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Stringed Instrument Maker


Music is a very important part of our lives. From the ancient days of drum beats to the modern twang of an electric guitar, instruments have been created and played for thousands of years. Stringed instrument makers, known also as luthiers, are artisans who use their manual and artistic skills to design and make stringed musical instruments. They focus their talents on cellos, violas, violins and guitars, to name a few. They use wood, resin, hair, and wire to create one-of-a-kind instruments for amateurs, hobbyists, and world-renowned musical geniuses.

Using machines, hand tools, and adhesives, they try to balance beauty, function, and sound qualities within each instrument. Handmade instruments which are customized for specific types of players, music, and individuals often have a better sound. The artisan can take the time to ensure that the sound quality is just right before selling to an eager customer. Most professional musicians will use handmade instruments.

Many instrument makers do repairs, teach classes, and play music themselves. They may also run a music shop, or have a non-music job on the side. Until they become well-known instrument makers, they will need something else to keep food on the table.

Stringed instrument players who take the time to create beautiful, original instruments often seem to make works of art. Though they often create instruments in a traditional style, many play on those well-loved styles to create innovate, eye-catching instruments, that sound just as beautiful as they look.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a stringed instrument maker? They need to love music, and have a deep passion for musical instruments. Stringed instrument makers should have good hearing, and a good sense of pitch. They must be creative, and driven to create art. They should also be willing to put in long, hard hours. They need good manual dexterity, steady hands, and patience to work at this career. They are innovative thinkers, who are willing to try new things. Drawing, design, and mathematical skills are also important. They should have some business sense, as well as good people skills, especially if they would like to run their own business.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Come up with original designs and pieces
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about piece
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Prepare the materials for use
  • Use simple machines and tools to create instruments
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • The typical day for a stringed instrument maker involves meeting with clients and drawing up plans for the item. When stringed instrument makers actually get down to it, and begin making the objects, the hours can be long, and accurate work is crucial. Depending on the size and detail of a piece, it can take several weeks for one item to be completed. Stringed instrument makers may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and ancient traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Generally, stringed instrument makers work part-time; however, the longer they work and the more popular their creations, the more likely it is their talents can be put to work full-time. They work in studios and workshops, often in their own homes. Stringed instrument makers usually work alone, or alongside a few other instrument makers and assistants. They can set their own hours, and may work nights and weekends if working on a special project or design.
  • They may sell their work in their own shop, music stores, or in artisans' shops, or they may create special pieces made-to-order for specific clients.
  • Some stringed instrument makers find full-time work with large manufacturing companies, which mass produce designs. Others may take their skills to repair work, and fix up older instruments.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Stringed instrument makers can become full-time artisans, and open a shop to sell their wares. They can specialize in one instrument, and cater to talented musicians, or they can broaden their knowledge and learn to make many types of instruments for the average hobbyist. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can branch out into other areas of art, or open a music store for artisans to sell and display their creations.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required program to take or path to follow to become a stringed instrument maker. Often, they will study under the guidance of an established artisan, so it is a good idea to find an individual with whom one can work and learn. This practice, however, is dwindling. Many colleges and private schools offer courses in instrument making. Individuals going into stringed instrument making might want to take a few courses in business administration, if they plan on establishing their own business.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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