Musical Instrument Repair and Fabrication Careers

Musical instrument repair and fabrication technicians fix or construct musical instruments.

Craftsmanship is essential when it comes to instruments, and many professional musicians have high standards for the construction, design, and function of their instruments. Some commission artisans to create custom instruments that meet their needs -- which requires a great deal of communication and trust. That trust is also a key component in repairing damaged instruments; when bad things happen to beautiful machines, it takes an expert with a keen understanding of musical mechanisms to get things working again.

Most repair technicians and instrument makers specialize in a single type of instrument or its family; it's unlikely that an expert in orchestral strings would know how to build or fix a saxophone, but they should be able to repair a viola as well as a cello. However, some instrument technicians make a point of knowing how to maintain a variety of instruments, which makes them particularly valuable to touring ensembles and bands.

Work in musical instrument repair and fabrication may include...

  • Assessing the damage to an instrument
  • Determining the best way to fix a problem
  • Fabricating various components of an instrument
  • Using a variety of specialized tools
  • Constructing an instrument from a plan

Instrument repair technicians often work in music stores, where they are able to diagnose issues and make small repairs. Many music stores maintain a database of repair specialists, who may work independently or in dedicated instrument repair workshops. Musicians who have a positive repair experience with a particular technician may seek out their services again and again, which can be the foundation of a successful career. Fabricators and builders of instruments are most often found in workshops and special facilities, where they are able to draft and construct a variety of elements.

There are several different ways to get into musical instrument repair and fabrication. Some community and technical colleges offer Associate's degrees in instrument repair, which can be a great choice for music enthusiasts looking to enter a specialty trade. Those who want to build or fabricate musical instruments tend to seek out apprenticeships, where they learn under the guidance of a master builder or luthier. Many prospective instrument makers will already have experience with repairing and playing the instrument they are learning to construct, which can provide useful context to the work. It helps to have a strong foundation in carpentry, woodworking, metalwork, or electrical engineering, depending on the type of instruments in question.

If you love musical instruments and want to understand them inside and out, consider a career in instrument repair or fabrication.

National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians is an educational association dedicated to the advancement of the craft of band instrument repair.

Musical Instrument Technicians Association International is an organization dedicated to the betterment of electronic service in the music industry.

The Guild of American Luthiers is an organization that facilitates learning about the art, craft, and science of making and repairing stringed instruments.