Guitar building is difficult. Sadly, there’s no short cut to building a really nice instrument. You will need to develop some guitar building skills and that will take practice. For those needing instant gratification there are places you can go to where you can learn to slap a guitar together in a short period of time. But if you are looking to really learn a craft and gain some usable skills that you will be able to repeat on your own you’re probably not going to get it there.
I love to teach, but it is only one part of my business and I am not looking to expand it. This is not a self promotion. I am happy things as they are. But I think students out there are getting shorted by buying into a quick fix learn guitar building mentality. I hear from students that have wasted time and money thinking they were getting something they weren’t. If anyone needs recommendations of some places where you will be able to learn some real skills and information that you can take home and repeat, I will be more than happy to give you a few.
Guitar Building Requires Skill
Guitar building requires skill and to learn skills you need practice. This takes time. It won’t happen in a week. In these accelerated classes the teacher ends up doing most, if not all the work in order to get it done in time. I have taught a lot of people over the years. If someone has little or no woodworking/guitar building experience they will not be able to get it done in the allotted time without inordinate amounts of help. Has this student learned any useful skill? Will they be able to repeat the process on their own? Not bloody likely.
Typically in a learning situation like this compromises to the design also have to be made to make it easier to build and get it done in time. Things are left out, other things get moved, others scaled back, all to make it easier to do. I have heard from students that were in these types of classes and vital components were either missing or altered to the point of uselessness. Along with wood selection the guitar’s design has the biggest impact on all the important factors in producing a worthwhile instrument. So in reality what can someone really hope to get out of a learning experience like that? Yes, it might motivate you to go further. To some dipping their toes in first may be the way to go.
Anything Worthwhile Requires Effort
But just like with anything else, if you want something with real value you will have to make the effort. If you truly want to learn guitar building with hopes of making a really nice instrument that will sound good and play like it should, you will need to form a solid foundation of guitar building skills and knowledge. Things that you can take home and repeat the process on your next attempt.
Apprenticeships take years to complete. Thats because there’s a lot to learn. I completed mine back in the 70’s. It took effort, was not always fun, and I made lots of mistakes but I learned a ton. It made me a better craftsman. Despite myself I picked up some skills. I was later able to adapt these to acquire some guitar building skills. The experience provided me with so much that has made my guitar building career successful. The biggest benefit of the whole experience was that it enabled me to come up with things myself. I was able to adapt techniques for the situation. If you are building different things all the time you have to. I’m not saying you need to complete an apprenticeship to start guitar building. But you should try to find someone that cannot only teach you something about guitar building, but impart some necessary skills as well. I always recommend that people practice with some woodworking projects for a while. You will learn and practice skills this way.
Get Skilled Guidance
So how do you know where to go for this guidance? There are many skilled instructors out there. There are also many unskilled instructors out there pretending to have experience. So how can you learn some real guitar building skills. It stands to reason that if the instructor has not built a nice sounding guitar, how do you expect to learn how from them? How can you tell a real guitar builder from a pretender? Watch the way they work. If they do not look comfortable and natural while they are working, they’re not. And if they are not, they do not have enough experience using their tools. And most importantly, listen to their guitars. And don’t listen on the internet. Some guitar builders have doctored recordings of their instruments. Go and find an instrument and see for yourself before you sign up. Compared other high level work, how does theirs compare? And are they respected by other guitar builders? Treat it as you would buying tools. Its your money. As I said I would be more than happy to provide a few recommendations.