A luthier is a maker of stringed instruments — most commonly the guitar. A luthier's salary depends on many factors including education or training, overall level of skill, the materials used to produce instruments and the type of instruments created. A luthier working as an independent instrument maker may earn a more sporadic income than a luthier who finds employment with a larger company.
Apprenticeship vs Schooling
Choosing a formal education versus an apprenticeship can greatly influence a luthier's salary. An accredited guitar making school can assist a luthier in earning certifications to create a wider variety of instruments including archtop guitars, full electric guitars and acoustic guitars. The more knowledge a luthier has, the more he can charge for his services. An apprenticeship may carry notoriety if the luthier the student is studying under has a good reputation in the guitar industry, but the student can only learn how to make the guitars the luthier knows how to build. The notoriety garnered from a high-profile apprenticeship may make it easier to find employment with a more successful guitar company.
The pay a luthier makes from individual instruments sales depends on her ability to produce quality guitars and market her products to musicians. Making high-quality guitars from scratch is a labor intensive process. A luthier working day and night still may not achieve a high-level of productivity and can only produce a few guitars a month. High-quality, hand-made guitars can fetch anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the materials the luthier uses to construct her instruments. This amount can increase if the luthier takes custom guitar orders tailoring instruments to meet musician specifications.
Repair and Maintenance
A luthier learns to repair and maintain instruments just as he learns to create them. A luthier may find steady employment working in a musical instrument store or with a larger guitar company as the resident repair technician. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for a musical instrument repairer was $34,830 or a mean hourly wage of $16.75 as of May 2010. Finding employment as a technician provides income and the ability for the luthier to continue making instruments while still paying the bills.
Luthiers as Teachers
Colleges and universities across the country have need of luthiers to teach classes on guitar history, music theory and instrument construction. These professionals provide real world experience to the education process. According to the BLS, luthiers working in colleges and universities earned a mean annual wage of $50,710 or a mean hourly wage of $24.38 as of May 2010. Only a little over 100 professionals with musical instrument repair and creation knowledge found employment in universities during that year.