Guitar-Making Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Making, maintaining and repairing stringed instruments, including guitars, basses, mandolins and ukuleles, is known as lutherie. Wide varieties of lutherie courses prepare students to design and construct classical, acoustic and electric guitars.

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In the United States, instruction in lutherie is most frequently offered in the form of short courses. Many students find that the combination of an intensive program in guitar-making and work experience is adequate preparation for a career in lutherie. Programs for aspiring luthiers are offered at a few community colleges and by private organizations.

Guitar-Making Schools

Lutherie programs are offered at the institutions listed below.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
Musicians Institute, College of Contemporary Music Hollywood, CA 4-year, Private for-profit Certificate, Associate's $24,030
Leeds Guitarmakers Williamsburg, MA Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Classes $400-$12,000
Atlanta Guitar Work Snellville, GA Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Program $6,500
Chicago School of Guitar Making Chicago, IL Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Classes, Certificate of Completion $250-$1,200
American School of Lutherie Portland, OR Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Classes $1,200-$3,800
Whetstone School of Lutherie Brattleboro, VT Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Classes $150-$2,900
Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair Big Rapids, MI Private for-profit Classes, Workshops, Certificate $150-$18,500
Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery Phoenix, AZ Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Certificate $10,950 (2017)
Colorado School of Lutherie Denver, CO Less than 2-year, Private for-profit Classes, Workshops $400-$12,000

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); School websites

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when choosing a guitar-making program:

  • Many programs require students to purchase materials and tools in addition to paying the tuition or program fees, so students should make sure they have an accurate picture of how much the luthiere training will really cost.
  • Courses can be offered as lectures, demonstrations, hands-on workshops or some combination; choose a school with limited student enrollment to take advantage of instruction and workshop tools.
  • Some programs are endorsed by professional luthiers' associations, but you should sit in on a class or contact graduates to assess the quality of a program.
  • There are only a few programs that offer formal recognized certificates or degrees, which may influence your decision about which program to enter. Additionally, programs may have a particular area of focus, such as traditional or experimental design, repair and maintenance, and instrument production.

Short Courses

Short courses in guitar making and repair that do not lead to certificates or degrees can take from a few days to six months to complete. Some programs begin with the theory of guitar design, while others focus on introducing the tools and terminology of lutherie. Students may complete one or more instruments over the course of the program.

Certificates

Certificate programs often teach maintenance and repair along with guitar design. Depending on the program, students may be able to transfer these credits to an associate's degree program with a dual emphasis that includes guitar-crafting instruction; however, associate's degree programs are rare.

Most guitar making programs are short workshops or classes without formal accreditation. Some schools do offer certificate programs, and it is also possible to complete an associate's degree to prepare for a lutherie career.

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