I always had the perception that a custom guitar was only for the most sophisticated and wealthiest of professional guitar players. This unfortunate perception put the reality of owning a guitar customized to my personal specifications, tastes, and needs out of reach…. at least for a little while.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
“Retail therapy” is alive and well (and I’ve met my share of guitarists with more guitars than friends). However, there’s no need to update, modify, or build a guitar if the one(s) you’re playing already work(s) well for your playing situations.
When is the right time to customize a guitar?
For me, that time came when I realized my guitar wasn’t serving me well in certain performance situations. Specifically, it was the way my guitar sounded in studio sessions. (Flat and lifeless with a weird vibration/oscillation on certain notes above the twelfth fret.)
The reasons will probably be different for everybody. However, if you feel that your guitar isn’t sonically performing up to your expectations, it may be time to consider updating or building your own custom guitar. With access to both large commercial and independent guitar companies all over the world via Internet, it’s now easier than ever to put together your own custom guitar.
Before entering into this process, please understand that my official disclaimer to guitarists of all levels is as follows:
Most of your guitar sound comes directly from your hands. Spend time practicing to ensure that you’re achieving the best sound that you can via proper technique (finger placement, picking accuracy, etc.), body posture, instrument position, and listening. There’s no substitution for attention to detail in your playing.
Five Considerations When Customizing Your Guitar
1) What type of guitar do you need?
There’s nothing lonelier than a guitar that’s not in use. Guitars that differ only in paint jobs and pickups can lead to redundancy in your guitar inventory. Be sure the one you’re designing not only meets your sonic requirements, but that it serves a unique function, too.
2) What kind of budget do you have to work with?
These types of projects can easily go over-budget. Do the research before you spend your money.
3) What parts can you salvage from your current guitars?
If possible, use parts you already own to create your new project. There’s no reason to buy new parts if you have perfectly good ones already at your disposal.
4) What timeframe are you working with for the completion of the project?
Make sure to have a realistic timeframe when planning your project. These types of projects usually don’t happen overnight and plenty of patience always comes in handy. There are a lot of issues that can come up during the process and rushing through it will most likely produce less-than-desirable results.
5) Do you have a guitar to use in the meantime?
Don’t leave yourself axe-less during this process! If you only have one guitar, plan ahead: Either find a guitar tech willing to expedite the work or do the work yourself during a day or two of downtime in your playing schedule.
With so many parts to choose from, where do I start?
Here are a few places to begin your journey. Make sure to do a lot of comparison-shopping and talk to others to get additional advice. Click on any of these websites to visit their homepage.
Bodies, Necks, Hardware:
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to post a comment concerning your own experiences with these and other companies.
Craving more advice as you make your way through this process? Don’t miss my next post chronicling my own personal adventures in guitar customization.