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where to study luthery?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by funkcicle, Feb 13, 2004.

  1. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    Where are some of the good places to study luthery nowadays? Is the old "apprentice" system still commonplace? Are there any schools/programs with reputations for putting out top notch luthiers? Any master luthiers who freely share their knowlege and experience?

    I've been considering GCA in Hollywood mostly for my own benefit, not to make a living at it or anything.. but I'd really like to know what else is out there. Thanks! :D
  2. Markdezy


    Jan 24, 2004
    I also really would like to know about this.

  3. Here's the problem as I see it. Unless you are going to go to work for one of the real biggies ala Sadowsky, you aren't likely to find an apprentice position that would allow full time study of the subject AND make a living while doing so. Schools can have the same problem and it's gonna COST you money all the while you can't make a decent living.

    Perhaps finding a smaller day school arrangement might fit better. Here in Atlanta we have a luthier school run by John Marshall. He teaches several young guys in his shop. Cost is fairly low and you'll get an introduction to the basics and get shop time. But from what I've seen of his students work, it shouldn't be long before one could surpass their work quality.

    Might I recommend a self directed study? That's exactly what I've been doing for the last 3½ years. I got the bug like you guys and just went and tackled the process alone. I've always maintained that building solid body basses isn't rocket science. With planning and patience, even first time builders can create stunning instruments. The key is to use ALL of the resources out there for study. The internet is a great way to start - there are tons of places - you might already be in one - that you can gleen tidbits of info to incorporate into your training. Watch Yankee Workshop for shop tips. Take a 2 hour seminar at the local tool retailer or home center on router use. The info you seek is everywhere. While you are at this, you can start building your tool assortment. You don't have to go out and buy lots of expensive stuff because you can build perfectly nice instruments with hand power tools.

    And this approach can be MUCH better than a classroom experience for many reasons:
    • You can work on your project at nearly any hour - not the school's schedule
    • You can take as long as needed to understand a subject OR to accomplish a building task
    • No one is looking over your shoulder
    • Building at home allows the use of the computer during shop hours for drawing precise patterns
    • You will teach yourself the processes as they relate to your own ability, tool assortment, and shop capability.
    • From the start, you will be learning to think critically about your own work quality and not just attempting to please an instructor
    • You can take as long as you like to learn a subject. Class time is anytime and all of the time.
    • You can work a full time job and build at night
    • It's free!
    • There's always someone around here to ask questions of.
    • You won't have to deal with fellow students that are less motivated than yourself
    • You won't have to wait in line use a tool
    • If you make a mistake, no one knows but you
    • You will learn in your own way - reading, surfing, hands-on, whatever.
    • If you learn it on your own, you REALLY know it!

    That one up there about the computer is really important. The box on your desk can be the biggest help in learining and building a system for building. You can download patterns and plans from many sources. You can download strobe tuners with accuracy to rival lab equipment. You can refine designs and make your own patterns. You can register at the MIMF - www.mimf.com - and have access to their library of incredible discussions of everything in guitar building. You can communicate directly with luthiers hundreds of miles from you with pics and text so they can help with problems. The computer should be a main resource for your training. I can't stress this enough.

    Well, there you have my take on it. I guess that some of my reticence to wholeheartedly endorse schools is that I've had experience with the corporate (teach for profit) school system in graphic arts and I was far from enamored by the experience. So I went out, learned most of it by myself and now I'm the "go to" guy in the corporation I work for.

    Your success hinges only on your imagination, dedication to the craft, and hard work. And you can't buy those things from someone else.
  4. unharmed

    unharmed Iron Fishes

    May 19, 2003
    London, England
    Hey, Hambone. Fantastic post. Lot's of excellent advice. Any chance you culd poit me towards one of the strobe tuners you mentioned?


  5. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member


    I'm humbled by your post. It was well thought out and to the point.

    I too am doing this on my own. Resurrection Guitars is in my town (the builder of the famous Jerry Garcia guitars), but he's been a little less than energetic about letting me come in and do some work with him. I got the bug in August 2003 (5 months ago) and haven't even gotten my first piece of wood yet. My point to you funcicle is that for some of us, it's a slow process. I have work, a wife, kids and a band that take my time. Meanwhile, I've spent a lot of time looking at this Luthier's Corner, mimf.com, and woodworking magazines. I'm currently half way through the second of three guitar building books I've bought.

    I haven't worked with wood since junior high school. When I begin, it will be building cabinets and tables for my shop before I destroy a precious piece of spaulted, curly, chachinga maple burl. I also want to make sure I don't inadvertently remove any fingers.

    I love working with my hands. I love the smell of wood. I love doing something creative. I've always wanted to build something. And I love the bass guitar. I can't think of a better way to relax at the end of the day, than building a bass. Man I can't wait to get started!
  6. SlimT


    Feb 27, 2002
    Eden Prairie, MN
    Not to detract from the posts so far, just thought I would
    mention that Greg Curbow has a school:


    I don't know anything about it other than I saw the link and
    thought that would be the first thing I do once I win the lottery.........
    .........well, after a tropical vacation.
  7. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    You're not detracting from anything. If you know about a school, let everybody know. Good job!
  8. Sure Ben, try this:


    The program is called G-Tune and I've got ver 2.x
  9. I'm glad you remembered that Slim.

    Greg was at the house last year and picked up the husband of one of the TB'ers to apprentice for him. I considered doing it but it wasn't practical for me. He didn't last too long - horrendous drive to work, little money - but he said that he learned more in the few months he was there than he had in all of his other ventures.

    The only trouble is that you'll be living in the very rural north GA mountains - very nice and all - but try to get a burger at 10:00 at night and you'll soon see one of the downsides. :)
  10. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    i've been studying here at tb with hammy and matt and jp and ken and a few others. that and reverse engineering a few things... the "luthiers corner" has been my school so far...we'll see very shortly if i really learned anything ! hint hint..
  11. unharmed

    unharmed Iron Fishes

    May 19, 2003
    London, England
    Thanks for the link, Hambone. To get back on-topic: I have noticed that Rob Shuker has a luthiery course advertised on his website. I don't know any details about it yet but seeing as I'm moving to the UK later in the year I'll definitely be finding out :bassist:
  12. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    The Guild of American Luthiers has a list of schools on their site at:


    They also have a pretty good page of related resources at:


    As pointed out so perfectly by Hambone above, learning basic woodworking and jointery, learning how to use the tools and make straight cuts, then just start building! There are MANY good books out there and a TON of online resources. Learning by doing is great.

    Something to consider for basic wood working: try approaching your local high school wood shop teacher and see if he/she is willing to work with you a few hours a week. Offer to pay them.

  13. SlimT


    Feb 27, 2002
    Eden Prairie, MN

    I wondered where he was located. Sounds like a good experience.

    Thanks for sharing, Hambone.

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