How Do I Become an Instrument Maker?

Dan Cavallari

If you have significant experience playing a particular instrument and have a passion for music, you may want to consider a path that will help you become an instrument maker. It is likely that you will need to specialize in one type of instrument rather than trying to become an instrument maker who builds all types of instruments. This will allow you to become an expert in one field, as the skills necessary to make a quality instrument may take years, even decades, to develop. Consider your strengths and your interests when choosing what type of instrument maker you want to become.

An instrument maker may specialize in making one instrument, like the organ.
An instrument maker may specialize in making one instrument, like the organ.

No specific level of education is necessary to become an instrument maker, though you may consider enrolling in an instrument making course. A lutherie school, for example, will teach you how to build stringed instruments such as guitars and mandolins. The school may require you to have a high school diploma before you can enroll, so be sure to research the acceptance requirements if you want to become an instrument maker via this path. If you do not want to attend classes in order to become an instrument maker, other options do exist, but they may be more difficult.

Instrument makers usually have experience playing the instrument they build.
Instrument makers usually have experience playing the instrument they build.

You can, for example, apprentice under an experienced instrument maker, but apprenticeships can be difficult to find and be accepted to. You will likely need to work for many years as an apprentice in order to learn the necessary skills and techniques, and the pay may not be very good. If such apprenticeships exist and you feel like you can be accepted to one, however, this is a great way to get hands-on experience as an instrument maker.

The most difficult path to become an instrument maker is learning the skills on your own and building instruments as a hobby. This means you will need to invest the time and money into learning the skills, buying the tools, and trying your hand at the processes. You will also need to learn how to play the instruments and recognize pitches and tones accurately. Most instrument makers play the instruments they make, and they play them well. A good first step to become an instrument maker is to learn how to play a particular instrument exceptionally well so you will be able to create instruments with great tones. Learn as much as possible about the materials used to make particular instruments as well, and note their acoustic qualities.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- True, but there are a lot of hobbyists who simply modify their instruments and never go on to be professionals. Johnny Ramone installed his own pickups and made repairs on his guitar. John Lennon stripped down one of his guitars, painted it black and got famous with it. Eddie Van Halen was never a professional but he managed to build a guitar that became his trademark.

The point is this. Working on instruments as a hobby does not necessarily translate into going into business doing it.


Some of the best instrument makers out there started out as hobbyists who built some things, liked the way they turned out and then got some professional training so they could make a career out of building instruments. In other words, those who go on to be professionals often have a knack for it and pursue it after a career after making instruments as a hobby.

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