How to become an acoustic guitar builder with a background in violin making
In my previous column, “So You Want to Be a Luthier?”, I talked about the types of people attracted to violin-making training programs, some of the opportunities and options these people have, and discussed both long-term and short-term training, one or the other having its place in primary or further training. But the question remains, which school should you choose for your violin-making training? And what could a school offer that would best meet your educational needs?
Here’s some good news: Although the guitar itself is of European origin, since we’re a guitar-crazed culture, many top schools for making and repairing fretted musical instruments can be found here in United States. In fact, many international students travel to the United States to learn here and typically account for up to a third of our student population.
With all the schools, there is not one that ticks all the boxes and meets everyone’s criteria perfectly. Students have different learning styles and personalities that thrive in various types of training programs. For example, my school, the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair, focuses on hands-on training to ensure students leave with valuable time to physically build and converge with musical instruments. But for some, this type of training may not be as flexible as they would like. So, let’s look at some of the options available in the world of violin making schools.
Short-term training is for students who want to quickly advance their skills and resume within a reasonable time. At Galloup, we offer short-term training, but they mainly focus on common skills and issues encountered in guitar repair and restoration. Additionally, the Galloup School has been authorized by Taylor Guitars as a Silver and Silver Plus level warranty certification training facility. However, Galloup does not offer short-term guitar-making training.
Students have different learning styles and personalities that thrive in various types of training programs.
For those looking to build a guitar in a short time, one of the more established short-term programs is the American School of Lutherie, run by Charles Fox in Portland, Oregon. This is an incredibly balanced program emphasizing the quality construction of a flat steel string and electric guitar. Another great program is operated by Robert O’Brien in Parker, Colorado. O’Brien Guitars offers an all-in-one operation in which students build a flat top instrument in about a week. For short archtop guitar training, Dale Unger of the Nazareth Guitar Institute does a great job. Students go through building 17″ L5 style archtops to completion in white (no finish applied) in a week. I have spoken to many students who have taken Dale’s course and they have been more than happy with the experience.These are great options because they are short and the workout style is generally more personalized.
Long-term training, on the other hand, is a completely different situation, where coursework can range from a few months in a private trade school to two years in an accredited college program. At Galloup, we offer long-term training that can go up to more than 2,000 hours of training if a student wishes to take all the courses available. But although we are an accredited private trade school, we are an unaccredited program. So, as with all unaccredited programs, students must finance it themselves or obtain a loan from a private lending institution.
Minnesota State College’s Guitar Repair and Building Program in Red Wing, Minnesota, often referred to as the “Red Wing School,” is an excellent example of a two-year college-level curriculum. Another mid to long term option is the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, Arizona. To my knowledge, it is the oldest violin making program in the United States, and it has produced many fine luthiers over the years. Roberto-Venn offers an 880 clock hour program that allows students to participate in more design elements of guitar making. Along with Red Wing and Roberto-Venn Schools, their accredited support makes it easy to get financial aid for those in need.
There is no one right answer. It is up to the individual to determine which school and program best suits their financial needs and preferences. In fact, many students choose to take multiple programs to meet their educational requirements.
For a complete list of violin making courses offered around the world, you can visit the Guild of American Luthiers at https://luth.org/resources/lutherie-schools/lutherie-schools-usa/. Not only do they offer a comprehensive list, the Guild is also a great source of information for inspirational luthiers.