If you’re looking to buy a guitar, the choices are (to put it mildly) ridiculous! Walk into any music shop, or peruse eBay or Reverb, and you’ll find an endless array of brands, sizes, shapes and colours available at any price point.
Once you look past the lower priced guitars and examine some of the more expensive models, you may find what appear to be slavish copies of well known brands, except they can cost even more.
So why would anyone want to pay more for a custom made guitar, when you can buy a big name guitar off the shelf?
Most players that have been playing for a little while will develop tastes for certain things. They’ll like a certain neck profile, nut width, or pickups. They might find the volume gets in the way of their playing style, or they don’t really use the tone knob. Perhaps they’d prefer to have pickup choices that aren’t available in the stock models.
Any one of these things can make a stock model guitar feel like it’s not quite right. A neck profile can be a deal breaker for many people, and most of the time you are stuck with whatever profile the manufacturer decided most people would like. Well, most people might not be like you! The chances are you will have to compromise.
Buying custom means you get to decide exactly how your guitar plays, looks and feels. The feeling part of it – the neck profile and maybe the body contours – might not be obvious to many people. But that one small difference will make all the different to you, the player.
Perhaps you want a combination of pickups that isn’t available elsewhere. How about a Telecaster bridge with Stratocaster-style middle and neck pickups? Two minihumbuckers on a double cutaway? Order a custom guitar and there is no problem.
Aside from the details of a guitar, maybe you just want a different shape. The shape of a guitar makes it comfortable (or uncomfortable!) to play, but can also speak volumes about style. Certain shapes of guitar come with their own history, and can inspire you to play certain ways. What if you had a different shape that didn’t make you think of other players, and invited you to create your own music? Sometimes it’s good to just be different.
A common way to buy a guitar is to go with what’s available and upgrade it. Some people refer to lower end guitars as upgrade platforms, but some will do the same with more expensive models. You choose the body and neck you like, then add your own custom wound pickups, or favourite tuners, for example. There may be a large enough gap between the US-made and Asian built versions of a guitar that it could be considered money-saving to buy the Asian model and upgrade one component at a time.
On the other hand, unless you’re competent with doing the work yourself and already have the tools, this can get expensive. You may have started with the idea of only changing the pickups, but when do you stop? It’s all too easy to start changing things that you end up spending as much as the expensive model would have cost in the first place.
Buying a custom guitar to begin with means you have everything you wanted, from day one, without the added expense of installation or the time it takes to do the work.
How About You?
You may have your own reasons to buy custom. If you’ve already bought a custom made guitar, what led you to that choice? I would love to hear about your experience.