Want to make a living with the acoustic guitar without recording a hit song or being on the road most of the year? If you’re the sociable, helpful sort, try teaching. If you prefer a jigsaw to a music stand and love working with your hands, lutherie could be the answer. Learn more about both these great musical career paths.
Teaching music can provide a welcome financial supplement, along with great flexibility. You can schedule lessons around gigs and recording projects, decide which days of the week are best for teaching, and work remotely with online lessons wherever you have an internet connection.
You don’t have to be a known performer to be a good and respected educator. You also don’t have to know or be able to play everything in the world on your instrument. Find your specialty by considering your motivation and training, then prepare teaching materials based on that for your students to work on. It helps to have a dedicated space as well, even if you’re only doing online lessons.
Whether you want to recruit a few students or develop a full teaching schedule, the story below offers a few suggestions to get the ball rolling. While the most important part of being a music teacher is the actual teaching and connecting with students, you’ll also need to consider the business side of teaching, including pricing structures and how to market yourself and your teaching business. This article by Pete Madsen goes into detail about these topics and more.
AG’s Ask the Expert columnist Martin Keith has been professionally building and repairing guitars and basses for 20 years. Suffice to say, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a successful lutherie business, including how to start out from scratch.
He suggests starting by reading books like William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson’s Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology and Bob Benedetto’s Making an Archtop Guitar, as well as Irving Sloane’s books on building and repair, such as Classic Guitar Construction and Steel-String Guitar Construction. They describe a process that predates many of the specialized tools, jigs, and fixtures that are now on the market. In the 1960s and ’70s, luthiers had to do lots of problem-solving to invent the tools and techniques that have now become standard, and that skill is particularly good to begin developing early.
And perhaps most important of all, he says, is to start by finding some inexpensive broken guitars and trying to repair them. There is a nearly endless supply of these instruments tucked away in closets, attics, and yard sales, with every problem from broken headstocks to loose bridges, cracked tops, loose braces; the list goes on. Often, people are happy to give them away. This type of practice is incredibly valuable on many levels. There’s a lot that can be learn by taking something apart and putting it back together.
There are also countless online resources to learn more about the lutherie, as well as professional organizations and informal groups. Keith gives more details in this article in response to a reader question about exploring a career in lutherie.