Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier



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Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby catfuzz » Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:45 pm

Long story short I'm almost done with school and have no passion for the career that my degree has prepared me for and will not find happiness down that path.

As a result I want to start pursuing a career doing something I love: working with musical instruments. That being said I'm not sure how to go about beginning a career in this field. I plan on doing some standard stuff like buying, or finding friends to provide me with, broken guitars/amps/pedals and learning to troubleshoot and repair problems.

What I'm mostly curious about is if there are apprenticeships or short programs which allow you to learn these skills in a structured environment. I'm aware there are schools for luthiery, but that would likely be later on down the road after I'm confident doing the more basic repair and maintenance work.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby Muff_Diver » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:53 pm

catfuzz wrote:Long story short I'm almost done with school and have no passion for the career that my degree has prepared me for and will not find happiness down that path.

As a result I want to start pursuing a career doing something I love: working with musical instruments. That being said I'm not sure how to go about beginning a career in this field. I plan on doing some standard stuff like buying, or finding friends to provide me with, broken guitars/amps/pedals and learning to troubleshoot and repair problems.

What I'm mostly curious about is if there are apprenticeships or short programs which allow you to learn these skills in a structured environment. I'm aware there are schools for luthiery, but that would likely be later on down the road after I'm confident doing the more basic repair and maintenance work.


You shoulda went to school for electrical engineering so you could read a schematic, fix amps, and get a job that supplies you with a living wage right out the gate.

You'd probably want a job with an already established company before going out on your own. All my techs worked for well-established amp companies or big name studios prior to starting their own businesses.

Not sure of your current skill level and knowledge, but amps contain enough voltage to kill you, so its serious work. DIY pedals are a great way to learn how to use a soldering iron without the possibility of death being a factor, so I'd start there. That being said, you may want to try this out a bit before throwing away your diploma and devoting your life to something, which Im only assuming, you know very little about and have very little experience with.

On a personal note, I've found that having a job via my degree has allowed me to consistently maintain my passions as hobbies, and as such, really have the best of both worlds; financial stability and multiple creative outlets. But its your life, bro!
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby imJonWain » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:57 pm

I'm sure there are some local shops that would take on an apprentice in your area. It's just a matter of finding a place that needs free/cheap help although I've seen some places charge you to be an apprentice. The main thing to remember is that it's a tough field money wise, your providing a skilled service to a bunch of people who inherently don't have much money and probably not terribly organized so it's a good idea to work for a reputability shop, get to know people and establish clients who know and like you before you take off on your own.

I'd love to do the same eventually but I work a day job as an R&D technician and do guitar work for my friends and other people on the side. So if you can looking for an entry level technician job at an engineering company could be a good learning point.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby catfuzz » Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:53 pm

Sound advice from both of you thanks!

I agree I should've gone with electrical engineering, but only realized I fucked up and don't want to be a civil engineer by the time it was too late to turn back. Luckily I was able to obtain some beginner electronics experience through my course work, but still need to expand on it more. I was recently at a local showcase (kinda like a mini, local NAMM) and was speaking to companies about opportunities and found that many individuals sorta just fell into the position. For example I was talking to a woman who winds pickups for a local company who had no prior experience, but had some sort of connection to the owner and just happened to end up doing that.

I definitely don't have any plans of going into business for myself (at least not at this early stage in my life) and would ideally want to work at a reputable shop. I guess the only thing I have left to do is put myself out there as much as I can and hope someone takes a chance on me while working on my skills at my own pace.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby kosta » Fri Mar 16, 2018 4:45 pm

I've taken a few workshops at Nazareth Guitar Institute in Nazareth, PA to learn how to put together parts guitars and work on them. Those guys are great and have taught me an awful lot. Before that I rewired an old SIlvertone that I had. That got me more curious about working on guitars in general.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby catfuzz » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:52 am

kosta wrote:I've taken a few workshops at Nazareth Guitar Institute in Nazareth, PA to learn how to put together parts guitars and work on them. Those guys are great and have taught me an awful lot. Before that I rewired an old SIlvertone that I had. That got me more curious about working on guitars in general.


I'd love to find a class or workshop like that near me! I feel I have the basic knowledge, but the lack of projects and funding to do many on my own to build the experience I need is my biggest barrier as of right now.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby kosta » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:19 am

I hear that. I’d suggest hacking around on cheap guitars in the meantime. Pickup swaps, setups, fret work, wiring mods, parts upgrades, etc. Those are all good things to do to work on your core skills. Carving bone nuts too. There are loads of good donor guitars in Michigan on Craigslist. (I grew up in SE Michigan and get back every so often, and I always take a spin through Craigslist when I do. Heh.)
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby Paul_C » Sat Mar 17, 2018 3:35 pm

I've been repairing guitars professionally for (just coming up to) 15 years, and most of my knowledge started with a couple of set up books and then googling everything else.

I could probably lose some of the kit I started out buying and make do, but there are some things that are pretty hard to do with out, and this does cost a fair bit when you put it all together.

I don't do refinishing or electrical repairs where it involves faults on circuit boards, but otherwise I do set ups, electrical jobs (pots, pickups etc.), fretwork, neck breaks etc.

You soon find out which jobs are best passed on (not too many) and which you need to take extra care over to get right (anything involving routing someone's pride and joy) but most aren't hideously difficult if you're prepared to start off taking way longer than you'll eventually need and to follow instructions without questioning them (or trying to do it "your own way" before you know what the consequences will be).

Learning how to solder is essential, particularly how to prep surfaces and tin wires and pots before trying to solder things together - if possible use leaded solder (it's banned in the EU for commercial use but still available on ebay, and way easier to use than lead-free).
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby crochambeau » Sat Mar 17, 2018 8:32 pm

I would suggest not diving into amp tech right off the bat. There is a DAZZLING array of amplifier types, and make no mistake: every single easy to work on/well documented topology will have probably found repair of some sort through one of the 1.5 million weekend warriors found in your time zone.

What you'll be left with is cryptic solid state shit peppered with OOP devices and stuff the above mentioned weekend warriors broke beyond reasonable expectation, being brought to you by underpaid people with very specific expectations and usually the inability to effectively communicate anything. Oh, and they need it for a gig tonight.

Get a deep taste of the particular EE flavor you'll be up involved with. I found doing repairs was a fast lane to a nervous breakdown, but that's just me (I over-invest myself in my work, so, grab a thicker skin and you'll be better off).
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby Mudfuzz » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:55 pm

This is a subject that is a hard one not to saying something that might sound discouraging.
Because the supply and demand factor. I also think that where you are factors a lot.
For instance: out here in Washington there are a lot of builders and skilled workers,in the guitar field. The guild for American luthiers is here, the lumber industry is still powerful here and you still have a few factories out here, plus a lot, and I mean a lot of people that play instruments. But the one issue is is that that amount of people that graduate from schools like Roberto-Venn vs the amount of building and repair jobs out there allow people like ken warmoth to pick and choose who he wants to work for him for low wages and cookie cutter production line like work. Same with music stores like the trading musician I terms of repair.
One the flip side, all the people I know that do ok are the self starters like old school amps of Olympia, Ken Savage, Dan McKinstry and Dave Bunker. So I'm never t going to say you can't, or, I can't...

I'm going to just say, soak up as much info as you possibly can and get your hands dirty as much as you can and see where thing lead you :thumb:
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby catfuzz » Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:35 am

I really appreciate a lot of this feedback! Since I posted this I've been doing my best to collect the tools I need and I have been doing minor repair work on my beater guitar (cleaning the fretboard, polishing frets, perfecting the setup, etc.) and have been bugging my friend who is a local music shop owner to give me a job there. I've got parts for a couple circuits on the way as well.

Geographically speaking I've got a good opportunity to carve out a good niche for myself because while there are a couple businesses that build their own guitars in the area (something I'm not quite looking to get into currently) there is almost nothing in the way of repairs. I live in Kalamazoo and despite the rich musical history with Gibson, ProCo, SysTech, Heritage, etc. the closest business that will do instrument, electronics, or other repairs for the average musician is about an hour away.

Again thank all of you for the information encouraging or otherwise and I'm gonna keep plugging away trying to do my best to do something that I'm passionate about and makes me happy. As always I appreciate any and all perspectives that anyone cares to offer on the subject.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby PeteeBee » Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:37 pm

Good on ya for taking the steps towards making it happen. Might be worth reaching out to Waltdogg, see if he has any advice. He's a tech for guitar center, so he probably has some advice on how to go from hobbyist to actually getting paid.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby catfuzz » Tue Mar 27, 2018 12:17 am

PeteeBee wrote:Good on ya for taking the steps towards making it happen. Might be worth reaching out to Waltdogg, see if he has any advice. He's a tech for guitar center, so he probably has some advice on how to go from hobbyist to actually getting paid.


Awesome I'll definitely do so soon! Good looking out.
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Re: Career as a guitar/amp tech and/or luthier

Postby kosta » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:24 pm

Dang, I'd be trying like hell to get a job at Heritage if I were you. So much to be learned from those folks. Any job just to get in the door.
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