar builders, commonly called luthiers, make guitars from start to finish, cutting, finishing and assembling the instrument. Some luthiers also build other stringed instruments, such as violins or mandolins. Some luthiers are self-employed while others work for larger companies or guitar factories.

How to Choose a Guitar Building School

Guitar builders, or luthiers, must be skilled at working with wood, plastic and metal in order to build different types of guitars. Guitar builders do not need to know how to play the guitar, but they must understand how a guitar produces music. There is no standard curriculum, and no certification is required to enter this profession. Community colleges, technical schools and for-profit career schools offer courses, workshops, seminars and training programs in guitar building. Some of the longer programs result in certificates.

Summary of Considerations

  • Length and type of program
  • Student-to-teacher ratio
  • Cost

Length and Type of Program

Students can enroll in programs that last for several months or a year and cover all areas of guitar-making in detail. It's also possible to take a course or two in a specific area like basic repair. Students can find schools that provide abbreviated programs that teach the basic skills needed for a workshop or factory job or schools that have longer programs that provide in an in-depth, advanced education for those looking to become self-employed luthiers. Students may also wish to look for schools with programs that emphasize one type of guitar building (acoustic or electric), depending on their career goals.

Student-to-Teacher Ratio

Because individual instruction and attention is an important part of the learning process, prospective luthiers may want to seek schools that have a low student-to-teacher ratio.

Cost

The expense is often a factor in choosing a guitar building school. Some programs require materials fees in addition to tuition and application fees.

Overview of Guitar Building Programs

Guitar Building Courses

These programs may be in the format of a seminar, workshop or course and may last from two days to six months. Students learn the basics of guitar building and are able to seek entry-level employment as a guitar maker or as a stringed-instrument repair technician. Short 1-2 day courses and workshops sometimes focus on a specific topic, such as inlay design, guitar repair or specialized tool use. Weeklong courses may focus on small shop production, contemporary guitar making or advanced guitar design. Other topics covered include:

  • Theory
  • Wood selection
  • Design
  • Maintenance

Certificate Programs in Guitar Building

Certificate programs can last from six months to one year and courses are taught sequentially starting with repairs and tooling and ending with guitar design. These programs are for those who desire a career in the guitar building industry or who want to start their own business. Courses include tools, adhesives, common repair procedures, wiring and bridge installations. Students must successfully build a guitar in order to graduate. Depending on the program, other courses might cover such topics as:

  • Finishing
  • Dynamic testing
  • Computerized analysis
  • Record-keeping

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