acoustic guitars

Luthier Maegen Wells recalls the moment she fell in love with the archtop and how it changed her world.

The archtop guitar is one of the greatest loves of my life, and over time it’s become clear that our tale is perhaps an unlikely one. I showed up late to the archtop party, and it took a while to realize our pairing was atypical. I had no idea that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with everything about what’s commonly perceived as a “jazz guitar.” No clue whatsoever. And, to be honest, I kind of miss those days. But one can only hear the question, “Why do you want to build jazz guitars if you don’t play jazz?” so many times before starting to wonder what the hell everyone’s talking about.

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Students in lutherie school can build a variety of instruments depending on the program. Here we see a budding luthier rough carving the back of an archtop guitar in preparation for running and vicing.

From enrichment classes to six-month master-luthier training, here’s a big-picture view for potential lutherie students.

As many of you know, I have operated a school of lutherie for over 40 years. It all started when I took control of the Guitar Hospital repair shop from my friend Dan Erlewine in the mid ’80s. The establishment was already offering short-term training to select individuals, and, at first, I focused on teaching repairs, which was the prime area of interest for most students. Since then, my school has grown from working with one student at a time to a peak of over 20 students in a single term.

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World War II was over, but this D-28—Martin’s highest model at the time—still got shipped with about the cheapest tuners you could imagine, with no bushings and black screws, because of supply chain issues.

It’s not a bait and switch. This year is a throwback to the post WWII-era of instrument manufacturing, for better or worse.

As we all remember, Covid hit the music industry hard in early 2020: music stores and concert venues were closed, guitar manufacturers shut down, and in-person instruction essentially disappeared almost overnight. Fortunately, lockdowns and the resulting surge of interest in playing music at home proved that even a pandemic couldn’t kill our love for the guitar. And thanks to YouTube tutorials and Zoom lessons, the number of hours that people actually played their instruments went from hardly-ever (for some) to all-the-time. Maybe you couldn’t find that new guitar model you’d been saving for, but at least you could play the guitar(s) you already had.

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