Academy of Musical Science and Technology
Organology, Musical Acoustics and Musical Instrument Making

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Making a Guitar using Scientific Knowledge and Traditional Methods

Subsidized course

Enrolment Open

Taught by experienced professors, this course is an on-line adaptation of the AMST’s in-person analogue course. Students will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the material and earn a certificate from AMST. This course will run, very low cost, for 20 students worldwide due to the generous AMST grants and financial aids (see below).

'Making a Guitar using Scientific Knowledge and Traditional Methods' is designed to serve as a first course in a music-acoustical curriculum. It is also a full knowledge base for those interested in guitar making and lutherie crafts.

In a standard guitar making course the focus is on how to cut, glue, decorate and finish the instrument. But the aim of this course is to understand how each component, shape or material influences on the instrument's behaviour; that is, to understand the empirical knowledge and how the traditional construction of guitars fits with this scientific point of view. In addition to 'how', you will also learn 'why' each part is as it really is or how it should be to change or improve a certain characteristic of the instrument.

The course introduces that acoustical knowledge in the practical context of guitar making though most of the concepts learned are of application to many other stringed instruments. Practical topics covered put special emphasis on shape and size, materials, frets, strings and specific woodworking tips and skills for guitar makers.

Why might you want to take this course?

This course is for people who are passionate about musical instruments and want to learn about how to design and build improved guitars. It is much more challenging than a standard guitar-making offering. We are going to help you become a more expert problem solver. Take it to better organize your lutherie knowledge, to prepare for advanced music-acoustics exams, to teach better, or to enjoy attacking challenging woodworking problems.

At the end of the course you will not only be able to build a guitar and understand how it produces the sound, but you will also be able to explain why and answer to questions like:

  • Which are the acoustical principles of classical, electric, acoustic, flamenco and other types of guitars?
  • Can a classical guitar wear a truss rod?
  • Which wood (or other material) is the best for each component?
  • Is plywood suitable for the soundboard?
  • Modern materials for the strings. Are they as good as traditional materials?
  • What is the function and optimum design of the braces and bindings?
  • Which is the appropriate rib thickness?
  • Should the soundboard have a homogeneous thickness?
  • How compares hide glue with other natural or synthetic glues?
  • Does 'tap-tuning' give any information about the future sound of the instrument?
  • What information can we obtain from Chladni patterns?
  • How compare flat with bent board guitars?
  • Which is the best size, shape and position of the soundhole?
  • Where exactly goes the bridge?
  • Which is the perfect action?
  • Frets and Compensation
  • How should be repaired a crack in the soundboard?
  • Does the steam used to bend the ribs, improve the sound?
  • Is the ammonia appropriate to bend guitar ribs?
  • How does the varnish modify the sound?
  • ...and many more.

You will acquire the knowledge to clearly distinguish between the facts and the myths in the art and craft of the lutherie.

Methodology

This course will develop on a mixed coaching-mentoring basis. Since those names arose around 1830 in Oxford University, those educational methods have been in use, with some variations, for centuries in the best universities. Coaching is the process to transport people from where they are, to where they want to be. While the work of the coacher is the guidance of students to get the knowledge and experience that even he might not have himself, in the mentoring method an expert instructor is the tutor who carries a student through an exam.

In practice, in our mixed method an skilled tutor will guide the students and will always be ready to help them to solve doubts and questions but, when possible, instead of doing it in the easy way giving the information and solving directly the problems, the tutor will teach the students and help them to discover how to get the solutions by their own means, proposing new readings, experiments or homework.

According to the knowledge level of each student, the tutor will continuously propose the subjects, lessons, articles and textbooks to study and will require theoretical and practical homework to do. Those works will be evaluated and assessed so that the student has a reference to the attainment of academic goals. They will constitute the basis for a end-of-course exam, project or thesis. At the discretion of the tutor, the work of a student can be assessed, or proposed for correction or improvement by other students.

So, you shouldn't expect the course to be a lot of information to study or to store and query later. It is rather a series of studies and consequent works carried out by the apprentices under the oversight, supervision and mentoring of the teacher. There will be about one homework assignment each week.

Unlike other online training proposals that drive communication among the students enabling internet forums or other similar platforms, in this course the emphasis is done on the communication between tutor and student. Only email will be used, being it personal and private,  though obviously students can communicate among them by means of their own choosing.

The rhythm of the course will be personalized to the starting knowledge and experience level of each student. But the learning objectives will be the same for all of them.

If you successfully complete the course, you will receive an electronic certificate of accomplishment from AMST. In this on-line version, AMST will not require that you be tested in a testing centre or otherwise have your identity certified in order to receive this certificate.

Requirements

Hardware and software

First of all, you will need a computer with internet connection so you can communicate with your tutor sending and receiving emails. You will also need a word processor, a spreadsheet to make calculations and other common software. A digital camera or any way to take and send pictures is necessary.

Background

This is an entry-level course. Some of the concepts will be more accessible to students with basic knowledge about the design and construction process. There are no prerequisites for enrolling in this course. However, in order to succeed, an introductory level background in physics will be very helpful. You should know basic calculus and linear algebra and be prepared to learn simple differential equations by finishing the course. We will include an optional remedial for those who need it and undertake to do the extra effort.

Everything can be learned. Do not afraid if you do not have the optimum background level. With a little effort, the help of your instructor and probably some more time, you will get it.

Materials and textbooks

The course does not include materials or documents. The tutor can provide some texts, when free from copyrights. But one of the objectives of the course is for students to be handled properly in obtaining the information they need either by traditional means (purchase of books and articles or consultation at libraries) or getting them through the many resources accessible today via the internet.

The course doesn't use specific articles and textbooks. The tutor will personalize the readings according to the level of each student who will be required to do the appropriate effort in order to get the progressive learning goals on time.

Language

This course is designed so that students can participate from anywhere in the world. English is the official language. Although communications between student and tutor is personal and can be done in any language they both understand, works and tests must be submitted in English. Fortunately, today we have free machine translators and that, although not perform perfectly, make it much easier. Spanish and French are suitable to communicate with the tutor.

Time & Duration

You should expect to spend on the course a minimum of 10 hours per week. Obviously some will need more time than others, depending on their prior knowledge and the means at their disposal. This is a level of dedication that can be demanding but is compatible, with tolerable effort, with work and family life.

With that dedication it has been estimated that the workload is between ten and eleven months. The course duration is one year so it has been provided some holiday periods during which the level of tuition is reduced, not necessarily the student's effort, which obviously depends on his progress.

Financial aids and Scholarships

Although the full on-line course fee is in excess of 3000 € a year, the first twenty admitted students will be issued a grant almost complete and will pay only 15 € a month, in one go of 180€.

These scholarships are conditioned to a measure of academic effort and merit. As consideration for such a low price, all we ask is genuine interest in the study and dedication to do all the homework specified by the tutor.

For the rest of admitted, if they have financial difficulties to pay the tuition, there are other scholarships and grants that are awarded on the basis of actual financial need: other financial aids

The twelve-month period for each student account from the time he is admitted. But the scholarships, grants and financial aids are allocated according to established criteria, so after the first call, those students who enrol later are less likely to get them because they were previously awarded and they are no longer available.

Price

The 2012-13 on-line version of the 'Making a Guitar using Scientific Knowledge and Traditional Methods' course has a total price of 3087€. This represents a significant saving on the price of the in-person analogue course, which is 8454 € (the breaks down as follows: Tuition and Fees: 7352 €; Books and Material: 1102 €). As usual, those prices are actually hundreds of euros less than what it actually costs to be a student at AMST. Most of our students do not pay the full fee because the scholarships and financial aids.

For the on-line version, we do all our own so you won't need to spend a lot on books and material. Those extra expenses are optional and you will incur on them only if you consider it necessary and can afford them.

Payment

Payment is done through an initial amount at the time of enrolment and the remainder divided in twelve monthly instalments during the course.

Except in cases where, for financial assistance, the total amount of the course is less than 350 € (in which case the course will be paid at once), payment at the time of enrolment will be 350 € or 20 % of the total price (whichever is greater).

Registration

Once the registration period for the course is open, the selection process takes place in the coming weeks. You can enrol the course at any time. The starting date and program will be accommodated by the tutor in each case, usually two weeks after registration.

To help you assess your readiness, we will offer a self-test of basic mechanics, mathematical and lutherie skills necessary to keep up with the course.

Admission

Admission is only done by academic criteria, i.e. based on knowledge, experience, ability and interest of the applicant, for which you must complete several forms and tests. Academic criteria being equal, the application date will prevail.

Both the non-payment and a repeated and unjustified lack of commitment or inadequate dedication, will result in the loss of the right to continue the course, no refund of monies paid. Before reaching this point, the student will be repeatedly warned of the consequences of their lack of commitment so s/he can correct it or justify it.


 

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