Come to my shop. I'll show you how.
Cosmetic dentist Brian
"...Bill builds guitars like he lives his life—calm, relaxed, yet purposeful and with great imagination and freedom. Which is refreshing, for within his course, much of my false assumptions about acoustics were dashed mightily, but replaced with demonstrated and proven scientific truths. He brought my understanding and perspective of luthierie to a whole new level..." Entire evaluation text here
examiner Debra Meislin writes:
Human Resources executive Fred Burgos writes:
"Im 56 years old, and Ive worn
many hats in my life, but I never got around to doing something Id always wanted to
do turn a pile of wood into an instrument of music. As a boy I was convinced it
took magical powers to do that. I know better now, yet I still cant come up with an
excuse for my lifelong procrastination. Perhaps life just got in the way. Remember what
Lennon said - life is what happens while youre busy making other plans?
Lucky for me, that changed this summer. Thanks to Master Luthier William R. Cumpiano, I
turned off the plans and turned on the planer, and guess what? I actually made
a guitar a damned good one at that."
Ethics professor George Watson built himself a Ramirez-scale classic guitar in my shop and later wrote:
"I have searched my memory
for a learning experience this rich and fulfilling. As you know, I spent
years being trained as a helicopter mechanic and then a systems analyst,
have two masters degrees and a Ph.D. and I can tell you unequivocally that
this experience was the richest and most fulfilling learning experience of
my life. It is a rare thing for me to walk away feeling proud of what I had
done -- but in this case I was. I have also asked myself why this experience
was so exceptional. I have no answer beyond your ability to know when to
take the lead, when to let the student struggle and how to deliver the
Editor Ted Gilley
And here's his new rosewood jumbo 12 string:
Stage designer Chris Driscoll writes:
Radiologist David Cory made a 00 steel string guitar alongside me in my shop several years ago.
...I can look back on the two weeks in Northampton
as a time of hard work in the shop, but at the same time, a time of relaxation and
renewal. In my profession as a radiologist,
Telecom-industry consultant Steve Granek took some time off and built a sleek M-style curly maple guitar recently. Afterwards, he sent me this evaluation.
More tutorial evaluations:
Read Miami salsa trombonist/ tv commercial producer
Robert Berrios' end-of-course evaluation
Retired steelman Henry Stern made a classic guitar in my shop:
Software Engineer Kevin Curtis wrote:
Below, transoceanic sailor Harry Zanville final-sands his Purpleheart cutaway classic guitar. Below we see his almost-completed classic and the one I was making beside his--this one with Osage Orange back and sides and Purpleheart bindings.
Retired forge operator (forger?) Tom Petredean now owns a unique parlor-sized guitar patterned after the Martin Ditson Grand Concert. He writes:
I'm back home now, having completed two long, wonderful and intense weeks. I
really have to put my Ditson Grand Concert back in its case. It's "in the
white" (unfinished) and I'm getting it soiled from playing it so much. It
looks and sounds so good though. Patient and calm teacher. Helping this
first time guitar builder through the many processes involved in
constructing a guitar. It was a process of "demystification" for me. After
looking at Cumpiano and Natelson's book for so many years, trying to imagine
how to proceed through all the required steps. William is right there,
explaining, demonstrating, observing, advising until I began to feel
comfortable in the process.
I'd wish to give you a 100% positive evaluation for the tutorial. This tutorial was a great experience for me at several levels : As a hobbyist, i made several guitars since 1996 with William's book, i came to Northampton to be able to make light and easy to play instruments. This tutorial exceeded my best expectations, we made together a fine guitar, I learnt a lot of technical skills to make each step of the construction easier, but i also learnt a lot about wood's structure, musical instrument's context and behaviour and music from all the Americas. William's teaching is very clear, based on experience, technical facts and data. The workshop's atmosphere, filled with hand tools, good smell of wood, music and philosophy is a place were i felt completely at ease. Coming in the USA for the first time, this trip was also a cultural shock for me and a true immersion in a foreign country, Northampton is a very pleasant place, where the food is excellent ! I learnt also from William a lot about American society and history, it gives me the taste to travel more in this large country !
Florida guitar technician Charles Scroggins wanted to upgrade his acoustic guitar-making techniques, so he took the one-to-one tutorial and made himself a very nice 12-fret curly-mahogany Dreadnaught. He appears pleased with the results.
North Carolingian Joe Herrick wrote:
"I would readily recommend this class to anyone with more than a passing interest in making a guitar. Whether you build only one guitar with William, or use this class as a beginning for a new hobby or even a career, this class will be a rare experience you will never forget."
His entire course evaluation can be found here.
You can spend a couple of weeks in my New England shop and I'll personally teach you how to make your own guitar -- all materials, tool use, and instruction included. Here are the details:
Little or no woodworking experience is necessary--just patience and an open, "beginner's mind." I have taught people of all ages, of all levels of experience-- and all have emerged surprised and delighted with the instrument they've taken home. The evaluations from my past tutorial students on this page speak for themselves.
MAKING A GUITAR WITH WILLIAM CUMPIANO
2 week Session, one to one: You will be working under my direct supervision, in my shop, solo: no other students at the same time; and follow my instructions and movements, as you watch me work on a guitar I'm making for my own shop -- while you follow along on your own guitar in a step by step fashion. We can both work on a classic, steel string, cuatro or requinto guitar: it's your choice. No one else in my studio but you and me.
I have to work the two week sessions around my
yearly commission schedule, so the number of sessions and slots is extremely
If the instructor supplies the materials, the
cost would be an additional $400 to $800 or more, depending on materials and fittings
selected. You can bring your own case or purchase one from me at my cost.
During registration, I will send you a list of basic material costs and
available tone-wood, hardware and case upgrades.
VEHICLE: Renting or bringing your own vehicle is optional. If you don't have your own vehicle, I can pick you up and drive you every day to the shop and back. I can also drive you from the nearest airport and back on your arrival and departure. The nearest airport is Bradley/Springfield (BDL)
My shop is located in Western Massachusetts, in the small city of Northampton, which is a half hour's drive from Springfield, Massachusetts, (the state's third largest city) and one hour's drive North on I-91 from Hartford, Connecticut.
Northampton is a beautiful New England college town (Smith
College, with Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke and UMass nearby) with great restaurants, a
lively nightlife and a lot of top live-music acts coming through town; it has been awarded
the title of "best small town for the arts in America" for two years running.
There are often more applicants than slots available. As a result, learners can only be
selected on a first-come, first-served basis. "First come" means: whose deposit arrives first.
If you wish to sign up for the 2 week one to one course my instructor's fee will be $5000. I will require a $1000 retainer (refundable only as described below), which must be included with a signed letter of agreement that I will send you after we settle on the details. The signed agreement and check must arrive back to me as soon as possible, or you may find that the slot has been made unavailable by another deposit which arrived sooner. The retainer will be applied to the course fee. $3000 will be payable on the first day of the course and $1000 at the end.
I need to receive the materials fee four weeks before the
start date, and one-half of the housing fee (if you're staying in my guest room) at signing time,
although I have been flexible with that in the past.
As far as refunds and cancellations,
IF YOU CANCEL, whether I return the retainer or return it in part will be at my
discretion, and will depend on several factors, including how close to the start date you
cancelled; if you've cancelled for an emergency situation; and if I can find
a person on my cancellation list that can jump in to your spot.
More Tutorial Student Evaluations:
Seamus Cantwell came all the way from Tipperary, Ireland (yeah, he knows, it's a long way--he gets that all the time) to make a 12-fret curly Koa jumbo guitar with abalone purflings around the top. His course evaluation can be found here.
Below is a close-up of the guitars Seamus and I made together. Mine is in the foreground.
When he's not designing planetarium shows for the Boston Museum of Science, Wade Sylvester makes guitars. He extensively documented a recent "extended" tutorial with me on his own webpage.
Joe Wilmont works at CBS news and made himself a fine classic guitar in my shop in May 2009. Here he is showing his finished work off to his friends at CBS:
Above, consultant Peter Schireson
completed his own Hauser-copy classic guitar in my shop. His comments here.
...the experience [was] nothing less than fabulous! I have told people here that I never worked as hard in my life and that the work involved constant thinking as well as using my hands in ways that I had never done before. I really enjoyed the ways that you demonstrated procedures ahead of time and then kept an eye on me as I repeated what I had observed. I did find that, for the most complex procedures – gluing binding for example, or chiseling braces – I would only pick up on a piece of the procedures. This was due to my inexperience. You were very adept at sensing this and demonstrating things again when I needed it.
... I took the guitar into my local guitar tech yesterday and he was amazed. He said that you must “keep a tight ship” when it comes to building. He said this, as he inspected the inside of the box for the fit and finish. I still cannot believe how well it turned out, though when I remember back to building it, I recall all of the tiny details that we attended to along the way. Perhaps the biggest learning I took from the experience is to take my time and make sure I do things correctly. For instance, I was surprised when we took nearly a day to make the bridge and glue it to the top. In the past, I “whipped up” a bridge with my sander in a few hours, not paying attention to the nuances of shaping or positioning the bridge. That, and using the correct tools for the job, seem critically important.
...coming from a 30-year veteran teacher educator, I found an excellent teacher.
Musician Ben Kushigian wrote:
"I came to William's tutelage as a musician with a very limited amount of knowledge pertaining to woodcraft. However, in the two short weeks I spent working with William, I saw my confidence grow a hundredfold. I found that most of my initial questions about luthierie were answered and replaced with more educated questions, questions that I felt were founded on an actual understanding of the basic concepts of guitar building."
"Aside from the knowledge I gained, I also came out of his workshop with a wonderful guitar ---a guitar that I built nonetheless! I can honestly say that I prefer playing it than my Martin. It is aesthetically pleasing, as well as having a most beautiful tone. One of William's strong points is a skill I employed extensively; his ability to take a potentially" disastrous mistake and turn it into something beautiful.
"William is a top-notch teacher as well as a remarkable craftsman. His ability to convey information in an agreeable manner is truly his greatest gift. He invites you to extrapolate from the information given and to reach your own conclusions. I came out the other side of his fine tutelage not only with a refined sense of guitar building but also with a more comprehensive grasp on myriad tangential subjects, including the history of famous guitar builders, the physics of acoustics (a field William has spent much time in), the physical aspects of wood species, and the very philosophy of music!"
Engineer Mike Hasty took the tutorial
Working with William,
one on one, gave me the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. I’m sure that
he probably had to take a week off after I left to recover. The experience
not only opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas but cleared up a lot of grey
areas in my mind that I had been lying awake at night thinking about.
William truly is a great and talented artist but probably even more
important is his talent as an instructor. This is a rare combination. These
two weeks with William were exactly what I needed to get me over the hump. I
am now performing tasks because I understand why I am doing something a
certain way as opposed to just doing it because someone said “that’s the way
to do it”.
Professional Toronto, Canada, cabinetmaker Luis deSousa made a OO 12-fret steel string guitar in my shop and wrote:
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed, and needed those two weeks. I got the "bug" and can't wait to build that Classical, the sooner the better!! In case you cant tell I'm very eager and excited to keep this newfound passion alive.