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Why would someone buy a custom guitar?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by fretman_2, Sep 3, 2014.

  1. JimiRayKing

    JimiRayKing Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    Marietta, Georgia
    For me, it comes down to getting the specs you want. I love thick necks - tried out everything in local stores for months and months and never found one. In fact, they all seemed like the same guitar in different colors. Decided to build my own and one call to USACG solved all of my problems. The customs I've played are just night and day compared to the off the rack guitars. Peruse the galleries of boutique builders - very few guitars that remotely resemble what's in the stores and for good reason.

    I agree that cost is an issue as we'll as resell. But, many times, the guys complaining about cost are the guys buying an $800 guitar, then spending another $600-800 modding it and trying out various pickups, only to find they still don't have the guitar they really want.
  2. Dunkerhook

    Dunkerhook Tele-Meister

    Jul 29, 2011
    New Jersey
    Agree with others -- especially El Cavano.

    There is something to be said for getting exactly what you want. For some people (I'm among them), this is essential. Remember Meg Ryan ordering dessert in "When Harry Met Sally"?

    And...for participating in the design of the instrument by choosing absolutely everything on the guitar. You have a connection with the instrument that can not be found at Guitar Center. The color you want or a personal inlay design or...

    I'm left-handed, so I've always been limited in my selection from production models. Limited selection is another reason to go custom.

    I decided to learn to build simply because I wanted more custom guitars than I could afford to buy from others. :)
  3. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

    Jul 25, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Fretman, I would guess there is a whole lot more reasons involved and if you're serious about selling, well, excuse me for being Captain Obvious, but a whole lot of market research might be in order. Or not, from what I've read, a number of luthiers have jumped in and learned to swim. I'm not a luthier, I'm just a player.

    On one hand, for custom priced instruments, you could look at the Paul Reed Smith style. You'll find some, but not much love for them here on TDPRI, but just as info, I found that eBay has 3,950 Paul Reed Smith guitars listed, including 500 instruments at the price of around $5,000 each and above; the first two pages (100 guitars) included asking prices in the range of $10,00 - 25,000, with a total ask "value" of over $1.2 million dollars. 30 pages of 50 guitars per page with an asking price over $3,000.

    I don't know who buys those guitars or who will.

    For Fender Telecaster on Ebay, there were over 9,000 listings; of course, that includes cases and hardware and other listing where a seller has tagged "telecaster" as part of the listing. Over 137,00 listings in "electric guitar". That's a lot of choices.

    All of which is to say it's a huge market out there with lots of competition. If you really want to sell, I would think studying up on what's already out there would be helpful in defining what you can offer that's a better value.

    Just some helpful hints from Captain Obvious. Good luck in your endeavor.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
  4. regularslinky

    regularslinky Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 22, 2004
    I recently bought a Rick Kelly tele.

    The day I bought it was mostly a lark. I planned to visit the shop that day (family took my to NYC for a big birthday), but didn't intend to buy anything. Historically I am a cheapskate. Most of my guitars cost less than $500, many less than $200. I mean, it's two pieces of wood bolted together, right? How different could a custom guitar be from my MIM or Squier teles?

    I fell in love when I saw the guitar. It was not a custom order but one of his shop guitars that happened to be exactly what I would have ordered custom - light ash body, big neck, Fralins, Mary Kaye white finish. The cool factor was very real - the East Village shop, the old reclaimed lumber, the fact that Rick (great guy by the way, if you get to NYC you have to visit) made it with his own hands, his very impressive client list. I played it - it felt good - nice big neck. It was my birthday, and I had had a couple of sangrias, and soon I was reaching for my credit card.

    After playing it for a few weeks I must admit it is by far the finest guitar I own. It feels and sounds better and the neck has me completely spoiled. It wasn't even that expensive - about what an MIA Fender would cost - but it is a work of art and worth every penny.

    Time will tell if I return to my cheapskate ways, but my "budget" guitars are getting dusty. I haven't placed an order for another Kelly yet but if an Esquire pops up on his Facebook page I will be seriously tempted.
  5. Elias Graves

    Elias Graves Friend of Leo's

    Apr 27, 2010
    I can't afford custom but I do have picky tastes. So I make my own.
    Mostly because I can't even afford the production guitars I really like when it comes down to it. I can do stuff for myself that are completely nonsensical from a price/production standpoint because I have cheap labor.
  6. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

    Sep 1, 2009
    Kelowna, BC, Canuckistan
    +1. I wanted a T-style guitar with a 1 3/4" nut and an ebony fretboard.
  7. Bentley

    Bentley Friend of Leo's

    Jul 25, 2012
    Kelowna B.C, Canada
    I doubt I'd ever buy a custom guitar, unless I ever disposable income. Obviously, since I build my own, I don't need to buy from others. I would like to buy one though, since by the time I finish a guitar, it's beauty has kind of worn off...

    The pros to buying a custom guitar are innumerable. You get exactly what you want, in regards to wood, neck shape, scale, fret size, and hardware. I can't list any cons. If someone were to ask me to build them a guitar there is no way I could charge as much as the Fender Custom Shop does, so price IMO isn't more than buying from a factory.

    The cons of buying from a factory? You have to compromise. For example, you may really like the appearance (which is a big deal to me), but it sounds bad to your ears.

    The best way to cheaply get what you want is to buy a used guitar that fits your most basic demands, such as scale length and number of frets. After that, you can buy all the parts and if you really want you can re-finish it.
  8. FreddyS

    FreddyS Tele-Meister

    Dec 24, 2012
    Mexico city
    That could be the #1 reason to buy a custom instrument, anybody can rationalise the fact, "this pickups", "that shape", "this wood", etc. but the result, depending on the $ spent, is that you end with a unique/one of a kind/special instrument, so you feel special.:D

    All that custom stuff is not really needed, I had a metal player friend that made my first guitar - cheap as it could be- sound marvellous.

    As I can't/won't afford a custom instrument, I started building my own :D

    May be different in other places, but here in MX you really don't see a lot of custom built instruments, not even with famous musicians. I may try to change that haha.

    They all just go for what's available on stores, but there's a lot of talk about who plays what, like, "yeah he plays a gibson, he is good!".

    I played regularly for 17 years so I had a lot of musician friends, only one with a custom made bass. And for really famous musicians, only one with a custom made guitar built by the most known guitar tech in the city, soo ugly guitar that the "custom" was not really worth it.
  9. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    Big +1 over here. I go into GC nowadays, and get excited about nuthin'. If there IS something cool in there, my first thought is "that's kinda cool," but my second thought is "I could make that, or something like it".

    In my opinion, if you just want a bog standard tele, then there's not that much reason not to buy off the rack, and USED.

    I might go to a custom builder if:
    1. I liked their designs and build philosophy
    2. I got good individual attention
    3. I knew they had good woodworking chops
    4. I could spec the guitar out the way I wanted

    Of course, nowadays, I already got those things at home (except #3 :oops:), so I'm not going to be in the market for a custom guitar in the near future, either.
  10. Jacaranda

    Jacaranda Tele-Holic

    Jul 25, 2013
    Custom implies features not on something standard by definition - so I would think that in itself is the answer.
  11. sax4blues

    sax4blues Friend of Leo's

    Apr 14, 2006
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I have seen many guitars from the TDPRI build challenge I would buy if I could afford.
  12. dr.chevalier

    dr.chevalier Tele-Holic

    Apr 25, 2014
    west tennessee
    Here's one way to look at it: My best buddy is a potter, a amazing one actually. He has a gallery and sells his and other great potters works. Cups, mugs, plates, bowls, vases. Almost exclusively functional work, very little sculptural stuff. Like a guitar, it's meant to be used. People buy his pots not because they are a certain price point, but because someone (he) took the time to make an amazing object. It's beautiful and functional, neither of which is mutually exclusive. They both inform the other. Several of his customers are big money, but a lot are in the 'average' bracket and some even in the 'dirt poor' bracket. They could have bought cheaper or way more expensive pots, but they went with the one that a guy made from clay, by hand, and fired in a real life kiln with wood (and a lot of sweat).

    The partscaster I assembled for me, myself, and I is much the same, functional and beautiful, though I'll admit a lot of that beauty is due to its function. Come to think of it, I may have sweat a little making it too. : )

    I think a good number of folks have it in their psyche to want something unique, if not in appearance, then at least in method. We tend to form real attachment to objects that enrich our experience.
  13. Mojotron

    Mojotron Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 21, 2008
    Yep - I have given away stuff but not sold anything... I would have a custom guitar made - if I didn't already make my own - because I love huge frets on a wide neck (heel is a 1/16" wider) that has a round back and the fret work is done to taper the crowning to be narrow at the high frets and wider on the low strings, with a small amount of fall away on the upper frets - and a slightly different body shape to be able to play all of a 22 fret neck: And has pickups that are somewhere between a PAF and a P90 in tone... Fender/Gibson just don't make those...

    Also, I'm quite partial to Pacific Northwest woods - D-Fir, Big Leaf Maple, Alder... all some of my favorite woods for building.

    Plus - I can make a custom guitar that meets all my criteria for a less than $200
  14. drmcclainphd

    drmcclainphd Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 3, 2012
    Abingdon, Virginia
    Simply to have it built to fit you, rather than having to try many before you find one that fits you pretty well but might still have some drawbacks. If you haven't tried enough to know what your true needs are, and how to explain them to someone who can produce one for you, you're not ready for one. If you try to obtain one based on a collection of ideas coming from various commercially available sources, you want a partscaster, because you don't have anything in mind original enough to require a custom build.

    But if you REALLY need as custom build, it doesn't matter if you're a touring pro or hiding in your basement with your practice amp turned down low, you need it because your hands, your heart, your spirit cry out for it, because you are a musician in the pure sense. You need it for your art, whether it's heard by the whole world, or nobody but you. Anything else is conspicuous consumption.
  15. fretman_2

    fretman_2 Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2011
    Mobile, AL
    Yep...that's me too...I've given all of my builds away except for a couple that I kept for myself.

  16. nomadh

    nomadh Tele-Afflicted

    May 2, 2008
    san diego
    I don't get the idea of customs because every guitar that had something special had nothing in common with any other special guitar. I'd hate to pay some of these custom prices and then find out I didn't really like the finished product. To risky for me unless it was for a wall hanging art piece.
  17. doc w

    doc w Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 9, 2011
    This is a really good point. There is definitely risk involved. If you want something that is a little more on the "experimental" side, it could be a huge risk. You may be very disappointed and have an expensive guitar that you don't want to play and can't sell easily.

    In my case, I wanted a rather traditional Tele (ash body, maple neck). I listened a lot to people in this forum and their opinions on various builders. I also played a Tele by the same luthier (Marc Rutters) before committing to buy one. I had to drive to Toronto (about 4 hours) to the only other Rutters in Canada at that time (thanks Geoff!). That guitar was superb - a Tele done in an early blackguard style - but it wasn't what I wanted. Marc listened to what I had to say and made all the right suggestions, trying to draw out exactly what I was after.

    This is really important, i.e., having a good builder who can make really helpful suggestions. I know what I like but I don't have the detailed knowledge of a good luthier when it comes to getting the sound I want. Remember that a custom guitar is not defined simply by the cosmetics. You need to think a lot about the materials and keep in mind that there are reasons why certain woods and combinations have come to be very popular. Don't try to re-invent everything just because you are getting a custom guitar.
  18. Nightatthehotel

    Nightatthehotel Tele-Holic

    Jun 11, 2012
  19. Jebrone Lames

    Jebrone Lames Banned

    Dec 25, 2012
    I've never built a guitar, but have built a few amps. Most boutique amp builders websites list beautiful ways to express how great their amps are and that their amps provide the utmost mojo compared to all their competitors. However, the reality is they are basically all cloning the same amps that have been around for decades, just in a prettier more expensive package. So, if I were to choose I'd buy the original (e.g. 50's tweed or 60's blackface) for the same price or less as the boutique builder's clone amp. The difference being that the classic Fender amp goes up in value and the boutique goes down.
  20. Williams

    Williams Tele-Meister

    Jul 11, 2003
    For me it's about getting the right specs. I like a mix of modern and vintage that I can't get from a stock Fender. If I was half the builder some of you fellas are, and had the spare time to build myself one I would go that route, but alas I am not and do not have the time either. So getting a custom is the best way to go for me...
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