Violin making training usually takes place in a college setting. The students are typically a hugely mixed bunch of ages and nationalities. They come from very diverse backgrounds; some are skilled musicians, some can’t play a note. Some already have well-developed tool skills and some prior experience of instrument making; for those that don’t, the courses will start them from scratch. The really important factor is a deep desire and commitment to learn the craft and to put in the necessary time and effort to develop the skills of hand and eye coordination, and to learn to listen to instruments analytically.
Newark School of Violin Making
By a historical accident, this small market town in the East Midlands is home to one of the largest schools of violin making in the world, with around 100 students at any one time. The course begins with a foundation year for those with little or no woodworking background. The first year is spent making violins, the second year learning restoration skills with the option of making a viola, and the third year is open for specialisation in the areas of specific interest to the individual student, and might well include making a cello. The town is also home to courses for guitar making, piano tuning and restoration and woodwind making and repair.
South Thames College
The college has run violin making and repair courses for years within a broader musical instrument technology department that encompasses guitar and woodwind making and repair. The mix of full-time and part-time places gives the course a high intake of mature students. The focus tends towards repair but also includes making instruments.
West Dean College Arts and Conservation
This is the smallest UK instrument making school with only around nine students and a high tutor: student ratio. Run by the private Edward James Foundation it connects today’s students with a rich heritage of art and craft.
The programme is internationally respected for the high level consummate craftsmanship of its graduates. The skills acquired on the course can be applied to making a wide range of stringed instruments, both bowed and plucked including viola da gamba, violin and guitar. Students can expect to complete between one and three instrument making projects a year.
Also within the college are departments that make, restore and conserve ceramics, clocks, furniture and books, providing training for conservators in museums and libraries all over the world, as well as a fine art department and an extensive range of short courses.