How to become a violin-maker?

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I receive many questions about my profession, especially my career path and my choices. Moreover, I do welcome lots of students during internships and many of them are interested in pursuing this career. I always have a lot to say on the subject, so I hope this article will give you a clearer view of the reality. Actually, despite the title which could be misleading, I won’t explain in details “how to become a violin-maker” but rather “why you should not become a violin-maker”.

How to become a violin-maker by making lots of bridges
How to become a violin-maker if not by making countless bridges?

 

Overall, how to become a violin-maker

In truth, it is really easy to become a violin-maker – it isn’t a regulated profession. That is why anyone can call themselves a violin-maker. No need of a diploma, of an expertise certification or of an exam. All it takes is a few tools and some guts to start your own business.

However, the real career path of most violin-makers is to join a school (public or private) first. By doing so, they can develop the basic skills which are only the early days of their professional journey.

Each of us has a unique path to build the required knowledge. In fact, it would be a good idea to first ask yourself: what do I want to do as a violin-maker?

 

Violin-making internships at the workshop

Learn more about internships to discover the world of a violin-maker and build your own instrument.

Internship to discover violin-making and a violin assembly
Intensive violin-making internship

An intensive internship during which you will make your own violin while living a unique experience in a workshop.

1100,001700,00

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Evening lessons in violin-making
Evening lessons in violin-making

Evening lessons in violin-making, to learn at your own pace.

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Internship to discover violin-making and a violin assembly
Internship to discover violin-making

Here is the occasion for you to book an internship and to discover violin-making by assembling your violin by yourself. Moreover, you can also leave with your own violin!

not rated 211,00683,00

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What are the qualities of an aspiring violin-maker?

This question comes around regularly, which is why I’d like to talk about it. I suppose everyone has a different opinion on this but still, here is mine regarding the required and fundamental qualities. I’m not going to address the skills because, honestly, nothing else prepares you for the job. And at the same time, any extra skills are useful.

Passion

It will be necessary anyway, because you have to love what you do. It will give you enough strength to follow this path without faltering and to deal with the hard and challenging learning routine.

Patience

Being patient may be the key quality in violin-making. Although it doesn’t fit well in our society, it still is a very important quality that should not be undervalued. To observe and understand, to stay focused and to never miss a motion or a curve, to keep coming back to your work and pushing further.

Dedication

Of course, you need a lot of persistence and perseverance. Because I can tell you right now – you will be disappointed, and you will fail a lot… not because you are a failure, but as the saying goes, “the master has failed more times than the novice has tried”. You will have to get back up and start again too.

Precision

Violin-making requires to think about precision on a whole new level. There is hardly any room for approximation and even if sometimes there is some, you need to quickly train your eye and your hand to work at 1/10 or even below.

Perfection

I can tell you, perfection will never be reached. However, trying to do so needs to always be motivating. Do your best, and do even better.

Multilangual

I don’t know if it is a skill or a quality… Still, be open to the world, languages, travels and encounters. If you don’t, you throw a spanner in the works. If it isn’t already the case, get fluent in English – used in professional settings, it gives you access to an endless source of knowledge, opportunities, and people from all around the world.

 

If you have these qualities, you are likely to become a professional violin-maker, without stuttering. If you do not fully have them, nothing prevents you from taking some time to develop them.

How to become a violin-maker by mastering tools
Understanding and mastering materials and shapes.

 

The journey of a violin-maker

I mean, what do you think a violin-maker does every day? I mean for real…

Do you think there is an archetype that everyone imitates in order to find the road to a successful career? Actually, there is one. It is some sort of a family copying or what we commonly call transmission. In other words, the previous generation gives what it has built to the new one, and thus it continues to live throughout the years. A model that has worked perfectly for centuries, but is it still true for the world we live in now? As much as violin-making is a profession that conveys a great respect for tradition and for preserving heritage, it must adapt to the frenetic evolution of the modern world.

It is normal to be influenced by our masters, their values and habits. However, it is important to take a step back and to completely shape these different influences so that they fit our personality. By doing so, it will be far easier to find your place in the world of violin-making and, most importantly, to feel good there.

How to make a living as a violin-maker

In fact, when we choose a career path, it is crucial to consider the financial aspect – earning enough money to survive… And, even better, to live comfortably. I often hear that violin-making is incredible, a work-passion… That is, we are happily living our dreamt job every day in a quite workshop, a nice smell of wood and hot glue in the air. Probably spending days observing tirelessly the different shapes that appear in a swirl, while holding our chin with a pensive air painted on our face.

Passion is good, but in my opinion, it is not the profession that will fill you up with passion. Actually, it is the passion you already have inside, your perseverance, your willingness and courage that will give you the strength to continue on this path. Because juste like during any other journey, there will be many difficulties, and I’d say even more so with this one. But nothing dramatic either…

 

The different activities of a violin-maker

In many cases, violin making is a very individualistic profession. It is also very personal, and there are many ways to work. Here are some in which a craftsman can make a living:

  • making instruments,
  • making accessories,
  • repairing,
  • restoring,
  • assembling,
  • adjusting,
  • bow rehairing and maintenance,
  • renting equipment,
  • trading instruments and accessories,
  • expertise,
  • teaching,
  • consulting for manufacturers,
  • sales agent,
  • and everything else that has no boundaries other than imagination.

 

How to become a violin-maker and how to use your tools
Knowing how to use and maintain tools is a basic skill for modern violin-makers.

How to become a violin-maker nowadays?

In fact, as I’ve said before, joining a specialised school is almost required (I will create a list in another article).

These schools won’t turn you into a violin-maker. They will only give you some bases that will possibly help you land an intership or a first job in which other craftsmen will be willing to pass on their knowledge. Some people decide to start solo right at the end of school, but it is a much riskier process.

 

Tools of the violin-maker apprentice

Here are some useful tools for a good start in violin-making.

Silver chinrest key
Chinrest key for violin and viola

This small key allows you to carry out assembly on most chinrests.

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Violin-making knife made of Japanese steel
Violin-maker’s knife made of Japanese steel

This violin-maker’s knife made of Japanese steel is a high-quality blade which offers an incredible cut, even with intensive use.

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Violin-maker apron
Violin-maker apron

The best violin-maker apron, as it’s mine! But I still put my heart into creating it with the help of a specialist in professional aprons.

not rated 105,00

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Outils pour apprenti luthier
Tools for a violin-maker apprentice

Tools with a professional-level quality is needed to learn violin-making.

not rated 1103,00

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Violin moulds and templates
Violin moulds and templates

These moulds and templates allow you to save time and gain precision in the making of your own instrument by following legendary models.

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The good and bad of violin-making schools

As I was saying, violin-making schools do not hand you all the keys to success. In fact, most of them won’t even give you the right keys to get employed, which is quite absurd. Before deciding which one you’d like to join, it is important to think about what you are looking for exactly and to understand what you will learn in each school. According to your personnality and also your goals.

Generally speaking, without dropping out of school, you will have a hard time realising the economic reality you will have to face.

 

What an employer looks for

Obviously, an employer looks for someone serious and eager, but that is not all. Some skills are absolutely required to land a job in a workshop. Here are some important skills (in my opinion) to develop during your studies:

  • Being able to fully assemble violins, violas and cellos to a professional level and fairly quickly.
  • Being able to carry out basic repairs and restorations on your own at a correct pace.
  • Being able to perform basic manipulations on an instrument (changing strings, tuning, etc.).

 

What an employer does not look for…

… and that schools waste time teaching: making instruments.

Of course it is important to know how to make a violin, a viola, or a cello. It teaches you how to use many tools, to understand how pieces are assembled, to acquire enough woodworking skills. And even if showing your selfmade violin will have more value than the best CV, you will rarely land the job for it. Worse still, many work contracts will prevent you from making your own instruments.

Be careful, some courses require you to make several instruments without stain, without assembly, without varnish…

Therefore, I advise you to pay attention to the school programme before making your choice. Also, you can always complete your training with internships or personal projects. This is why I offer professional training internships.

How to choose your school

If I had to give you advice based on my experience, here are some aspects which seem essential in order to select your school:

  • Do not attend a school located in your home country. Take this opportunity to learn a new language, about a new culture, and to meet people from around the world.
  • Bond with your peers. Build relationships with your peers, this is where your professional network begins.
  • Pick a school with a complete programme. That is a school where you discover different aspects of violin-making nowadays: manufacturing, repairing, restoring, assembling, varnishes, and if possible professional experiences.
  • Plan your employment or business project well before you graduate. Develop your networks, adapt your knowledge and sharpen your tools.

 

Skills of a violin-maker
How to highlight your skills as a violin maker?

 

A few words to the future violin-maker

If you go through the door of the violin-makers near you (and those who are far away too), you will very often get rather austere reactions if you tell them about your professional project. And that’s quite normal, I had the same thoughts once and I still hear them today from colleagues.

To be clear, there are too many violin-makers. There are more and more of them, at least that’s what we hear. And nowadays, it is even more tricky – a very competitive field, between the Internet and its huge online stores, the amateurs, the increasing number of workshops in urban areas, fewer and fewer violinists, violists and cellists…

If you’d like to better understand the violin-making market in France. I suggest you read this 100-page study in French which dwells on the subject: https://www.csfi-musique.fr/item/131-grande-etude-economique-2017

 

How to become a violin-maker despite everything?

If I have scared you, that’s good because although it is not that terrible, I want to make you realise a reality. Read, learn more, and make up your own mind. Then compare it to what you want to do, you are the only judge.

However, you should not give up. After all, you have to be persistent. And this will be your first test. If you give up as soon as the slightest difficulty appears, I think it is wiser to take another path. Because otherwise, you will certainly not be able to thrive.

In the future, I will try to tackle other topics in order to discuss violin-making through an economical point of view. For example, by showing a simplified forecast of a violin-making workshop.

In the meantime, if you have any more questions, I encourage you to discuss them on social media, to send me an email or to call me directly.

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