Guitar makers create and assemble parts to build guitars according to specified instructions or diagrams. They work wood, measure and attach strings, test quality of strings and inspect the finished instrument.
The following job titles also refer to guitar maker:
stringed instrument builder
stringed instrument inspector
guitar quality inspector
stringed instrument tester
stringed instrument quality inspector
guitar quality tester
stringed instrument quality tester
No formal educational credential is generally required to work as a guitar maker.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Guitar maker is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Guitar maker career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to guitar maker.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of guitar maker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of guitar maker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of guitar maker.
- Musical instruments: The different musical instruments, their ranges, timbre, and possible combinations.
- Metalworking: The process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large-scale structures.
- Types of guitars: There are two main guitar categories, namely electric and acoustic. This last category contains a large number of subcategories such as classical, flat-topped, steel string or flamenco guitars. Electric guitars can have hollow, solid or semi-hollow bodies and the vibration of the steel strings is converted into signals that are then fed to an amplifier.
- Types of strings: Vibrating elements that generate sounds in string instruments. They can be classified into two categories, namely the decorative and the wound strings, and they can be made of different materials such as steel, gut, silk or nylon. Winding materials include aluminium, chrome steel, silver, gold and copper.
- Tuning techniques: Tuning pitches and techniques and musical temperaments for the various instruments.
- Wood cuts: Different ways of cutting wood, across the grain or parallel with it, and radial or tangential to the core. The behaviour of cuts of wood under different circumstances and the optimal cut for a given purpose. Influence of special attributes of the wood, like knots or defects.
- Types of wood: Types of wood, such as birch, pine, poplar, mahogany, maple and tulipwood.
- Musical instruments materials: The characteristics of composite materials, felts, glues, leathers and skins, metals and precious metals, woods and wood derivatives to create musical instruments.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of guitar maker.
- Produce guitar components: Choose the appropriate tonewood, materials and tools, and build the different guitar components such as the sound board, fretboard, headstock, neck and bridge.
- Repair musical instruments: Attach new strings, fix frames or replace broken parts of musical instruments.
- Join wood elements: Bind wooden materials together using a variety of techniques and materials. Determine the optimal technique to join the elements, like stapling, nail, gluing or screwing. Determine the correct work order and make the joint.
- Create musical instrument parts: Design and create parts such as keys, reeds, bows, and others for musical instruments.
- Maintain musical instruments: Check and maintain musical instruments.
- Manipulate wood: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of wood.
- Decorate musical instruments: Create designs on musical instruments by using methods such as embossing, piercing, painting, woodworking, weaving, and other methods.
- Tune stringed musical instruments: Tune any parts of stringed musical instruments that are off-key, by using various tuning techniques.
- Create smooth wood surface: Shave, plane and sand wood manually or automatically to produce a smooth surface.
- Apply a protective layer: Apply a layer of protective solutions such as permethrine to protect the product from damage such as corrosion, fire or parasites, using a spray gun or paintbrush.
- Sand wood: Use sanding machines or hand tools to remove paint or other substances from the surface of the wood, or to smoothen and finish the wood.
- Assemble musical instrument parts: Assemble parts together such as the body, strings, buttons, keys, and others to create the final musical instrument.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of guitar maker. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Acoustics: The study of sound, its reflection, amplification and absorption in a space.
- Conservation techniques: The procedures, instruments, techniques, materials and chemicals used in conservation and archiving.
- Technical drawings: Drawing software and the various symbols, perspectives, units of measurement, notation systems, visual styles and page layouts used in technical drawings.
- Organic building materials: The types and processing of organic materials to build products or parts of products.
- 3d modelling: The process of developing a mathematical representation of any three-dimensional surface of an object via specialised software. The product is called a 3D model. It can be displayed as a two-dimensional image through a process called 3D rendering or used in a computer simulation of physical phenomena. The model can also be physically created using 3D printing devices.
- History of musical instruments: The historical background and chronology of various musical instruments.
- Musical instrument accessories: The process of creating musical instrument accessories, such as metronomes, tuning forks or stands.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of guitar maker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Pass on trade techniques: Pass on knowledge and skills, explain and demonstrate the application of equipment and materials and answer questions about trade techniques for the manufacturing of products.
- Restore musical instruments: Restore old musical instruments to their original condition and conserve them in that state.
- Apply restoration techniques: Select and apply appropriate restoration techniques in order to achieve the required restoration goals. This encompasses preventive measures, remedial measures, restoration processes and management processes.
- Evaluate restoration procedures: Evaluate the outcome of conservation and restoration procedures. Evaluate the degree of risk, success of treatment or activity and communicate the results.
- Estimate value of musical instruments: Identify new or second hand musical instruments and estimate the market value of them based on professional judgment and knowledge of musical instruments, or subject them to estimation by a third party.
- Stain wood: Mix ingredients to create a stain and apply a layer to the furniture to give it a specific colour and finish.
- Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to product and services.
- Verify product specifications: Check heights, colour and other attributes of finished product against specifications.
- Design musical instruments: Develop and design a musical instrument according to customer specification.
- Estimate restoration costs: Estimate the cost implications of restoring and replacing products or parts.
- Play musical instruments: Manipulate purpose-built or improvised instruments to produce musical sounds.
- Dye wood: Mix the powder dye with water and/or liquid dye and any other necessary ingredients to create the desired colour and apply it to the wood.
- Select restoration activities: Determine restoration needs and requirements and plan the activities. Consider the desired results, the level of intervention required, evaluation of alternatives, constraints on actions, stakeholder demands, possible risks and future options.
- Set up the controller of a machine: Set up and give commands to a machine by dispatching the appropriate data and input into the (computer) controller corresponding with the desired processed product.
- Trade in musical instruments: Buy and sell musical instruments, or serve as an intermediate between potential buyers and sellers.
ISCO group and title
7312 – Musical instrument makers and tuners