What Is A Luthier – Want to Become One?

The term Luthier has been thrown around a lot in forums and blog posts, but most people are not really familiar with this part technician part artist of an occupation.

By definition a Luthier is someone who builds and repairs stringed instruments such as violins and guitars. The word originates from a middle ages popular instrument called Luth (in French) or Lute. It resembles the Oud still common in the middle east. There are two main type of stringed instruments, Plucked or strummed and Bowed (although some of the bowed instruments can be plucked as well). Luthiers do not make Pianos and Harps.

How does one become a Luthier?

Being an occupation that dates back to the middle ages, as with many other professions, apprenticeship used to be the most common way to learn a trade. One would learn from the Master Luthier for a few years and would either inherit to shop or open his own. Today there are plenty of small schools and programs and even some larger institutions and colleges offering a “Musical Instrument Fabrication and Repair” degree or certificate.  Jump to the full list at the bottom of the page.

As with other crafts that border art, it is rarely the certificate or degree that makes the difference.

If you are determined and an autodidact there is plenty of information out there (and in here) to get you started building guitars. Maybe start with a Kit guitar, just to get your feet wet. Maybe even find an apprenticeship. Chances are after you have created a few kick ass guitars and have made your share of mistakes, you will know where you stand. If you enjoyed it you may want to proceed to a more professional route or be content to remain a hobbyist. If you didn’t like it, you should probably not be a Luthier..

What does it take to be a Luthier?

A luthier has to be a skilled carpenter, a good technician, and have an ear of a musician. If you are dealing with any amplification other than acoustic, you will also need to commend electrotonic components.
For most people, looking at an acoustic guitar or violin, the mere thought of turning slabs of wood into these precision instruments looks unfathomable. The shape, the type of woods, the thickness, the support all have a great affect on the final instrument. Technically a Luthier has to have the highest carpentry skills to produce something that plays. A slight change of angle, a smoother neck and mirror like frets would make the difference between a great guitar to an OK guitar. Then there are the acoustics. Every 1/16” in thickness, the amount of glue and layer of lacquer is significant. 

How long does it take to become a Luthier?

There is a popular theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at any craft. 

Strictly academic, the programs for “Musical Instrument Fabrication and Repair Degree” in the USA, span from two to four years. And there are plenty of courses and apprenticeships that in a wide range of lengths. There is much more information on schools and places for apprenticeship in the “Is there a school for Lutherie near you?” list, at the bottom of the page.

Who can call himself/ herself a Luthier?

To some, a mere formality, a sensitive subject for others.  It is understandable if someone who has been crafting musical instruments their whole life is outraged by anyone who had just build his first kit guitar and calls himself a Luthier. On the other hand no credentials are needed, there is no graduation, certification or exam to indicate it. Is it the number of years or instruments? Is it the quality of work, the fine tuning of the instrument. Are there no mediocre Luthiers (like there are in any other craft and profession)? Do you have to do it professionally? Considering the ‘Guild of American Luthiers’ is open to anyone.
It seems anyone can ‘Call’ himself a Luthier, whether he or she is worthy of the title or not. 
Personal disclaimer: The writer of this post is not a professional Luthier. If anything, I would say ‘I dabble in Lutherie’. ‘The Electric Luthier’ is concept, not a title, and if offends anyone’ I do apologize. 


Do Luthiers use power tools?

There are few if any makers of instruments that do not use power tools and in most cases a CNC machine. The practical advantages as far as speed, accuracy and mostly consistency for any type of production is undeniable. Having said that there is still a lot of manual work that still needs to go into an instrument to give it that final touch. That is what separates boutique and Custom Shops from your ‘Standards’.
However, there are still ‘purists’ who claim and practice Lutherie ‘old school’ and prefer (mostly or exclusively) manual tools and techniques.

What types of tools does a Luthier need to get started?

For a complete overview of Luthiers’ Tools and where we use them see my “Ultimate Guide To Guitar Building Tools

Is there a school for Lutherie near you?

I try and keep this list updated, feel free to send a mail  schools@the electricluthier.com  if there are additional schools or if there are any errors in the information provided.

Schools in the USA

American School of Lutherie
Portland, OR 
www.americanschooloflutherie.com  


Atlanta Guitar Works School of Building and Repair
Snellville, GA 
www.atlantaguitarworks.com


ARC Guitar Building School
Winters, CA 
www.arcguitar.com


Alan Carruth
Newport, NH
alcarruthluthier.com


The Art Of Lutherie
St.Louis, MO 
www.theartoflutherie.com


Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College
Elkins, WV 
www.augustaheritagecenter.org/


Benedetto Guitars
Savannah, GA 
www.benedettoguitars.com


Berkshire Stringed Instruments School of Lutherie
North Adams, MA
www.berkshirestringedinstruments.com


Boss Guitars,
Hampton, CT
hotstringsguitar.com


Brad Nickerson
Asheville, NC
nickersonguitars.net


Bruce Roper, Chicago Luthiers Workshop 
Chicago, Illinois
chicagoluthiers.com


Brian Burns
Fort Bragg, CA
lessonsinlutherie.com


Beyond the Trees
Santa Cruz, CA
beyondthetrees.com


Cascade School of Lutherie
Asheville, NC
www.condino.com


Chicago School of Guitar Making
Chicago, IL 
www.specimenproducts.com/chicago-school-of-guitar-making/


Chicago School of Violin Making
Skokie, IL 
www.csvm.org/
Colorado School of Lutherie
Denver, CO 
www.coloradoschooloflutherie.com


The Curbow School of Lutherie
Morganton, GA
Curbow.com


Custom Vibrations School of Lutherie
Lexington SC 29072
www.customvibrations.net/


Eastern School of Fretted Instrument Repair
Freehold, NJ 
www.njguitarrepairschool.com


Eric Schaefer Guitars
Bernville, PA 
www.ericschaeferguitars.com/


European Lutherie School
St. Louis, MO 
www.radicic-guitar-zither.com


Everett Guitars
Decatur, GA 
www.everettguitars.com/


Finocchio Guitarworks
Easton, PA 
www.finocchioguitar.com


Fretted Strings Lutherie School
Davis, CA 
www.frettedstrings.com


Galloup School of Lutherie
Big Rapids, MI 


www.galloupguitars.com
Geiger School of Lutherie
Carmel, CA 
www.geigerguitars.com


The Guitar Services Workshop
Nashville, TN 
www.guitarservices.com


Harry Fleishman’s Luthiers School International
Sebastapol, CA 
www.fleishmaninstruments.com


Hawkins Guitar
Virginia Beach, VA 
757-818-8370www.hawkinsguitar.com


Haight Guitars
Scottsdale, AZ
haightguitars.com


J.S. Bogdanovich Guitars
Swannanoa, NC 28778
www.jsbguitars.com


James Condino
Asheville, North Carolina
condino.com


Jason Wolverton School of Lutherie
Laguna Beach, CA
www.jasonwolverton.com/index.php?/instruction/-learn-the-art-of-lutherie/


Jeffrey Elliott and Cyndy Burton
Portland, OR
elliottguitars.com


Leeds Guitarmakers’ School
Northhampton, MA 
www.leedsguitar.com


La Gitana Instruments
Groton, MA
thomasknatt.com


Lichty Guitars
Tryon, NC 
www.lichtyguitars.com/


Marlee Guitar Company
WA
marleeguitars.com


MI Guitar Craft Academy Nashville
Nashville, TN
nashville.mi.edu


Midwest Guitar School
St. Louis, MO 63118
www.midwestguitar.com


Musicians Institute
Hollywood, CA 
www.mi.edu


Nazareth Guitar Institute
Nazareth, PA 
www.americanarchtop.com


North Bennet Street School
Boston, MA 
www.nbss.edu


O’Brien Guitars
Parker, CO 
www.obrienguitars.com


Orange Coast College
Costa Mesa, CA 
www.orangecoastcollege.edu


Planet Bluegrass
Main, Lyons, CO
bluegrass.com


Red Rocks Community College School of Fine Woodworking and Lutherie
Lakewood, CO 
www.rrcc.edu/finewood/finewoodpdf/Finewoodworking/guitar.html


Ribbecke Guitars
Healdsburg, CA 
www.ribbecke.com


Roberto Venn School of Luthiery
Phoenix, AZ 
www.roberto-venn.com


Rock ‘n’ Roll Guitar Building School
Napa, CA
robertleeguitars.com/robert-lees-rock-n-roll-guitar-building-school/


Siminoff Luthierie Camp
Atascadero, CA 
www.siminoff.net/luthierie_camp/


SF Guitarworks
San Francisco, CA
sfguitarworks.com


Sound Guitar Workshop
Seattle, WA
www.soundguitarworkshop.com


Southeast Technical College
Red Wing, MN
www.redwingmusicrepair.org


Spencer Acoustics
Garland, TX
spenceracoustics.com


Thomas Doyle
Wantage, NJ 
www.tomdoyleguitars.com


Utah School of Guitar Making
Director & Luthier: Justin Leslie
www.facebook.com/utahschoolofguitarmaking
USGMguitars@gmail.com


Vermont Instruments School of Lutherie
Post Mills, VT 
www.vermontinstruments.com


Violin Making School of America
Salt Lake City, Utah 
www.vmsa.net


Wells School of Lutherie
Daytona Beach, FL
wellsguitars.com


William Cumpiano
Easthampton, MA
cumpiano.com 


Whetstone School of Lutherie
Brattleboro, VT
www.whetstoneschool.com/


Woodcraft of Houston Southwest
Houston, TX 
www.woodcraft.com/

Schools in Canada

Burghardt Luthiery, Géza Burghardt
Vancouver, BC
gezaburghardt.com


The Canadian School of Lutherie
Toronto, ON
www.canadianschooloflutherie.com


Dragonfly Guitars
Gibsons, BC 
www.dragonflyguitars.com/wp/


Ecole Nationale de Lutherie
Quebec City, Qc
metierdart.com 


Fret Works Guitar Repair School
Calgary, AB
www.fretwork.com


Geary Guitar Works
Toronto, ON 
416-579-4880
www.gearyguitarworks.com/


Guitarwood Luthery School
Hamilton, Ontario
guitarwood.ca/content/


Hamm-tone Guitars & School of Lutherie
Winnipeg, Manitoba
www.jeremyhamm.ca


Loucin Guitar Co.
Oakville, ON
www.buildaguitar.ca


Pembina Valley Luthiers
La Riviere, Manitoba
jeremyhamm.ca


Robert Anderson Guitars

Victoria BC, Canada
robertandersonguitars.com


Summit School of Guitar Building and Repair
Qualicum, BC
www.luthiers-international.com


Timeless Instruments
Tugaske, SK
www.timelessinstruments.com


Webber Guitars
North Vancouver, BC
webberguitars.com


William Okos Music
Laughing Tree Guitars
Summerland, BC
www.williamokosmusic.com


Schools in France

European Technological Institution for Music Professionals (ITEMM)
France
itemm.fr/formations/en/


Schools in Australia

Armstrong Lutherie & Guitar Building School
Sumner, Queensland
armstronglutherie.com.au

Australian Guitar Making School
Various locations
australianguitarmakingschool.com.au

Schools in Finland

IKATA – The Ikaalinen College Of Crafts And Design / Lutherie Department
Ikaalinen, Finland
sasky.fi/sasky/tiedotepalsta/index.tmpl?sivu_id=8108

Schools in Israel

Algranati Guitar Making School
Tel-Aviv, Israel
www.algranati.co.il

Schools in the Netherlands

De Haan Guitars – Dutch school for guitar making
JE Alkmaar
www.dehaanguitars.nl/

Schools in Ireland

Irish School of Lutherie
Co Galway
www.pauldoyleinstruments.com

Lagan Lutherie School
Belfast, Northern Ireland
www.laganlutherieschool.org

Schools in Brazil

Curso de Tecnologia em Construtpo de Instrumentos Musicais û Luteria
Universidade Federal do Parana
Curitiba PR
www.luteria.ufpr.br

Schools in Switzerland

Guitar Making School of Switzerland
Jongny
www.devenirluthier.ch

Schools in Sweden

Musikinstrumentakademien
Upplands-Väsby
www.folkuniversitetet.se

Michael Sanden
Gärsnäs, Sweden
sandenguitars.com

Schools in Germany

Stratmann Gitarren
Hannover, 
www.stratmann-gitarren.de/

Schools in England

Crimson Guitars
Dorset

David Van Edwards
Norwich, Norfolk, England.
vanedwards.co.uk

Guitar Building School and Courses from Guitar Tech Courses
Winchelsea, East Sussex
guitartechcourses.com

NK Forster Guitars
Biscuit Tin Studios
Newcastle upon Tyne
www.nkforsterguitars.com

Osborne Guitars & Mandolins
Lllanidloes, United Kingdom
osborneguitars.co.uk

Pablo Requena
Southern Spain and in Sussex, England
guitarmakingcourse.org

Spanish Guitar Making Course
East Sussex
www.guitarmakingcourse.org

Totnes School of Guitarmaking
Totnes, Devon
www.totnesschoolofguitarmaking.co.uk

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation
West Sussex

 

Schools in Spain

Pablo Requena
Southern Spain and in Sussex, England
guitarmakingcourse.org

Spanish Guitar Making Course
Torremolinos Malaga
www.guitarmakingcourse.org

Schools in Malasia

Jeffrey Yong
Pandan Indah Industrial Park
Kuala Lumpur 
jeffyongguitars.com

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