Robert “Robbie” O’Brien began his guitar building career in São Paulo, Brazil in 1997. For three years, Robbie built classical guitars under Antonio Tessarin, who remains one of Brazil’s most highly sought after luthiers. While still living in Brazil and upon returning to the United States, Robbie studied acoustic guitar building under Kent Everett in Atlanta, GA.
In 2003, Robbie founded the Lutherie Program in the Fine Woodworking Department at Red Rocks Community College in Denver, CO. He developed the program into one of the largest lutherie schools in the United States. By the end of his tenure in 2012, the course list had expanded from a single classical guitar building class to include classes in acoustic guitar, electric guitar, archtop guitar, mandolin, violin, guitar setup & repair, French polish, high gloss finishes and inlay.
Teaching Guitar Building and Finishing
One of Robbie’s greatest passions in lutherie is teaching. In 2012, he relocated instruction to the Colorado School of Lutherie in Denver for groups of up to 10 students. He offers building and finishing classes, as well as master classes, adding other renowned luthiers to the teaching roster. In addition, Robbie holds one-on-one and small group guitar building and finishing classes in his personal shop. He also offers consultations to individuals and small groups wanting help with their guitar building.
To date, Robbie has personally supervised the building of over 500 guitars made by students in Colorado, from teenagers to retirees. Several of his students relocated to Colorado specifically to study with him.
As a teacher, Robbie’s influence extends internationally. The DVDs that Robbie made for his early students have guided thousands more guitar builders who purchased guitar kits from Luthiers Mercantile International. Several years ago, Robbie introduced the popular “Luthier Tips du Jour” instructional video series, which is available free on YouTube. Viewings have topped 1.6 million.
More recently, Robbie released his “Online Classical Guitar Building Course” and “Online Acoustic Guitar Building Course”. These videos bring the viewer into O’Brien’s personal shop and demonstrate every step of building a guitar from scratch. Each course is over 25 hours in length with over 150 video lessons.
Robbie designs, builds and sells custom classical, flamenco, steel string and electric guitars. His guitars are built one at a time to the specifications of each client. Robbie offers custom wood selections, including Brazilian Rosewood. Options including cutaway designs and sound ports are also available. A high gloss finish is standard for his steel string guitars and French polish is standard on his classical guitars.