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Why musicians commission custom guitars

The relationship between a musician and their instrument is a sacred one. A musical instrument is like an extension of the body, an extra voice, or another hand. Playing a musical instrument is a means of communication, a method of telling people what you think and how you feel without using words. It’s no surprise, therefore, that having the right instrument is important to musicians. And no surprise why musicians commission custom guitars as they can design an instrument that is a perfect fit for them.

Guitars are one of the world’s favourite musical instruments. Having a guitar that perfectly suits your style and personality – in terms of its sound, how it feels to play it, and the way that it looks is essential for all guitarists.

A custom guitar allows a musician to work closely with the guitar builder to create the perfect guitar for them in terms of how it sounds, how it plays, and how it looks. This enables the musician to perfectly express themselves in the way that they want to, musically and visually. This is one of the main reasons why musicians commission custom guitars.

The Sound

The sound of an instrument is (arguably) its most important feature. It is as important as the tone of your voice when you are speaking, and it is the building block on which you can base your own style. Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t have sounded like Jimi Hendrix without that 1960s Fender Strat tone with the reversed pickups (due to his playing of the guitar upside down), after all.

Whether you see yourself in the style of Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Carlos Santana or your favorite guitar hero, there are several elements to the design that can be adapted and manipulated to your unique taste that can affect the sound of the guitar.

These include:

  • Pickups – the type and positioning of the pickups are critical to the guitar’s sound. It is the pickups that detect magnetic changes when a string is played before amplifying the sound. So whether you are going for single coils, humbuckers, P90s or any other kind of pickups, the ones that you choose and where they are placed can make a massive difference to the guitar’s sound.
  • Neck – the ability of the neck to rigidly hold its strings is also important in the sound of the guitar. To be able to hold the strings well is key to ensuring that the instrument tuning stability. However, some musicians also like a degree of neck flexibility as it allows for the bending of notes. This is determined by the design and type of wood that is chosen for the neck.
  • Choice of woodresonance is also important to the sound of the guitar. This is why the type of wood that it is made from can make a big difference to the sound. Different types of wood have different densities and, therefore, resonate differently.
  • Electronics – Electric guitars work by converting the action of the strings being plucked, strummed or slapped and turning that into an electrical signal by the pickups. The electronic circuit in the guitar enables the signal to be manipulated by the player through the use of pots and switches. The resulting output is sent to the amplifier, speakers and ears of your adoring fans.

When it comes to the sound of a guitar, when you sound great, you feel great. And if you feel great, you usually play better…

The Feel

To be able to play to the best of your ability – whether it is slow, emotional blues, thrash metal, or complicated jazz guitar – you need to feel comfortable with an instrument that facilitates the movement that you want.

This is about the instrument’s playability – specifically related to the musician. Just like anything in life, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the other. There are a number of different aspects related to how the instrument feels and can be played that a custom guitar can offer. These include:

  • Fret size – the size of the wire that marks the frets affects the amount of pressure that is needed to be put on a string to create the note. Some people prefer a light touch, whereas others prefer to press harder. Of course there is always the fretless option, which is becoming popular on electric guitars.
  • Playing comfort – a guitar needs to be comfortable to play, to get the best performance. Several factors can be adjusted for the individual musician – the weight of the instrument, building a right or left-handed guitar, and changing the shape of the guitar to suit the player – a female, someone tall, or short, for example.
  • Strings – another factor that can affect the feel of the guitar is its strings. The spacing and action of the strings can make a huge difference in the way that the guitar is played and can be played. Again with each musician having their own individual preferences.

By being able to play the guitar in the most comfortable manner, guitarists are able to begin to fulfil their potential as a musician.

The Look

Munson Marauder Custom Shop Guitar

The final aspect of building a custom guitar is the freedom that you get over its look. There is a great deal of flexibility here, from the finish to colour, to the shape of the guitar’s body. You can choose the finish on the knobs, the overall look of the machine heads, and the colour of the fret markers, for example.

The choice of wood and it’s grain have a visual effect on the look. It’s important to view guitar design holistically, as the weight and density of the wood will also affect the feel of the guitar and the resonance it produces.

The look of your guitar is important to make you feel like you look good and look the part – and that’s halfway there!

What’s Next

For musicians who are looking to express themselves through their guitar playing, a custom guitar is a perfect choice to get them exactly what they want and need. There are two main types custom guitars that you can commission. The type you choose depends on what you are looking for and your budget.

Bespoke guitars are individually designed from the ground up. Anything is possible in terms of shape, materials, sound sculpting and finish. As you would imagine, bespoke guitars do come at a premium price due to the shear amount of work that goes into each one. When you commission a bespoke guitar, the build can take anywhere from four months or more, depending on the complexity of design. Bespoke guitars start at around £1,900 ($2,640).

A custom shop guitar is a great option for just about anyone looking to define their look and sound, and is built using a tried and tested instrument design. There are literally thousands of configuration options to suite even the most discerning guitarist. Custom shop is the most popular option for musicians as it enables individuality, the ability to design that dream sound, and it comes it at an affordable price too. A custom shop build is much faster as the design work is already done. Commissions will typically take around 8-12 weeks to complete. Custom shop guitars start from as little as £1,200 ($1,670).

Are you ready for find out which kind of custom guitar would work for you. Go ahead and explore the fascinating world of custom guitars by clicking on the button below.

About the author

Carl has managed several multinational technology companies and has founded a handful of successful start-ups during his career. Coming back to his roots, and inspired by three generations of craftsmen, Carl co-founded and put his name to Munson Guitars, a British custom guitar builder that brings together a passion for working with wood, electronics and the innovations that digital technology enables.

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