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Old 02-25-2021, 10:23 PM
Gordon Currie Gordon Currie is offline
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Originally Posted by Jimmy Recard View Post
I guess I’m interested if people would mainly go for choice of woods, cosmetics, or dimensional specifications.
Those reasons are only three of the reasons I would do a custom.

Choice of woods - definitely. My last Irvin was moon spruce top with granadillo back and sides, ebony bridge and ebony fingerboard. No company offers that combo.

I was able to pick the moon spruce top from a lot of 3 that Jean Larrivee sent up. Good luck doing THAT with Yamaha.

Plus, I was able to give the luthier a lot of direction on the tone and response I desired so that he could then use that when voicing.
Wayne was very familiar with my style so it was much easier for him to build the instrument that would empower that.

I've ended up with an instrument that is so far beyond mass production or even 'custom shop' that I only wish I had done it sooner.

1978 Larrivee L-26 cutaway
1988 Larrivee L-28 cutaway
2006 Larrivee L03-R
2009 Larrivee LV03-R
2016 Irvin SJ cutaway
2020 Irvin SJ cutaway (build thread)
K+K, Dazzo, Schatten/ToneDexter

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Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art. - Leonardo Da Vinci
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Old 02-26-2021, 01:49 AM
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colins colins is offline
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Tone, tone and….tone. By which I mean the balance of bass to treble, the balance of tone across and up the neck, the mix of fundamentals and overtones, the clarity of individual notes under differing playing styles, the attack and sustain in the notes etc, etc....

I can buy perfectly built, very playable guitars from large builders, with necks I like and a wide variety of body sizes and wood choices. I’ve done that with Martin, Taylor and Goodall in particular.

But while those are all fine builders whose work is just right for many, many players, they don’t give me the tone I want, which I found when I played a few single luthier guitars at stores in the US while travelling there for work. My subsequent custom builds have all been with luthiers whose guitars I had played before I commissioned one myself, and whose tone I really liked. The next filters were the aesthetics of the guitars they built and the ease of working with the luthiers in question (in every case, a great pleasure). Once those points were sorted out, I’d talk body size, woods and embellishments, all of which are great fun but very secondary to finding a builder I like that makes guitars I like. Given the wide variety of guitars made by single luthiers, I think we owe it to ourselves to do our homework and find the builders that make instruments that are just right for each of us.
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Old 02-26-2021, 12:47 PM
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iim7V7IM7 iim7V7IM7 is offline
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Default My $.02

Originally Posted by Jimmy Recard View Post
If you had a custom guitar built (forget cost for now) why would you do this over selecting a standard off the rack model (once again forgetting price) and what would you choose? I think about this option a bit and the reason why is I know exactly what I want in a guitar (at least I think I do) and unfortunately I can’t find it. If Yamaha made it I would go and pick one up tomorrow.

I guess I’m interested if people would mainly go for choice of woods, cosmetics, or dimensional specifications.
Why would you do this over selecting a standard off the rack model?

Interestingly, the modern steel string acoustic guitar was born in the factory construction, distribution and retail sales (e.g. CF Martin). The paradigm of going to a shop and auditioning a bunch of instruments (sometimes duplicates of the same model) is how most musicians were taught to select their choice for a guitar (along with price). This makes sense, in that factory instruments are built to dimension based on “average” material properties. As the result, the range of sound from different examples of a single model can range widely. This paradigm of buying, auditioning and experiencing guitars is imprinted upon guitar players. The concept of buying a steel string acoustic flat top from an individual luthier, sight unseen is anathema to most players.

Luthiers, in my experience can offer some advantages in my view over factory guitars. Luthiers account for several things that a factory cannot.
  • They can understand how you play in terms of touch, style, context, playing environment or genre of music and adjust your guitar to account for these.
  • Because they build relatively few guitars compared to factories and have selection skills that factories do not, they can offer higher quality or less common woods than factories do.
  • They can adjust body depth or how they thickness plates and bracing to compensate for variability in the wood properties.
  • I believe while there are a range of results that come from luthier’s bench, but the variability is much narrower than that of a factory.
  • They can specifically address ergonomic preferences for playing comfort with body features, scale, frets and string spacing.
The last aspect is the most difficult and somewhat subjective. Just as with a factory guitar, they can sound different. A Gibson, Martin or Taylor all have different sounds and so do luthier made guitars. Sound, tone and what is consider “great” by one player is not the same to others. In fact, it can be quite heterogeneous based on a player’s technique and musical genre. This is why, while I am a firm believer that it is a good idea to attend luthier exhibitions like:
  • Artisan Guitar Show,
  • La Conner Guitar Show or
  • The Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase
or visit a large luthier resellers like:
  • Dream Guitars,
  • Guitar Gallery or
  • Luthier’s Collection
to audition instruments by different luthiers to hear what YOU like before ordering an instrument from a luthier. This will also give you a sense of price range so you don’t fall in love with something that you cannot afford.

What would you choose?

After auditioning a few luthier’s work at a show or a at a reseller and deciding that YOU like the sound of their work I would think carefully about:
  • What you liked in some guitars and what you did not in others.
  • Try to think how to carefully articulate to a builder what genre or music you play (blues, pop, jazz, Celtic etc.), what style (fingers, pick, both etc.), your touch (light, heavy etc.), context (solo, band etc.) where you play (home, stage etc.).
  • Tell them what you are looking for in an instrument that your current guitar does not provide. Also tell them about things in instruments that you have played that you did not like as well.
  • Think about important ergonomic preferences
  • Try to see if you can arrive at some common language about describing sound (difficult BTW)
I would then reach out to two or three luthiers whose work that you liked. Have an upfront discussion recognizing that their time is important. Arrange a time where it is convenient for them and be respectful of their time. See how well each asks you questions and how they interpret the same input information in the guitar that they propose for you. You may find that you “mesh” better with one builder over another. Make sure to understand their business preferences in terms of deposit, payments, warranty, return policy and delivery time. Find out how they prefer to communicate and at what cadence (this will differ greatly). This will help you narrow your choice.

Would mainly go for choice of woods, cosmetics or dimensional specifications?

None of the above.

I would go for the luthier. This is the most influential decision that you will make. The choice of woods, ergonomic and cosmetic aspects in the best case should be result of a luthier responding to YOUR needs. Yes, there will be interesting choices of woods, cosmetic features and dimensions but a good luthier will guide you through these in my experience. In my experience I would rate choices in this order:
  1. Luthier
  2. Model
  3. Sound Board
  4. Back and Sides
  5. Scale Length/String Spacing
I hope this is of some help. Sorry for the long answer, I did not have the time to write a short one..
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Old 02-27-2021, 12:07 PM
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SprintBob SprintBob is online now
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A well made custom guitar will in most instances give you more sustain, clarity, and overtone complexity than higher end factory guitars. Another common trait I found was that the Santa Cruz, Froggy Bottom, and Collings guitars I owned had a level of resonance that “reverberated” through my upper body that just did not seem to be there with the very nice Taylors I have owned. That’s the main traits that have pulled me over to custom guitars.
Doerr Trinity 00 (Lutz/Maple)
Edwinson Zephyr 13 Fret 00 (Adi/Coco)
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Eastman 810CE (Spruce/Maple archtop)
Froggy Bottom H-12 (Adi/EIR)
Rainsong APSE (all carbon fiber)
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