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What Does a Bass Luthier Do?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Stringed instruments such as guitars, basses, violins, and cellos are made by professionals known as luthiers. If this professional has chosen to create bass instruments exclusively, he or she may be known as a bass luthier. Bass instruments tend to create lower sounds, and like guitars and violins, they are operated by either plucking strings or otherwise making those strings vibrate. A bass luthier will usually go through extensive training or a lengthy apprenticeship in order to learn the skills and techniques necessary to build and repair stringed instruments.

Many luthiers do not specialize in just one type of instrument, choosing instead to work on a wide variety of stringed instruments. Others, however, have chosen to work exclusively on one type of instrument in order to become more proficient and knowledgeable in a specific area. A bass luthier will specialize in bass guitars or other bass instruments, though many of his or her skills will translate into other areas of luthiery. The bass luthier can build bass instruments from scratch, which means he or she will have an extensive knowledge of the tools and techniques necessary to do so. The luthier may also design the instrument, choosing the shapes, materials, and features of that instrument before the construction begins.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Sometimes the bass luthier will not concentrate on building instruments, but will instead focus on repairing existing instruments. Music shops will often hire a luthier in-house to conduct such repairs, and while demand for a bass luthier exclusively is not as high as a luthier who will work on various instruments, it is still possible to get some freelance or contracted work exclusively focused on bass instruments. Repair processes can vary significantly; in some cases, the luthier may only conduct routine maintenance to ensure the instrument is producing the intended tones. In other cases, it may be necessary to completely rebuild the instrument from the ground up.

Other repairs include re-fretting an instrument by taking out the old metal frets and replacing them with new ones; repairing scratches and dents; replacing components such as the neck of the instrument, the headstock, or the tuning machines. The bass luthier will need to be able to carefully examine the bass instrument to figure out what might be causing a particular problem. This includes analyzing any electronics that may be included as part of the overall function of the instrument. Luthiers must have working knowledge of soldering techniques and electronics testing equipment.

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