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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A bone nut being back-filed for proper string placement and correct action height.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to change your acoustic guitar’s tone and playability.

In my early days, all the guitars I played (which all happened to be pre-1950s) used bone nuts and saddles. I took this for granted, and so did my musician friends. With the exception of the ebony nuts on some turn-of-the-century parlors and the occasional use of ivory, the use of bone was a simple fact of our guitar playing lives, and alternative materials were simply uncommon to us.

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Meagen Wells is a prestigious boutique builder based in California, with a unique take on making custom crossover archtop guitars and mandolins.

Photo courtesy of wikimedia.org

Want to buy a boutique instrument and don't know where to start? Our columnist offers some tips.

For many players, choosing a new guitar is easy. They simply walk into a music store and play different models until they find one that suits them best. There are many different types of players with a myriad of differing music styles and preferences, which calls for a diverse array of guitar models. Power players prefer jumbos and dreadnoughts as their go-tos, while others tend to gravitate towards smaller instruments, such as Gibson's L-00 or Martin's 000s.

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When braces are scalloped, material is removed from the center of the brace, which makes it more flexible in this area.

Those scalloped, tapered supports do way more than just keep your flattop from caving in.

Acoustic guitar bracing is something the general guitar-buying public rarely considers. And why would they? A guitar's braces are hidden on the inside of the instrument and, with the exception of the back braces, are never seen at all. However, the fact remains: When a bracing system is combined with the soundboard's material, it has the single most profound effect on the performance of a guitar. At their best, a guitar's braces help to offer superior sound, response, and reliability. At their worst, they are either overbuilt, which makes a guitar feel laborious to play, or are underbuilt and fail prematurely. Guitarists simply need an understanding of what the various bracing styles are communicating, how they affect the soundboard, and what that might mean to the player.

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