The Pay Scale for Guitar Makers

by Lee Grayson; Updated September 26, 2017
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Guitar makers working in a factory situation earn a flat hourly fee for their services, while handmade guitar artists earn payment when the guitar sells. The fee per hour for the handcrafted model maker may be less than for the factory worker, depending on the skill of the luthier and the amount of detail work added to the guitar design. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported instrument repairers and tuners earned a mean annual salary of $34,830 in 2010.

Factory Workers Versus Independent Luthiers

Factory workers and handmade guitar fabricators, known as luthiers, make both electric and acoustic guitar models in shops and factories located throughout America. While all major manufacturers operate factories outside the United States, several large guitar makers have American plants. C.F. Martin and Company operates a large plant in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has factory operations in Corona, California, and New Hartford, Connecticut. Factory fabricators focus on one job or a cluster of similar jobs, such as work on a neck fret board or exterior finish work, but independent luthiers handle all construction operations.

Apprentice and Trainee Guitar Makers

Entry-level guitar makers at the Taylor Guitars earned $10 for a daytime shift at the company's manufacturing plant in El Cajon, California. Nighttime shifts pay a small additional bonus per hour of work. Taylor and Martin companies both provide the training and instruction necessary for new workers at the factory. Once the worker completes the basic training program, the company makes more advanced assignments based on the skills of the worker. These jobs earn higher salaries that vary with the skill levels required in the workstation and the talents of the individual workers.

Well-Known Luthiers' Fees

Well-known hand-working guitar makers and luthiers command top dollar for designs and craftsmanship. The fees, and earnings for the luthier, depend on the guitar design, for new construction, and the amount of restoration required for damaged guitars. Major manufacturer Gibson Guitars offers luthier services from its main offices in Nashville, Tennessee, and C.F. Martin and Company accepts guitars for repairs at its Pennsylvania factory. Pay for luthiers at the corporate locations includes a regular salary that incorporates work in other factory operations. The Economic Research Institute reported independent luthiers made an average salary between $38,653 and $47,212 in 2011, with guitar makers living in major urban centers, such as New York City, making the top wages.

Technical Skill Requirements

Guitar makers working at state-of-the-art facilities, such as the C.F. Martin factory and the Fender facilities in Ontario, California, have formal technical degrees and training in manufacturing, industrial or mechanical processes. Salaries for the computer-controlled machine operators in 2008, including wood workers at the various American guitar manufacturers, ranged from an hourly low of $10.49 to a high of $23.84, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The range includes newly trained workers to seasoned professionals with years of factory experience.

Special Corporate Work Benefits

Guitar makers working for C.F. Martin have the ability to purchase two guitars at a discount of 50 percent each year during their tenure at the Martin factory.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

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