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Come to my shop. I'll show you how.                            

Cosmetic dentist Brian Galbraith writes:

"...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



U.S. Patent examiner Debra Meislin writes:

"Nothing easy is ever worth it and building a guitar is no exception. Alongside a skilled luthier, I scraped and sanded, measured and glued, clamped and chiseled for two entrancing weeks.  It all seems a dream now, until I open that black case lined with crushed green velvet holding what I created out of seemingly innocuous blocks of wood.  But innocuous they were
not.  A single strum appears to ring forever.  A warm, full musical voice reminds me that, yes, it was all worth it.  I couldn't imagine the loss of never having had the experience.
   Thank you, Bill, for your warm, full voice that guided me on an unforgettable journey."

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Human Resources executive Fred Burgos writes:

"I’m 56 years old, and I’ve worn many hats in my life, but I never got around to doing something I’d 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 can’t 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 you’re 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."
                             (Fred's complete tutorial evaluation text here)

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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 material.
     Probably most valuable to me personally was your ability to put me at ease with the process of building a guitar and the tools used to build it. I had little or no confidence going in that I had the skill to do this work, but within a day or two I was self-assured that with focus and patience I would successfully complete the project..."

Editor Ted Gilley writes:

I am still recovering from the hard work of the tutorial and feeling the elation of having built a great and beautiful guitar with you.  I know I was not the best of students--I don't consider myself a natural at very many things, and I'm too readily flustered--but I feel 98% more confident than I did before coming to Northampton, which seems to me like an enormous gain; and while I have no plans to rush into guitarmaking, I know that I am prepared to at least give that process the kind of thoughtful attention you taught me to use every day in the shop.  Thank you for that valuable lesson, among others."

And here's his new rosewood jumbo 12 string:

Stage designer Chris Driscoll writes:

I had the undivided attention of a master craftsman at my disposal. I ended the course with a beautiful instrument that anyone would be proud to own. I have the added pleasure of being able to say that I provided a significant hand in its creation. I would recommend without hesitation this course to the first time luthier, interested hobbyist and even those who have already built a few instruments. I guarantee that even those with some instrument building experience have a lot they can learn from someone of William’s vast expertise and experience..          
(complete tutorial evaluation text here)

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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,
my days are spent in front of a viewbox or computer monitor, inserting needles in various parts of the body, and watching the ebb and flow of barium through the gastrointestinal tract, with frequent interruptions by phone calls, emergency room radiographs, and administrative duties. In the Cumpiano shop, I could focus on individual tasks for the minutes or hours required for completion without interruption, a luxury unknown in my job.
     So fulfilling was my tutorial, that upon my return, I set up a shop in my basement. I have competed a few instruments since, including two which I have given to my sons, Pete and Dan. These will be a part of my legacy which would not have been possible without the tutorial.
     In summary, I recommend a tutorial with William Cumpiano without reservation. I gained a new avocation, a nice guitar, and a good friend.

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:

Gary Williamson took the tutorial, and asked for a special marquetry rosette tutorial by master guitarmaker/marqueter Alan Chapman. Here is a special photo sequence of  Gary Williamson's marquetry rosette tutorial 

Read Miami salsa trombonist/ tv commercial producer Robert Berrios' end-of-course evaluation

Washington State insurance man Gabe Butler loved the cuatro so much he took a cuatromaking course from me. Read his impressions here.

Designer/Craftsman Roger Cash evaluates
his tutorial session

Retired steelman Henry Stern made a classic guitar in my shop:

Software Engineer Kevin Curtis wrote:

    I wanted to thank you again for the past wonderful two weeks. I look at the guitar and am still amazed that I did it--with a lot of your help, of course.
    You're an amazing teacher and person. Many with your remarkable skills would be intimidating, but your are patient and helpful to a degree few have. I'm thankful for having the chance to get to know you.

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.

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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.
  The two weeks were so much more than a build by number type project. One is immersed in the cultural and historical implications of our instruments and music. Immersed in the dynamics of a guitar string, wood, acoustics, tools, and on and on.
  In addition to Williams breadth of knowledge and experience there is Harry Becker, authorized Martin repairman, just a room away. Working on guitars of all sorts. Customers traveling great distances just to have Harry fix their guitars. Harry is always ready to show and explain what he is doing while repairing an instrument.

Laser laboratory administrator Florent Missemer made 17 guitars before traveling all the way from St. Etienne, France, to refine his skills with the guy who wrote the book that started him on his journey. He brought his dog-eared copy with him to show me. He later wrote,

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:

Teaching format

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.

Teaching Format:


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.


Assembling the guitar from dimensioned materials. Extensive discussions on guitar acoustics, history, design and technology are included.

During the 2 week session, you will create  a completed, strung up-- but not lacquered--guitar in two weeks from dimensioned and partly-shaped materials furnished by me (or  obtained elsewhere by you). You can then take the completed --but unfinished, "in the white," instrument home to finish or have it professionally finished at an extra charge.

Session Availability:

I have to work the two week sessions around my yearly commission schedule, so the number of sessions and slots is extremely limited.

2013: Openings as shown

January:  RESERVED
March: Early March RESERVED*,
Late March
Late November
December: RESERVED

*Reserved means I'm committed to other projects



2 week Session, one to one:  $5000


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.


Securing local lodging is the learner's responsibility. I can suggest some comfortable lodgings at various rate levels nearby.

Optionally, learners can also choose to stay in a comfortable, private, smoke-free guest apartment in my home (which is 1/2 mile from the workshop), which is available for $75 a night (somewhat less than commercial rates nearby), which consists of bedroom, living room, private porch, kitchenette and private bathroom. Linens and continental breakfast are included. Oh, and it's got a nice home-entertainment system. Pictures here. My home and the apartment is a fifteen-minute walk to  Main Street in Northampton and fifteen-minute walk to my studio.

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.

Payment schedule

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.

Refunds and Cancellations

The Letter of Agreement that we will exchange will specify dates and the instrument's specifications, but most importantly it will specify that you've read and accepted my refund and cancellation policy.

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.
"I just changed my mind" won't work. Remember: I've pushed aside two weeks of paying work to accommodate you! That's what deposits are for!!!

I reserve the right to be able to cancel for good cause. Now, IF I have to cancel, the deposit/retainer can apply to another course at another mutually agreeable time, or will be refunded within 15 days, as you prefer.

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:

Joe with Andy Rooney looking real impressed by Joe's new guitar

Here's Joe with Executive Producer of 48 Hours
Susan Zirinsky. She seems very happy for him!

Biologist and pharma rep Enrico Schiafella had made several guitars before he traveled from Rome, Italy, in 2009 to take my one-on-one course. He later wrote, "the guitar I built in your shop was played and tried by many professionals. It was a blast. A real success. My sponsor Carlo Ambrosio (I told you about him remember?) loves it. On Sunday he will perform a concert with that guitar. So, in brief, it is a great guitar. It has a great volume and a bristling, lively sound.
That's good isn't it?"



Above, consultant Peter Schireson completed his own Hauser-copy classic guitar in my shop. His comments here.

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Michigan State University professor of education Mark Conley made a dreadnaught-style guitar during a two-week tutorial. Later he wrote:

...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.


Chemist Brian Fry built a replica of a 1920 Martin-Ditson Concert guitar beside me and later wrote:

     "Wow, what a great two weeks it was to be taught by William. It was truly captivating, inspirational, educational and I think a privilege and honor. William’s calm, patient and methodical approach to teaching is top notch and his knowledge goes well beyond the construction.
       I made a mistake when carving one side of the back of the neck/head stock transition (this was after it had already been explained and demonstrated to me) – he quite simply marked off the spot, did a little “repair” work in the moment all the while explaining to me where I had erred and what I needed to be looking for and paying attention to. He then stopped the repair, said we’ll come back to it later after we see how the rest of the neck goes. I then did a much better job of carving the other side of the transition after his 2nd “demo” and explanation. Then, after carving the rest of the neck and coming back to the bad transition that William fixed, well when all was said and done, my “ooops” looked like it was meant to be that way . This approach was a real lesson for me (a dyed in the wool perfectionist) that although perfection may be a goal, it is not a reality, and for any problem there is a solution – it’s all in the approach and sometimes it’s best to consider whether or not to fix the mistake immediately, or wait and see how it works itself out – something which Williams’ decades of experience allows him to teach others.
     Some people have the knowledge but don’t want to share it, some have the knowledge and the desire but no patience. William possesses all of these traits. He has a passion for the art and wants to pass it on.
     Oh, and if you’re wondering what we built in those 2 weeks: it was a Ditson Grand Concert made from Cocobolo and Engelmann. It is a beautiful little guitar and it is amazing the voice that it has – this speaks to Williams mantra of “minimal adequate structure”. Once I brought it home, I couldn’t resist and took it “in the white” to show some friends – they were amazed. It has a simple elegance and is a very intimate instrument to play, and the voice….
     Again, WOW!!! I cannot recommend this tutorial with William enough. If you are considering taking this course, I say go for it, do not hesitate, get on the list now. My only wish is that I could have spent more time in William’s shop. Who knows, I may ask William if I can come back again to expand on what he has already taught me (that may be one less slot for you).

Brian offered to talk to you about his tutorial if you write to him at bwfry (at)


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 and wrote:

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”.

After returning home I finished the guitar with nitro-cellulose lacquer and then took it to two professional musicians for evaluation. If I said that they were impressed it would be an under-statement. The intonation was right on and the sound quality excellent. They both commented very favorably about the playability and were highly impressed with the quality of workmanship.


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.