Someone who wants to become a luthier, a maker of string instruments, can pursue a traditional apprenticeship path or go through formal education and training. Apprenticeships typically last several years and include mentoring by experienced members of the profession. Colleges and specialized trade schools can also offer education in the manufacture, maintenance, and repair of stringed instruments; the best option can depend on a student’s circumstances and career path.
Historically, luthiers learned by apprenticeship. This continues to offer a number of advantages to someone who is preparing to become a luthier. Working as an apprentice can allow people to earn money while learning so they can support themselves. It also provides access to skilled and highly knowledgeable professionals, including people who may have notable reputations in the industry. Apprentices who complete training under the supervision of a well-known name may be able to use this for professional advantage later.
Such programs typically have an hours requirement, and people also need to complete projects set by their trainers. They do not culminate with a degree, although the instructor may issue a certification. People who are fully trained can continue working in the same shop, seek work elsewhere, or start their own luthier business. Some may choose to join professional organizations to keep up with the trade and exchange information with fellow members of the trade.
Formal training to become a luthier is also an option. In this case, students complete a series of courses in string instrument manufacture and may have an opportunity to focus on particular instruments of interest, like guitars or violins. The training can include instruction in music for those who are interested, along with discussion of historic techniques, restoration of antiques, and related matters. Graduates will have a degree to use as a professional qualification.
Going to school to become a luthier can be more expensive, as students need to pay for their education and may not have time to work on the side. It may provide opportunities to learn about a broader range of techniques and styles, rather than focusing on the work of an individual master of the craft. Some schools also provide job placement programs and references, which can be an advantage for a graduate who has become a luthier but doesn’t know how to proceed from there or is having difficulty finding work. These can include positions with repair and manufacturing facilities as well as organizations like orchestras that may need a luthier on staff.