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Anyone an alumni of a Repair/Lutherie school?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by GKon, Feb 5, 2016.


  1. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Does anyone here have first hand experience with attending a Guitar/Bass Repair school, such as this one:
    Luthier School | Guitar Repair School Course Curriculum

    or a Lutherie school, such as this one:
    Roberto-Venn | School of Luthiery | Guitar Making & Repair


    I'm 47, and through various circumstances, I've found myself out of work, and looking for something new to do and learn that could help me find a job and make some money.

    I've worked with my hands my whole life, as a general contractor, a motorcycle mechanic and builder (including metal work, welding, soldering, etc.), playing music, martial artist, etc etc. I'm always building or making something. For example, I'm currently learning how to pinstripe so that when I get good enough, I can do it to make a few extra bucks.

    I never really got in to repairing my basses until a few years ago, when I learned how to do my own setups. I enjoy that thoroughly. It reminds me of tuning up motorcycles, and a lot of the skills involved are similar, mainly using feeler gauges, having to be precise, and getting something to work properly.

    A few months back, I built my first bass from a kit, doing a lot of modification to it. You can see a link here:
    My first "build". P-bass to Scroll bass. Some info/advice please?

    I realized that I enjoyed it, got a lot of good feedback from friends that have seen it, was asked to build something for them but felt limited by my lack of knowledge. This got me thinking about going to a school to learn how to do repairs, fret dressing and leveling, wiring, painting, etc.

    I'd like to know if anyone here has any first hand experience with this type of school, and if anyone has attended the NJ Guitar Repair School in particular.
    Luthier School | Guitar Repair School Course Curriculum

    I believe that, at this point, I'm more interested in going somewhere to learn setups, repair, wiring, and such, as opposed to a lutherie school for building my own basses. I'm not looking to become a custom bass builder as a profession, as opposed to someone that can do good setup and repair work. In the future I may get into building but that's not my current goal.

    Are these types of schools worth the money and time? Do you leave with the appropriate knowledge to then do this type of work? I don't expect to make a killing as a repair guy either, but do enjoy the work and would like to add it to my skillset.

    ***PLEASE don't offer me advice to watch videos to learn how to do this. In this instance, if I am to pursue this, I want to learn hands on from a teacher. I'd prefer to hear from people that have done it or looked into it, rather than from people with no experience in this area. Thanks. ***

    I apologize if my posting is at all muddled or unclear. I'm healing from surgery on my arm and am taking oxycodone at the moment. :)

    Thanks.
     
  2. HubbardsFate

    HubbardsFate Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2006
    Good question. I'm hoping a few people can chime in and answer your questions...I'm curious too..
     
    GKon likes this.
  3. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    I'm glad to know I'm not alone. :)
    I do hope we do get some responses.

    Have you been looking at any school(s) in particular?
     
  4. HubbardsFate

    HubbardsFate Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2006
    I can't honestly say I have been seriously looking into this for myself recently. I was looking at it a couple of years ago; places that offer this kind of training in Canada seem to be fairly far and few between...having said that, the three or four that I know of are in western Canada, which is where I am, so if I ever do decide to pull the trigger on this...

    And OP, if you ever decided to go ahead with this, you might want to consider Canada. With the exchange rate where it is these days, you might be able to save yourself a significant amount of money as opposed to doing your training in the States.

    OP, check out this link: Journeyman Program — Galloup Guitars
     
    GKon likes this.
  5. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Thanks for the tip. I hadn't considered that. I'll look into your link tomorrow.
    I have very fond memories of the Yukon territory and parts if B.C. I went through in '96 on a motorcycle trip from California to Alaska. It was some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen.
     
  6. HubbardsFate

    HubbardsFate Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2006
    That link I gave you is for an American school, I think it's in Michigan.

    Yes, it is very nice over here, glad you enjoyed it in '96! There is actually a school along the lines of what you are looking for on Vancouver Island (a little town called Qualicum...very nice area, I lived on Vancouver Island on two occasions) - Check out the link: Summit School of Guitar Building and Repair
     
    GKon likes this.
  7. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    I took a quick look at the other link. Indeed, they are in Michigan. $18,500 for the Masters program. Ouch.
    I noticed that the build part of the course is for 4 guitars but no basses. How dare they.

    I'm mainly interested in repairs and setups.so will see.if their cheaper.courses revolve more around that. Their Masters and Journeyman courses offer free housing,.which is.great.

    The school I posted that's in NJ is along the lines of what I'm after. The difficult and ironic part is I just realized.today that it is located just around the corner from my ex-fiancee house. We were engaged till a few weeks ago when she suddenly broke things off and cut.all contact with me. I must admit that it would be difficult to be that near to her house at this point in time.
    It sucks too because had that not happened,.I could have lived at her place for the few months of schooling.
    It's funny how life works sometimes.
     
  8. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Anyone?
     
  9. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
  10. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Roberto-Venn is in Phoenix. I've past by their location on a few occasions. They also have a display booth at the Musical Instrument Museum here in town. From what I hear, they are highly regarded. When I retire in 2 years, I thought I may take their course, though it's pretty pricy at like 10k grand for 6 months.
     
    GKon likes this.
  11. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Thanks for your input @mapleglo

    Yes, it's $10,950 for 4.5 months, NOT including housing, material costs for your builds and tool costs, although you can provide your own tools if you have them.
    I do find that VERY expensive. I have to wonder if it's worth it. You can't put a price on a good education, but there's expensive and then there's EXPENSIVE.

    The more I read about the Galloup school in Michigan (link provided by HubbardsFate Journeyman Program — Galloup Guitars)
    the more I like it.

    Their Master's course, which lasts 6 months, is just over $13,000, but that includes a lot more information and hands on when comparing their
    syllabus to Roberto-Venn. The price also includes housing, materials and use of their tools. And you get to build 4 instruments.

    Their Journeyman's course last 2 months, costs $6,800 including use of tools, materials, housing, and building 2 instruments.
    It seems to be a rather detailed course, covering what I'm interested in. Although, I do like the business courses offered at the
    end of the Master's course. I could use some of that knowledge :)

    They also have some low cost seminars you can add to your learning, like fret inlays, pickup winding, CNC, tube amp building, etc.

    I won't be able to attend any school till Spring or later, so I have time to do some research.
     
  12. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Yes, it does seem pricy. On the other hand, I live in town and own a pretty good selection of tools, so I am still seriously considering attending at some point. Good luck with your search!
     
    GKon likes this.
  13. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Those two things would make it much more feasible for you to attend.

    Thanks for your help and support :)
     
    mapleglo likes this.
  14. HubbardsFate

    HubbardsFate Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2006
    OP, Galloup's school has a pretty stellar reputation to the best of my knowledge. I remember an article about it in Bass Player magazine from years ago. One of the students featured in it was a guy named Chris Griffiths, who is from the same general area of Canada I am from (east coast); if I recall correctly, after his time at Galloup's, he returned to Canada, formed a company called Griffith's Guitar Works, and even developed a patented acoustic guitar design (some sort of bracing system) that I think he eventually sold (or licensed) to Gibson (I think) or some other large manufacturer, presumably for a decent dollar...
     
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  15. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    That's all good information and inspiring as well :)

    Reading their course descriptions, and the fact that housing, materials and tools are included, make it sound very good to me.
    Given they have the rep you mention makes it even better. Plus, I like Michigan. :)

    I'm very interested in the Master's course but, unless I win the lotto, I won't be able to afford that.
    When I get a bit closer to actually being able to attend, I'll give them a call and ask a few questions.
    Thanks for the link.
     
  16. HubbardsFate

    HubbardsFate Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2006
    No sweat. I think I'd be tempted to attend Galloup's school too. Like another poster mentioned, Roberto-Venn is probably quite a good school as well, and I am sure some of the several other American schools are fairly reputable (I was quite shocked to see how many are on that Stew-Mac list), but like you said, with housing, materials and tools included, it almost seems like a no-brainer to look at Galloup's first. :bassist::)
     
    GKon likes this.
  17. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Indeed!
    I saw a student testimonial that included the name and phone number of the shop he opened after graduating.
    I'm going to call at some point and see if he'd give me an honest review of his experience there.
     
  18. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    This has some personal interest, so I'd like to post a bit and also try to not overstep anything or break any conflicting rules.

    There are a LOT of people these days offering some kind of training / instruction around the country, some asking obscene amounts of money, and a few that border on questionable business practices, so it is very important that you do very diligent research and homework before making a commitment to any of them. I tend to keep a low profile on this side, but a little research and you can find my instrument work going back to 1980 and my writing / video / teaching work 20 years, and some folks have been referring to me as one of the "old guard" with the Guild of American Luthiers . Almost every one of the people running the brand name schools are friends and peers of mine (translation: we do a LOT of drinking at all of the trade shows and that is where the best of the best of materials gets traded backstage and we share a lot of the daily grind business stuff with each other).

    You basically have two educational models: the large school type things where there ar a dozen or so people in the class at once and everyone builds together. This model works fine for a history class or traditional thing but since people's individual hand skills and cognitive abilities vary so much, these types of courses get muddied down to the lowest common denominator: the weakest student. When it is time to bend sides or make a fingerboard, you shuffle over towards the fingerboard work area, reach under the bench and grab one that is usually precut and do your thing very similar to an on the job training in a small factory; then you move on to the next step in a similar way. I would estimate that 50% of te people who come to me for help have already been to one of these places. On the plus side, on a couple of months, they walk away with a few finished instruments. Then they get home and are lost. The magical workbench with the pre-cut boards or thicknessed sides or such are gone and they generally do not have a skill set that teaches them to think for themselves and be able to build the necessary infrastructure and jigs back in your own place. Completely unskilled people generally like this model. People who have built an instrument or two or nice furniture or have other craft / woodworking skills can get very frustrated by this. Their goal is to learn how to build instruments in their own shop back home, not just come home with a finished instrument and knowledge of how to work in a $200k shop.

    The other common model that takes a bit more work to find is a one on one with a working luthier. Apprenticeships are almost non existent today. Novices make an amazing amount of mistakes, waste or destroy very precious material, and have an unbelievable knack for dropping my $350 handplanes on the concrete. With an individual model, you get very specific detail oriented instruction that is tailored to your needs, not the other guy in class who is challenged. You also need to recognize that you are taking away valuable bench time, so you will likely be paying an hourly rate. Nobody needs floor sweepers hanging around and nobody is going to help you out for $10 per hour if their shop rate is $60 per. The overhead and margins are just don't work out to allow it. Usually the cost of learning to build an instrument in this manner will wind up about the same price as one of the large schools tuition. BUT....you get to see how a real working shop rolls and you learn problem solving skills. You learn how to resaw ten sets from a $50 board rather than paying $50 for one set. You learn how to make complex bending jigs and do vintage restoration and you'll likely get a friend and mentor for life. Running a successful business making instruments is actually a completely different set of skills from building a nice instrument. With this model you also can break it up over time and have some flexibility, but you have to work to find this option. You also need to be mellow- very very very mellow. I an teach someone to build a fantastic bass or guitar but there is no way I can hang with some tweeker from Long Island jacked up on 11 cups of coffee every morning bouncing around in my small workshop surrounded by very expensive equipment and instruments! Rather than focusing on the entire build, I'll usually focus on the major areas- good for time management and for your wallet. Neither one of us needs to sit around while you have a guided self discovery moment spending 30 hours carving a neck by hand. You can do that at home after we get the basic profile established and all of the more complex fretwork done.

    Of all the large school type places, my number one suggestion is Davbid Freeman's Timeless School up in BC. David is a fantastic guy, he runs a very open minded workshop usually with a fun crew, and the Canadian dollar exchange makes it one of the best bargains out there. Tell him I sent you when you call him up. David also lets you work way outside of the traditional box if that is your interest. Lots of other places have good things to offer, but remember that in this economy there are plenty of people who want you $$$ but not all of them will be a good match for you or get you on the path that is right for your needs.

    'Hope that helps a bit from an insider's perspective. Feel free to call the shop and chat it up or stop by for a visit to play a few tunes and laugh it up if you pass through Asheville.

    j.
    www.condino.com
    www.kaybassrepair.com
     
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  19. HubbardsFate

    HubbardsFate Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2006
    According to the website, Mr. Freeman's school is in Saskatchewan, not BC. Big difference - Saskatchewan is generally a frozen prairie hellscape in winter, whereas BC (most of it anyways) has a much more temperate climate...:roflmao::D
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
  20. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    I graduated with honors from the School of Dumb Mistakes and (subsequent) Hard Knocks. :laugh:

    Nah... seriously, there was a time when I thought that was what I wanted to do, but the reality was I just don't have the gift. I did spend a Summer studying under a brilliant luthier, long enough to realize the level of expertise required was not gonna' happen within this lifetime. I can do simple setup work and even some minor repairs, but that's about it. Sometimes I ever render something to be mildly proud of. :)
     

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