Playing the guitar or violin is great, and playing a guitar or violin you know has been built lovingly by a skilled luthier is especially impressive.
But how cool would it be if you could make your own stringed instruments, take pride in your own creations or sell these masterpieces for a high price?
Becoming a luthier isn’t the easiest path, but doing anything impressive isn’t supposed to be. But there are opportunities to learn the art and the skill of creating wonderful instruments.
The training process to become a luthier can be complex and involves working with your hands, learning from experienced luthiers, plus focusing efforts on mastering the fundamentals of music, history, woodworking, even the physics of sound.
The best way how to become a luthier
There are different schools of thought in the best ways to learn these skills. Some suggest directly working alongside a luthier for years. The instructor/mentor will decide how and when to share certain techniques, any payment structure, the appropriate balance of observing and letting the student try their hands, and when the apprentice has gained enough knowledge.
While this arrangement can be adequate for some, another preferred method is to enroll in a recognized luthier school. Here, students can still learn from experienced luthiers, but they can get different perspectives and techniques from faculty members. They also can follow a standard curriculum to make sure everyone learns the same skills and can demonstrate certain proficiencies – especially if they want to go on and teach others.
There will also be a standard timeline for completing basic instruction along with opportunities for more advanced lessons, like different instruments, electronic instruments, or restoration/repair. Students also pay a fixed disclosed tuition rate.
Classes you’ll take and what you’ll learn
Classes can include design, fretwork, fabrication and how to use different tools to create instruments.
For acoustic classes, there will be information about different wood and other natural materials used in construction. The fabrication process includes learning about different parts of the instrument, different types of wood, and the basics of carving and shaping.
For electronic classes, there will be instruction in electricity and other components. Classes will also be taught in general acoustics, which are the principles about how sound waves move and can be amplified naturally or electronically.
How much does a Luthier school cost?
Every school sets their own prices due to factors like faculty knowledge, length of instruction and various tools and supplies, including exotic hardwoods. Some schools also have a basic price for standard training plus students can pay for additional tutoring.
Other schools have “a la carte” selections where students can pick workshops based on their schedule/goals, while others have a semester system that awards a certificate at the end.
Some basic weeklong seminars to be a luthier may cost in the low thousands, but a two-year program, such as that available through Guitar Craft Academy in Nashville, can cost as much as $8,000 a quarter. This includes room and board. Federal financial aid and scholarships are available.
It can be a time and financial commitment to become a luthier but could lead to a variety of lucrative career options, including creating guitars, repairing/restoring, and teaching. It can be a boost to someone interested in the music industry who likes working with their hands and being valued for their work.
Guitar Craft Academy officials are happy to share info about educational options, from certificate programs to workshops.