What specific elements are needed to construct what one would consider a professional quality electric guitar?

Newbcaster

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i think for me, a professional guitar is ultimately what it looks like. Lets face it, there's a real reason salesmen sell sizzle and not the steak. Our eyes and our subconscious minds are one and the same.

Our mind's eye is where we being the concept of meaning, what something MEANS.

it's not where it ends. But it is where what professionalism starts at.

The guitar is ultimately what it LOOKS like, and given todays pedals and digital cray cray, the sound is almost irrelevant. I say almost because I'm a purist, and something of a poet. i hate digital.

The best woods, the best pickups all help. but its the fit and finish that matter most. Look at fender. They spend ages on the finish compared to the setup.

Bright colors, sleek lines, polished hardware. Unearned relicing is asinine, imho.
 

hemingway

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I would never give a beginners guitar to a beginner. Those guitars typically have badly cut nuts, and need a setup at the very least. How is a beginner going to do that?

A professional guitar is one that someone who gets paid to play would happily stand up on stage and play.

For me that's pretty much anything that isn't a toy. I would happily play "beginners" guitars. But then I can fix the nut, do the setup, etc . . .

Happily for beginners, these days, you can get guitars that are playable out of the box for very little money.
 

57joonya

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You see electric guitars advertised as beginner, intermediate, or professional. What are the differences? What constitutes a professional guitar? I realize that any guitar can be played by a professional, but that's not the issue. We're talking guitar build quality that fits the "professional" category.


I look at a professional guitar as something with reliable, good quality tuners , saddles , and nut. Top quality wood ,if it’s an electric , high quality pickups. Something that’s going to stay in tune better than a cheap guitar when the pro player puts it through its paces . Something that works smoothly and sounds good without much hassle
 

jvin248

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I think from my experience with a bunch of different guitars over the years it boils down to:

Quality materials for the neck and body
Good string action that can be adjusted up and down
An intonatable bridge located in the correct spot
Level frets in the correct spot and of a reasonable height, scratch free, and ends that are not sharp
A smooth fretboard
A truss rod that works
Quality electronic components that are durable
Comfortable ergonomics for the body and neck at a reasonable weight
Pickups that work well and are adjustable.
Quality tuning machines
Correct gauge strings sitting in a quality nut
A durable finish material
Proper and accurate assembly of all components

What's missing if anything?

You see electric guitars advertised as beginner, intermediate, or professional. What are the differences? What constitutes a professional guitar? ... that fits the "professional" category....

Here's my list:

o- Brand ("China-made guitars are junk", but China-made "iPhones are the greatest"! Or so buyers seem to think, all due to branding and marketing budget spends over decades). This is so important that buyers will scrub their head stocks of Squier and Epiphone to stick down Fender and Gibson.

o- Price (most buyers only believe Quality=Price, "how can something cheap be good?"). If labels are hidden for blind taste tests, "Two Buck Chuck" wine often scores very high against or beats premium-priced competitor brands -- even among the professionals.

o- Finishes (reference all the threads about "should I return this guitar because of this scratch? I had a hard time photographing it but maybe you can see it" then insert blurry photo, or the relic threads). Or chase the "Nitro"-nonsense some players have where it's even great to have a poly base coat with nitro on the top because buyers want what marketing tells them to get. PRS's success over the years was largely due to their acute focus on finishes and they have become the industry benchmark.

o- Fret ends filed during dry months of the year, or a super-dried neck, so never any fret sprout. Sharp fret ends are used by common players to identify cheap guitars. They don't realize their metric is a one time fix if they file the frets in 'January'-dryness at their house. It's often their primary build quality metric, right or wrong, right after finish scratches.

o- Frets leveled under neck tension (PLEK, Vinson leveling jig). This is invisible to the typical player unless it's badly done then they know something is wrong, and cheap. It's a baseline feature but it has separated playability of the different guitar grades since the early days.

o- Reasonable tuners; reasonable bridge; typical MIA-brands of switches, jacks, and pots -- for durability and feel. Cheap tuners have a lot of back-lash in the gears and sloppy players tune down to pitch when they bypass the pitch on the way up where the slack in the guitar is released at the first strum. "Big trem block" and "String Thru" are marketing points that buyers habitually search out because marketing tells them to. Small pots feel cheap and are not as durable as the standards, low cost jacks and switches don't last long as the standards. Tuners and bridges can be expensive to build with but the premium control cavity parts 'are nothing' to upgrade to when building. All hardware needs to be free of burrs.

o- Setup (string action, neck relief, pickup heights/tip/screw poles, nut cut correctly) This is a basic need. Most guitar players have no skills in doing setups. Only a few take a new guitar to a talented guitar tech (because of the added expense). But a guitar is graded great when it is "playable out of the box!".

o- Body and Head stock shaped like famous models (Paul at PRS made a side/snide comment a while back their highest volume selling models were the ones that looked closest to Gibson and Fender. That's not surprising as most players, deep down, want the same or cheaper versions of their favorite iconic guitars, just check out any buyer of custom-made-boutique guitars, they want the body shape and headstock shape of the big brands. Example: Guns 'n Roses Slash has a custom-made Les Paul copy that was made as close to the famous Kalamazoo 1950s LPs as possible that he got before and used on their debut album and every recording he does since then. He sells a lot of signature guitars for Gibson so they seem to leave him alone).

So that's my list of the minimum features if you were asking before setting up a small guitar factory to compete out there ;)


...I feel the "professional" guitar, the one known for super slick feel, setup, etc should be targeted to the beginner.. simply so he's not discouraged by a POS that just plain hurts to play... if he gets a turkey of a guitar, he's likely to think that's the way all guitars are and move on to the accordion....The irony is, the guitar manufacturers intentionally make "beginner" guitars a pain in the ass to play... in the hopes that will encourage beginners to move on up to a better (more costly) guitars... I have often wondered how many beginners just drop it because the guitar sux as opposed to those that actually DO move up.... How many future sales are lost because the manufacture introduces novice players to the world of guitar playing with a horrible example of what a guitar can be.. the novice rarely knows what a properly made and setup guitar can be like.

Making beginner guitars unplayable was the defacto standard in the industry until recently. I had put up a post a few years back and it seemed like one of the Fender employees commented on it as if the light bulb finally went on for them, and Squier improved. The guitar industry is in a death fight with video games. Video games make the first level easy to play so the buyer goes on to the second level and by the time they get to level ten they are masters at it and had a series of wins all along the way encouraging them to continue. A beginner guitar player needs that same ease with a starter guitar if they are going to continue up the player ranks where they are going to buy a fleet of guitar gear. Otherwise if the guitar is hardest they go back to video games. The supermarket 'loss leader' game is important for guitar brands to just do great fretwork and setups on starter guitars, it's a cost they pay now to ensure lifetime customer repeat sales.

Get a few of the modern Indonesian-made Squiers and check them out. They are miles better than any prior beginner guitars produced. Many of their cheap competitors have upped their games too; the Harley Bentons, Glarry, Eart, IVY, etc etc. They all play like mid-level guitars from a decade or two ago, right out of the box -- not due to "CNCs" but basic fretwork and setups. Covid did interrupt this improvement trend a little, so there can be various build and setup issues out there.

There was one youtube Harley Benton unboxing where the guy getting the HB had his best friend there who brought along his long-owned and loved Fender Custom Shop to compare. His friend's face showed, as he played the two guitars back to back, the change from overt smugness to screaming despair of how can this cheap guitar play so well, sound so good, and be in-tune? Humorous to watch the transformation. It seemed like the Custom Shop guitar just needed a bit of basic maintenance the owner had neglected over the years and he would have maintained his superior smugness. Doing setups is important even with magical Custom Shop products.

.
 

bcorig

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archtop_fjk

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Back to the OP's question:

What specific elements are needed to construct what one would consider a professional quality electric guitar?​


To me "professional" means an instrument made by someone who sells them for a living, meaning anyone from Fender Corp. to a single person luthier business making four guitars a year. The "elements" are likely to be the same, e.g. quality woods, mechanical and electrical parts. In fact, we can argue what "elements" are best such as mahogany bodies versus basswood. The "quality" part is where a lot of distinction can be made. A good luthier's guitar will have tight wood joinery (especially in details like binding), perfect component fitting (e.g. tight neck joint), flawless finishes, butter-smooth fret ends, exquisitely shaped/filed nuts, etc. A cheap factory guitar can have sloppy wood assembly and fitting, poor finishes, no setup for frets or nuts. Many of these things can be corrected on the factory guitar, but a poorly assembled body and bad fitting neck pocket will likely always remain so.

Also, as a guitarist gains more experience and skill, he/she may develop preferences such as a particular type of bridge, locking tuners, pickup makes and models. This may lead to "upgrading" to a new "better" instrument that is more to their liking. However, it doesn't mean that their old guitar is now somehow bad...
 

Timbresmith1

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You see electric guitars advertised as beginner, intermediate, or professional. What are the differences? What constitutes a professional guitar? I realize that any guitar can be played by a professional, but that's not the issue. We're talking guitar build quality that fits the "professional" category.


Playing guitar onstage is a completely different world. Adrenaline puts a lot of stress on guitars and hardware. I could quite easily fold a Teisco or Mustang in half (same with any number of cheap knock-offs), but after seeing a photo of Jeff Beck using a Stratocaster as a pogo stick, I decided that was a good bet.
 

OlDefGuy

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I remember my first electric guitar back in the mid ‘70s, it was a used Kay. Looked like it was built out of the vacant school desks of the kids the wood shop teacher let get strangled when their necklaces got caught in the drill press. Action so high it would make a freeway underpass envious. Tuning? Intonation? As my 14 year old self would have said “what’s that?”. But those humpback pickups had a really greasy groove. kinda wish I still had it, I bet it would be a slide monster. At least today the beginners guitars are playable, last time I was in a music store I picked up a Squire Tele and I was floored by the quality of the instrument. New pots and switch (that’s what I always have problems with first)and I would gig with it if I was still gigging. An added bonus is it’s not near as traumatic when that overzealous bar patron loves your reggae version of “Louie Louie” so much that he knocks over half your equipment over and it all lands on your guitar.
 

Ronkirn

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it’s not near as traumatic when that overzealous bar patron loves your reggae version of “Louie Louie” so much that he knocks over half your equipment over and it all lands on your guitar.
OMG. That guy was at your gigs too??? :eek: we'd play Louie Louie for about a half hour at a time....:p
 

tomasz

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To answer the OPs question, I'd say: none. As proven many times by manufacturers, you can craft great instruments pretty much of anything. But the skills and experience to do that, is another topic.
 

Freeman Keller

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I think from my experience with a bunch of different guitars over the years it boils down to:

Quality materials for the neck and body
Good string action that can be adjusted up and down
An intonatable bridge located in the correct spot
Level frets in the correct spot and of a reasonable height, scratch free, and ends that are not sharp
A smooth fretboard
A truss rod that works
Quality electronic components that are durable
Comfortable ergonomics for the body and neck at a reasonable weight
Pickups that work well and are adjustable.
Quality tuning machines
Correct gauge strings sitting in a quality nut
A durable finish material
Proper and accurate assembly of all components



What's missing if anything?
This has been beat around pretty badly and I wasn't going to comment, but I can't resist.

First, I would like to believe that every guitar has those characteristics. Unfortunately many do not.

And to answer the question in the topic, I need to understand what a "professional quality electric guitar" is. I can think of a couple of things.

Is a professional guitar one that a professional player would play? Well, lets define a professional player as someone who makes at least a part of their living playing guitar. I know a couple of folks like that, they are not necessarily on the road playing gigs all over the world but they are certainly more than just doing open mics at the local coffee house. Almost every one of them wants the same two things - "their sound" (whatever that means) and a playable instrument. They select their guitar based on how it sounds plugged into whatever the sound system is. I recently worked on a stratocaster for a guy who plays in a Pink Floyd tribute band, what he wanted was the special switching the Dave Gilmour used on his infamous black strat. Oh, and he was very particular with the setup. So for the professional musician I think its pretty easy - a certain sound and playability.

I'm not sure I would use the term "professional guitar" for something hanging in the average music store. Mass produced electric guitars are commodity items, they are built in big factories mostly by relatively unskilled labor. I hesitate to call these people "professionals", yet the instruments they make can and do meet all of Marty's requirements. And we know that just because it has PRS or Taylor on the head it doesn't mean Paul or Bob built the guitar. Or even touched it.

That leaves the world of the small independent builder who, again, is trying to make a living building and selling guitars. Ken Parker, John Greven, Bob Benedetto.... I expect a guitar from one of these guys to have everything on Marty's list in spades. But you know what, I might not like the guitar. In fact I find that many of the modern acoustic guitars don't appeal to me as much as some old piece of junk that I grew up with. But I guess I do expect the builder's chops to be perfect.

I have incredible respect for the few people who can make a living at building guitars. I use the term "luthier" with great care - it implies a mastering of the craft that only a few have achieved.

In the end each of us decides what we want, what is acceptable, what we will pay, what we will play. And no, I haven't answered the question.
 

bgmacaw

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Something that’s going to stay in tune better than a cheap guitar when the pro player puts it through its paces

A properly setup and strung modern electric guitar will stay in tune, even a $60 Monoprice.

An incorrectly strung $12k guitar won't stay in tune no matter how "authentic" it is.
 

Gary_tele18

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I think from my experience with a bunch of different guitars over the years it boils down to:

Quality materials for the neck and body
Good string action that can be adjusted up and down
An intonatable bridge located in the correct spot
Level frets in the correct spot and of a reasonable height, scratch free, and ends that are not sharp
A smooth fretboard
A truss rod that works
Quality electronic components that are durable
Comfortable ergonomics for the body and neck at a reasonable weight
Pickups that work well and are adjustable.
Quality tuning machines
Correct gauge strings sitting in a quality nut
A durable finish material
Proper and accurate assembly of all components



What's missing if anything?
If it's your first diy I'd add a case of beer as well....
 




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