Teaching

Robert offers guitar and ukulele building, guitar finishing and masterclasses on topics that range from sharpening chisels and planes to making double top guitars. One-on-one and small group classes are held in his shop in Parker, CO.

Click here to check Robert’s 2018 teaching schedule. Contact Robert at BuildYourGuitar@obrienguitars.com, if these dates don’t work for you. Other dates may be available to fit your schedule.

Click here to see videos of guitars built by students with Robert. You can also see pictures of past classes in the classes gallery page. To see what others have to say about Robert's classes, scroll to the videos section on this page.


Classical, Steel String or Ukulele Building Course

Build you own classical guitar, steel string or ukulele under Robert’s supervision in his personal shop. Whether you are a first time builder or have already built many guitars, you will learn everything needed to build guitars as Robert helps you build your own guitar from a box of lumber to a finished playable guitar.

$4200 6 day course - exclusive one on one private class with French polish finish, plus materials (approx. $475)

$3700 5 day course - build your guitar to a playable condition in the “white” (No finish). You can then finish the guitar at your own shop or pay Robert a fee to finish the instrument and ship it to you when complete. Plus materials (approx. $475)

$3400 2 person course - plus materials (approx. $475)

Click here to view the building course FAQ

Small Group Guitar Building

This is an inexpensive way to learn guitar building so don’t miss out!

In this class a maximum of 4 students will be able to watch Robert as he builds a classical or steel string guitar in his shop. The guitar will start from raw materials and progress to a ready to play state, but without a finish, in 5 days. Ask questions, take notes, shoot unlimited photographs. You will be able to participate in some steps of the construction process.

This is an opportunity for those who have already built guitars to study Robert’s building style and improve your skills. For those considering making a guitar, this class is a good way to explore the idea of building a guitar before jumping in for the first time. The guitar will be for sale at the end of the class at a discount over Robert’s commissioned guitars.

$1200

Soundboard Voicing: Classical and Steel String

This is the Holy Grail of guitar building! In this class you will thickness, brace and voice a soundboard with Robert. This can then be taken to your shop and used as a reference for future soundboards or you can use it on a guitar. Learn about the optimum thickness for the species of wood you are using, what a loose or stiff top is, different radii and how they affect tone and structural integrity, bracing patterns, how to thickness soundboards with hand tools, how to select tonewood, and much much more!

There is some prep work for you before coming to class. Students need to join and thickness two or three soundboards to approx 3.5mm. If you plan on using your soundboard on a guitar you may also install a rosette. Bring the soundboards and bracewood to the class. Robert will then evaluate and critique your materials and help you choose the best one to work with. He will then work with you to thickness, brace and voice the soundboard so that it will give you the best response when used on a guitar.

Although there is something for everyone to learn in this class it is best if you have already built at least a couple of guitars.

$600

Double Tops

So, what’s all the fuss about double top guitars? Learn about the advantages that double top technology has to offer to you as a builder. This modern approach to guitar building uses a thin inner and outer skin with a composite honeycomb material known as Nomex in between. In this class you will learn how to thickness the inner and outer skins and then use vacuum and adhesives to build your own double top. Bracing patterns, thicknesses and other issues associated with double top guitars will be discussed. You will leave the class with your own double top that can then be used on a guitar you build.

$1500 Includes materials

French Polish

Learn one of the most beautiful and least hazardous finishes used for centuries on guitars and high end furniture. French polish is a method of applying shellac, which on a guitar, is thought by many to yield the best tone of any finish. It is thin, flexible and lustrous. It is also very easy to repair. Traditionally a tedious application, Robbie’s method, championed by Richard and Marshal Bruné in Chicago, markedly shortens the process, so it can be completed in a few days. In this two day class you will learn surface prep, pore filling and how to apply a French polish finish that can be rubbed out to a high gloss or satin sheen. Class will be held 4 hours each day.

$550

Guitar Building Consultation

This service is directed to guitar builders who are stuck, need help only from time to time, or want to get better at a specific skill.

Maybe you just need a master luthier to guide you through a step while you perform it in his shop. Spend an hour or more with Robert, and one or two other luthier friends, if you like, on a topic of your choosing. Finishing, fret work, bridge glue up, voicing, set up, and more. He can demonstrate it, talk about it, you can do it. It is your custom lesson. Robert particularly encourages luthiers with less than 10 guitars to their name to bring their tops in for voicing guidance. Voicing is one of the few steps in guitar building that a book can not adequately address. Robert has voiced well over 600 tops, both steel string and classical. Certain steps in guitar building are forever, and voicing is one of the most critical. Let him share his experience with you for an even better guitar.

$85/hour (one hour minimum)

Sharpening Planes, Chisels, Spokeshaves and Scrapers

Dull tools make woodworking a miserable and more hazardous experience. So impressive are truly sharp tools that most woodworkers can still remember the first time they used a perfectly honed blade. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare to have a chisel or plane ideally sharpened out of the box, even from the best manufacturers. Learn how to make your hand tools glide through wood. Once properly sharpened, woodworking with hand tools becomes a joy and resharpening a breeze. Until then, you will wonder what you are doing wrong. Bring your tools to this class and put a razor sharp edge on them!


Masterclasses

This schedule can change often. Be sure to check back often to see who’s coming to town, or put yourself on the O’Brien Guitars mailing list.

Modal Tuning with Trevor Gore

August 2-4 Luthier Trevor Gore, from Sydney Australia, will once again come to the O’Brien Guitars shop and share his knowledge and experience with Modal Tuning. This is a rare opportunity to study with an expert in the field of guitar acoustics and design. Last year’s class filled quickly. You will not want to miss this class. Topics covered include:

  • How strings drive your guitar
  • Visualizing and understanding modes of vibration
  • Relating modes of vibration to guitar frequency response curves
  • Measuring frequency response curves
  • Relating frequency response curves to generic guitar types (classical, flamenco, steel string rhythm, steel string finger picking)
  • Introduction to theory of modal vibrations
  • Mechanical impedance and admittance
  • Targeting the “right” modal frequencies and avoiding the wrong ones
  • Requirements of a guitar as a static and dynamic structure
  • Measuring material properties so that you can make the best of the wood you have rather than wishing for the wood you would like
  • Bracing schemes for backs and tops
  • Practical tuning of guitar modes: Moving from “as built” to “to design”

$1600

Flamenco guitar building course with Spanish luthier Paco Chorobo

Traditional Flamenco guitar making course. In this 7 day class we will build a true flamenco guitar using the traditional Spanish method with solera mold. We will assemble a traditional 5+T bracing system guitar with wooden pegs as used on old school 50's "tablao guitars". Traditional Spanish techniques including hide glue, hand carved neck, "muñequilla" finish etc., and many more surprises! All the history and cultural issues behind the flamenco guitar will be covered also. All plans, both of the guitar and jigs included. True Spanish cypress and all other materials included, directly imported from Spain, provided by Madinter and personally hand selected by Paco.

Live the true Flamenco experience at the O’Brien Guitars workshop in this course given by Paco Chorobo. Want more? After completing the course you will get the Online Flamenco Guitar Making course for free!!  It doesn’t get any better than this. This class is limited to a maximum of 4 students and will fill quickly!

$3995 August 24-30


2018 Schedule

These are the classes offered during 2018.

January 4 - 9 Classical - (reserved)
16 - 21 Steel string - (reserved)
29 - Feb. 3 Ukulele - (reserved)
February 5 - 10 Steel string - (reserved)
19 - 24 Classical - (reserved)
March 5 - 10 Steel string - (reserved)
26 - 31 Classical - (reserved)
April 9 - 14 Steel string - (reserved)
30 - May. 5 Steel string - (reserved)
May 14 - 21 Classical - (reserved)
June 1 - 2 Steel string voicing • Contact to be put on wait list - Available
3 - 4 Classical voicing - Available
5 - 6 French polish • Contact to be put on wait list - Available
11 - 16 Classical - (reserved)
18 - 25 2 person classical - (reserved)
July 6 - 7 French Polish Masterclass • Oficina São Francisco, Curitiba - Brazil - Available
13 - 22 Brazilian Guitar Building course Sao Paulo Brazil - Available
August 2 - 4 Modal tuning with Trevor Gore
Contact to be put on wait list - Available
7 - 9 Modal tuning with Trevor Gore
Contact to be put on wait list - Available
13 - 18 Steel string - (reserved)
24 - 30 Flamenco guitar building course with Spanish luthier Paco Chorobo
Contact to be put on wait list - Available
September 10 - 15 Steel string - (reserved)
24 - 29 Steel string - (reserved)
October 22 - 27 Steel string - (reserved)
November 5 - 10 Steel string - (reserved)
26 - Dec. 1 Steel string - (reserved)
December 3 - 8 Steel string - (reserved)
10 - 15 - (reserved)

Robert is already taking reservations for his 2019 teaching schedule. Please contact him to reserve dates.


Class Videos

Robbie’s teaching style is stellar. He is clear and concise about the tasks we needed to perform. He is as easy going as can be but kept the class progressing as needed. I felt as a welcome guest in his home/shop and Adrianna’s hospitality made me feel part of the family. And I even got a cool hat out of the deal! I highly recommend taking this class to anyone who needs to learn or improve their top building/voicing skills John
See what others are saying

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Your teaching skills are top notch and you obviously put the effort into melding with the students you are presented with. You made us feel very comfortable and we had the best time working with you and being welcomed by your family. The kicker is our wonderful guitars we brought home. I haven't, and don't expect to find a better sounding classical than the one I made with you. Dave and Lisa
This has been an awesome week for me! It has been a great deal of fun building this guitar with Robbie and I've been learning a great deal. I am shocked at how quickly the guitar came together. I have a few years of experience building furniture (though as a hobby; I make about 3 pieces per year) but this is my very first guitar. Martin in San Diego
Robbie, Thank you so much for everything. This was such a wonderful week for me. I really enjoyed drinking from the fire hose of your guitar knowledge. I've had a hard time just getting off my ass and building a guitar and this class was such an effective way to push myself to do that. I suspect I could have learned much of this on my own--by building a couple dozen guitars--but I feel like you have given me a shortcut to competency as a builder. I would recommend his class for anyone that can take it. It really was such an effective way to get my feet wet. I hope to build a classical some time with you too. Martin in San Diego
“I think O’Brien Guitars hits the best balance of price, accessibility,breadth of offerings, quality of instruction and production out there.”
“Robbie is so accessible. I'm lucky as he's in Colorado and I've gone to his shop a few times, but he's always there via email, phone etc. And no matter what idiot thing I've done, he doesn't ever make me think he thinks I'm an idiot. Superb teacher!
“I have spent many hours with Robert O'Brien and other Luthiers that offer lessons/classes. I have learned the most, and feel (by far) the most confident with Robert O’Brien. The primary reasons are clarity of lessons, presentation and variety of topics.”
My guitar looks, feels, and sounds great. It is definitely the nicest sounding guitar I have ever played. I am looking forward to making at least two more, one for each son. John
When someone, such as yourself, is a grand master of their craft they often can’t relate to the complete novice. That is definitely not true for you. Your teaching is exceptional and you have the rare talent of being able to convey complex and intricate procedures in a concise, friendly, easily understood and often amusing way. Alan
A shout to Robbie O'Brien and O'Brien guitars. I just showed my guitar off to 2 friends, both magnificently skilled musicians. The reviews were SO positive and they both thought it looked and sounded amazing. Thanks again Robbie for your guidance and patience. Bruce
I can't say enough how much I enjoyed the steel string voicing class yesterday and today, and how much I learned from it. Peter
I just had one of the best two days of my guitar building experience! While I have built over fifteen tops so far, I was always “guestimating” the sound and flexibility I was looking for. Being with Robbie and the other students helped me to develop an ear for the sound I was going for and a feel for the flexibility I was after. While I knew about putting a top together, hearing and feeling the progress of getting the top to where I wanted was just what I needed. In addition, the table talk about other aspects of guitar building, the questions/comments from the other students and Robbie’s answers, as well as the extra comments from Robbie about other aspects of guitar building was worth twice as much as I paid for the class. Robbie’s teaching style is stellar. He is clear and concise about the tasks we needed to perform. He is as easy going as can be but kept the class progressing as needed. I felt as a welcome guest in his home/shop and Adrianna’s hospitality made me feel pa John
Robbie’s teaching style is stellar. He is clear and concise about the tasks we needed to perform. He is as easy going as can be but kept the class progressing as needed. I felt as a welcome guest in his home/shop and Adrianna’s hospitality made me feel part of the family. And I even got a cool hat out of the deal! I highly recommend taking this class to anyone who needs to learn or improve their top building/voicing skills John
I took the Classical voicing course in June. The best guitar related money I've spent. Chris
You have caused a dilemma with me. I am being 100% honest when I say the playability and cutaway make this the guitar I want to play every day. I love the sound. I think the French polish and redwood give it a pleasing tone and of course everything else that goes into it. It's easier to play then my Hauser. Jon in Pennsylvania
If you are at all thinking about learning to build a guitar you should strongly consider studying with Robbie. Stephen from Montana
This was one of life’s experiences I’ll remember clearly for a very long time… playing an instrument you’ve personally built has a special feeling. It’s an experience shared by a precious few. I’m happy to have become one. Thanks Robbie! Jim from Maryland

Building Courses FAQ

Who is the class for?

First time to advanced builders - Whether you just want to build one guitar or become a professional luthier Robert’s classes are tailored to suit your needs.

Where is the class?

In Robert’s shop in beautiful Parker, Colorado, Only 35 minutes from Denver International Airport.

What can I build?

Robert offers classical, steel string guitar and ukulele building classes – For steel string most students build an OM model but you can also build a dreadnought. For classical you will build Robert’s own classical guitar model.

What materials are used?

All materials come from Luthiers Mercantile International and are high quality 3A instrument grade materials. You purchase the materials and have them shipped directly to Robert’s shop a few weeks in advance of your class dates. Classical - Indian rosewood back and sides, bridge blank, headstock veneer and bindings, spruce or cedar soundboard, cedar neck blank, ebony fretboard, classical rosette, mahogany kerfing, spruce and mahogany or cedar bracing, bone nut and saddle and Gotoh tuners. Steel string – Indian rosewood back and sides, sitka spruce soundboard, ebony bridge blank, fretboard and peghead veneer, MOP fret markers, flame maple bindings, traditional herringbone rosette with B/W/B inner and outer rings, Gold Gotoh tuners.

Can I substitute some of the materials?

Robert will allow some substitutions like tuners and rosettes or spruce for cedar soundboards. Contact Robert for questions about substitutions.

Can I bring my own materials?

This is highly discouraged as Robert likes to know the quality and condition of the materials that will be used to build the guitar. Robert has worked with LMI to put together a selection of materials that are instrument grade. Hundreds of students have been satisfied with these materials and the resulting guitars built from them.

What finish is applied?

In the class Robert teaches his French polish method. Your guitar will go home with you completely finished. For an additional fee Robert can apply a traditional high gloss lacquer finish to your guitar and ship it to you when complete.

Is this a kit guitar?

No! It is just a box of materials. You will make the neck, carve it, thickness and bend the sides and bindings, slot and thickness the fretboard, carve the bridge, thickness, brace and voice the soundboard etc. The only things pre-done for the sake of time are the rosette, kerfing and bindings. You must do everything else.

Can I bring a family member or friend?

Of course! This makes a great father son/daughter, husband/wife or even friends project. You will have bragging rights and lasting memories. There is even a discount for two person classes.

What about cutaways and soundports?

These are highly discouraged for first time builders. Let’s do basic math before algebra folks. It also adds an extra day to the course and another $500

What kind of neck joint is used?

A traditional Spanish heel is used on the classical guitars and a bolt on mortise and tenon for the steel string guitars.

Are cases available?

Yes – Robert has top of the line Access cases available for sale.

Prefer to call Robert on the phone to talk about a course designed to suit your needs? No problem! Robert welcomes your call and looks forward to discussing your needs in a personalized building course.