Luthier Guitar Considerations
My Thoughts about Considering a Custom Made Luthier Guitar
After doing some serious online research and trying to come up with my own specifications and justifications for buying a custom guitar, I found that time has come to share my thoughts about the things to consider when buying a custom luthier guitar. The main aspects to consider in my opinion are looks, sound, quality and special features. Let me discuss these elements now and then let master luthier and custom guitar builder David Myka tell you about his approach to building your custom guitar.
You should consider buying a custom guitar if you want the most stunning guitar to please your eye every time you look at it. Investigate different shapes, woodgrains, colors and combinations of wood and colors with hardware options. Not only consider whether you want a figured wood top but also think about how the fingerboard complements the neck, the body and the head stock. What should the back of the guitar look like and how should the neck be fitted. Some people love Cedar while others find Koa very appealing as an alternative to Spruce.The last consideration will quickly start to play into sound since bolt-on necks are said to have different sustain and sound featured in comparison to set necks (glued) or neck-trough body constructions. While acoustic guitars used to be limited to spruce tops you can now have many different colored tops. Acoustic guitar tops are not just about the looks. Different top woods will also result in a different sound and as the guitar ages the sound will also change in different ways. Some people love cedar while others find koa very appealing as an alternative to spruce.
As I said above, if you are in the market for a custom acoustic guitar then you may want to think about the best sounding wood combination for top, back and sides. Even some electric custom guitar makers and players believe in using special wood with pleasing tonal properties (often called tonewoods). You need to consider if your custom acoustic guitar should have a pickup and how the pickup controls should be implemented to minimize any impact on sound quality of the acoustic instrument. With electric guitars you may also want to think about special pickups and wiring. In my opinion however changes to electronics do not warrant a custom guitar as you can easily fit replacement pickups and controls into stock guitars.
Quality and (Playability)
For me quality is the main selling point of a custom guitar. I feel that buying a quality guitar is like buying skill. The better the quality of a guitar the better I feel my playing is. The better the quality of a guitar the better I feel my playing is. There is nothing that distracts my from playing. The guitar sits comfortably on my knee or hangs well balanced on the strap. I do not have and buzzing strings and there is no need to adjust the truss every time the weather changes. My fretting hand feels comfortable around the neck in any position and I have full access to all the high frets. I feel good about myself for owning this great quality guitar. I like picking it up and playing it as much as possible. The more I play the better I get. This is way I am saying:
If you are into playing guitars rather than collecting them, get the best quality guitar you can afford.
Another consideration to get a custom guitar is when you are after something that is not available from a mainstream manufacturer. Examples of this may be 7 and 8 string guitars or an acoustic baritone guitar. Also not easy to come by as a production model are those fan-fretted, multi-scale guitars where the lower strings have a longer scale length than the higher strings. The result of the longer scale length for the lower strings is more punch available to the bass notes and better balance of tension between strings. Some owners of fan-fretted guitars also claim an advantage in ergonomics for the fretting hand.
David Myka’s view: what the professionals want to achieve for you
As a custom luthier that truly designs from scratch I look at the whole process very differently than what has been described above. As a whole my client base is looking for playability, electronics functionality and how well it integrates into their amp and/or processing rig (for stage, studio, gigging, etc), and tonal range. One of the most common customization is the electronics. Things like switch function (coil configuration, selection, modification of circuit, etc), switch direction (left-right, up-down, or angled depending on context, personal preference, or ergonomics), and also specific string capture are the most commonly customized. The switching systems that I design are so highly specialized that the guitars are made to fit the electronics. The looks of the instrument (concerning wood choice) is dictated by the tonal goals of the guitar.
I say all of this because from my perspective what has been described above is misleading. For example: to consider looks first when choosing woods is a mistake. This is because people will want their guitar to sound a particular way but insist on woods that do not support that goal because they like the look of it. Sometimes this works out but usually only when the luthier has control of the rest of the wood options to balance out that choice. The other reason I find it misleading is the suggestion of not going for a custom for “changes to electronics do not warrant a custom guitar as you can easily fit replacement pickups and controls into stock guitars”. 90% of the custom work I do is because you cannot get the electronics needed off the shelf nor will it fit into any guitar that is not designed for it. There are no stock guitars in my world. – David Myka.
How to find Your Guitar Luthier
Start with making a list of things that you want to have in your luthier guitar. I have prepared a PDF document to help you start mapping out the specifications for your Custom Electric Guitar. Use the button below to get access!
Once you have an idea of what you want look for a guitar luthier who already offers something close to what you are looking for. Make contact and start discussing the options together with pricing. You may even find a luthier guitar that has already been completed and is waiting just for you. You may also be able to get into a limited run build of one of the boutique luthiers, or you may find a pre-loved guitar that has all the features that you are after.
Okay, these options may not necessarily give you the guitar that has been specifically built for you. But in the end it is the looks, the sound, the quality and the special features that make the difference and you may be able to save a lot of money and still get a lot of guitar for you buck.
A Guitar Made Just For You
If you want to experience the feeling of having a guitar made just for you then you can get that much cheaper. You can go to Aliexpress, say hello to my friend Xu Jiangdong from Guitar Monopoly and ask him to build you a Les Paul knock-off in your favorite color shipped to you for less than $300.00. Hmm, don’t forget to read my post as to why you should not buy the Chinese guitar after, except, if you are after that special feeling of having a guitar made just for you.
How Can I Buy When I Have Not Played The Guitar
I do not worry too much about the fact that the custom guitar may need to be shipped and that I cannot try it out before I have to pay for it. My top three favorite guitars are from overseas and I did not have the opportunity to play them beforehand. They arrived safely and I never for a moment expected anything to go wrong. Mind you, I did my research before I ordered. I knew that I was buying a quality product from a respected company and that I would receive value for money. For that reason I also knew that I could sell it on if, by any chance, I ended up not liking it. I found that the market for high end guitars is rather strong as there are many people who Really Like Guitars.
What About Shipping?
I am also not very concerned about shipping. I have had more than 50 guitars shipped to my place from all over the world and I only ever encountered one issue with shipping. That one issue was covered and handled easily by insurance.
Some people fret about having an expensive instrument exposed to the elements while being shipped. Think about it. How did the guitar that you are buying from the shop make it to the shop in the first place? It was most likely wrapped up in cardboard and bubble wrap and shipped from the manufacturer to the wholesaler and then from there to the shop.
Costs of shipping and importing are part of the deal. Talk to the luthier how they are going about shipping their guitars. They may even have experience sending guitars to your country or can refer you to the shipping company that they are using. You can also check online calculators if you are unsure about import duties.
Answering the Questions
In an earlier post I talked about asking some questions on a Facebook group related to buying a custom guitar. I did not get like for like answers then. Some of the questions have already been address above, the remaining ones need to be dealt with here.
How to find out what I really want in a guitar that I cannot get from a production guitar?
To find out what you really want you should play as many different guitars as possible. Over time you will know that you like a certain neck shape, a specific layout of the controls, a perfect height for your frets and the ideal scale length to get the best sound for the pickups of your choice. Start to dream and start to make lists of features that you want to include. Enjoy the process.
How much better can a custom guitar be in comparison to what I can buy off the shelf?
I have to admit that I am sitting on the fence about this. If we are talking $3000 then I do not believe that a boutique luthier can compete with large manufacturers unless, the boutique luthier starts up his own production line. Some luthiers are coming up with ideas of selling special runs of pre-specified guitars where the customer can choose certain elements form a pre-defined selection of choices. This helps the luthier to keep the costs down. It is however not a real custom guitar in my book. On the other hand, I am sure that you can get a top of the range luthier built guitar that is absolutely amazing. You have to be aware that the price will also be amazing 😉
Will it make me a better player or is it just a mid-life crisis thing?
As I said before, I believe that skill can be bought. The better the guitar is that you are playing, the better player you will become. This does however also apply to playing great production guitars. I love my 2014 Gibson Les Paul Plus, I adore my 2012 PRS Santana and I do not want to miss my 2010 ESP Horizon. I am a better player for owning these guitars and I want to become an even better player by getting my hands on the greatest guitar ever built, just for me. Check out the current set of specifications for my dream custom luthier guitar.
Recommended Luthier Guitar Makers
Top 5 Custom Electric Guitar Recommendations
in alphabetical order
Artinger Custom Guitars
Matthew J. Artinger’s primary goals is to create unique instruments that match our players' personalities.
Patrick Hufschmid s known for maintaining the natural appearance of the spectacular woods he uses in the building of his instruments.
Top 5 Custom Acoustic Guitar Recommendations
in alphabetical order
Kallquist Guitars primary objective is to provide instruments that have that “classic vintage thing”
Do You Need to Skill-Up First?
If you feel that you need to improve your playing skills first to justify buying your own custom guitar you can check out Guitar Tricks. This is my favorite online training program. You can check out my review and also find a discount coupon. Another great option is JamPlay. You can find my review of JamPlay here.
BECOME A EVEN BETTER GUITAR PLAYER!
PS: What feature is a must for your luthier guitar? I’d love it if you share it in the comments below!
You can use your Facebook account in the first comment area below or you can leave a reply in the comment area of this page further below.