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  Cumpiano Guitars        Cumpiano Articles Archive        Make a Guitar with William

Robert Berrios' evaluation of his recent two-week classical guitar-assembly
tutorial stint at William's shop during May 1999:

WRC and Roberto.jpg (34314 bytes)
After two weeks of intensive effort, the bridges go on! Tommorrow we string 'em up...

To Whom It May Concern;

I have just completed a guitar building course with Mr. William Cumpiano and I thought it would be appropriate to comment on my experience, for the benefit of those people interested in taking his course, but who are hesitant. This is, by the way, an unsolicited commentary.

Mr. Cumpiano lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, a beautiful small town in a rural setting. I chose to stay with him and his family, and had a great time. His wife Jeanette is very nice, and made me feel at home right away. His shop is close to his home, a short distance away. The class begins at around 9:00 a.m., and runs to about 5:00 p.m. everyday for the length of the course.  However, depending on your skill level, it might take you a little longer to finish certain steps in the building process.

In the first day, he explains his "mental model" of what a guitar is. This is like getting thirty years worth of experience summed up in [a couple of hours]! This sets the stage for the building process. Next, you begin to build your instrument.  Mr. Cumpiano is a very good teacher.  I was a teacher myself, and can tell you that one of the most important qualities to look for in a teacher is PATIENCE. Another very important quality, of course, is KNOWLEDGE of the subject matter. He excels in both of these points. You should be aware that Mr. Cumpiano published a book that is considered by many to be the "Bible" of guitar building.  I have read the book (in fact, I built my first guitar with it) and I can say that the course is as thorough as the book, and then some.

It is a delight to see a master at work, and even better to work next to him! The guitar I built is a great one! I just wish that it would had been possible to finish the guitar within the two week course that I took, but it is just physically impossible build the guitar and lacquer it in such a short time.  However, he did explain the entire finishing process in detail. You can also have him finish the instrument for you, for an extra charge.  Judging by the fact that finishing a guitar is a delicate and lengthy process (it can take several weeks), the fee that he charges is a fair one.  I wanted
to finish it myself because I need to master the finishing technique.

If you have ever considered learning to build a guitar (in the classical tradition, a steel string, or another folk instrument such as a Puerto Rican cuatro or a Cuban tres), I highly recommend Mr. Cumpiano's course.

Here is the big question...Is the class worth the fee that he charges? Here is my honest answer:  judging by the fact that you do end up with a beautiful instrument AND learn the skills necessary to perhaps begin a new trade, I certainly consider that the fee charged is indeed a fair one.  Remember, this is a one on one class...just you and the master.  This is not a class with
other people to distract your learning process.  It is not that easy, mind you, because the course is VERY intense, full of information, and sometimes the procedures are difficult.  However,  if you are up to the challenge, I highly recommend it! Mr. Cumpiano is a true master guitar builder, and a great human being. You will, by the way, gain a friend during the process. 


Robert Berrios