Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
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Mollbarre
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Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Mollbarre » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:14 pm

No, not that kind of 'dangerous' :)

I'm not thinking of commissioning one (and certainly not before I can actually play anything! :wink: ) - but I was wondering about the process.

Independent luthiers make them, obviously. Large companies offer 'custom' options. I certainly understand the appeal.

But - if you make one that is 'too customized', how hard would it be to sell down the road (if you had to)?

If I'm going to spend $5000+ on a guitar, I don't want to buy someone else's vision.
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Kent
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Kent » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:16 pm

I think you probably already know the answer to this question.

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Mollbarre
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Mollbarre » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:26 pm

LOL...well maybe. But I'm treading in unfamiliar water here...I might be totally off...
2016 Fender CN320AS
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2018 Sawchyn Beavertail
1982ish Shiraki Mandolin
...and miscellaneous bits and pieces.

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souldier
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by souldier » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:38 pm

Every luthier is different. Some will allow for even wild customization, while most will allow options within certain limits. In most cases, the main things you can choose are the woods, scale length, nut width, action height, tuning machines... but the luthier will still stick to their signature aesthetics and sound, or will allow these to be modified only within strict limits. If they are willing to do something more crazy at the request of the customer, this usually means forfeiting or greatly limiting the trial period/refund policy. I'd imagine most players don't want to go too far from the norm anyway.

The greater risk I'd imagine is spending a large amount of money on a guitar that you may not be happy with in the end, and being stuck with a guitar that is hard to sell. Heavily customized or not, it can be really difficult selling a very expensive instrument. A classical guitar dealer once told me that the guitars they sell the most are their least expensive ones (under 2k), while very expensive ones even from famous luthiers can go unsold for many years. The classical guitar market is so saturated with countless options, that even if one wanted to spend 5k+, there is a low chance they will want to spend it on the guitar you're trying to sell, unless you are willing to take a huge loss to sell it faster. The steel string world is very different in that high end guitars fall under big name brands like taylor, martin, etc. making them much easier to sell since they are more well known and established.
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celestemcc
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by celestemcc » Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:06 pm

What souldier said.

I commissioned one from Steve Connor, and was lucky enough to live close enough to play many of this guitars, plus they're popular in my neck of the woods. I chose from Steve's standard options: Brazilian or Indian rosewood, spruce or cedar; traditional or elevated fingerboard; and shorter (640) scale. I also opted for a non-standard rosette and that's something he loves to do. He's very careful to fit the guitar to the player. I came back several times to play and listen to finished instruments about to be shipped out to their owners. He'd hand me a guitar, ask me to play, see what I thought, using a process of elimination. I initially wanted cedar but ended up falling hard for spruce; stuck with Indian rosewood which was plenty good enough and more affordable. Steve chose the top wood -- I wouldn't have known what to do anyway, that's his expertise. He used a nice bearclaw spruce. The only other feature, one I didn't ask for per-se, was the bracing. I played a particular cedar guitar he'd made with a huge rich tone; he explained that it was braced a bit differently than his usual. I asked how it'd sound with spruce, and he told me to come back a few months later -- he was making just that combo for someone else. I did, played it, loved it, done. He also chose the smaller of his two plantillas, which was not "small" as such, just better suited to the 640 scale. It's a full-size guitar for sure.

The finished guitar was exactly what I'd hoped it would be, so it was a great experience.
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

Lovemyguitar
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:51 pm

Just look at the Guitars for Sale section here, and that will give you a very good idea of what sells quickly and what languishes. Very little in the $5000 + range sells quickly (and, in many cases, those instruments sell for much less than the cost of a new one, often by a significant margin -- in fact, most guitars lose 40-50% of their "new" value when sold later). Even the most traditional/least "customised" higher end guitars are difficult to sell, unless at absolutely cut-rate prices. So, obviously the less mainstream a commission, the more difficult it will be to sell, in an already incredibly difficult (and over-saturated) market.

Having said that, buying or commissioning an instrument while simultaneously asking yourself how easy it would be to sell afterwards is a strange mindset -- it seems to indicate that one is not sure what one wants or what one might be happy with. (Of course, some people never find out what they want, and/or are never happy with a guitar, and some just like to own a lot of different guitars, and that can end up costing an awful lot of money, which may or may not be a problem, depending on the individual...).

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souldier
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by souldier » Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:24 pm

Great points here. If I were to ever commission a guitar from a luthier in the future, I would only do so after playing at least one of their instruments or more ideally several of their guitars to be really sure of their consistency and tonal profile. Because we live in an online world people tend to make judgments solely on video/audio recordings, reviews, etc. While this can work just fine when purchasing many things, I've found these to be highly unreliable and misleading when it comes to purchasing a classical guitar. Just because someone passionately loves a certain guitar from a certain maker, it doesn't mean you'll feel the same. You never know if you'll really like a guitar until you have it in your hands... even then it sometimes takes several days to really bond with a guitar in a familiar environment to truly know. I'd feel a lot more comfortable buying from a dealer or buying used where I get to try the guitar in person or have a trial period so there are no surprises or buyers remorse.

One point that I often make in other threads that I want to emphasize is that high price tag, luthier made, etc. does not always equal a superior instrument. Years back I was under the impression (probably because of this forum) that a one man shop, luthier built instrument will always be amazing, and that it will certainly blow away any $500 factory made instrument. To the contrary, I've learned that it is entirely possible for one to prefer an inexpensive guitar over a $5000+ instrument, as outrageous as that might sound, but I've unintentionally proven it several times in my own experience. Again this is why one must tread very carefully when making a decision to put down thousands of dollars to buy an instrument, and you'll want to do as much as possible to cut out the element of risk and uncertainty.
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mcg
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by mcg » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:38 am

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Last edited by mcg on Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

mcg
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by mcg » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:39 am

Well said.

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dta721
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by dta721 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:11 am

If I am reading "tea leaves" on the OP idea of getting a luthier made guitar, I'd say her vision of her dream guitar is still in the state of flux, no need to consider other guitarists' visions being offered!

Why would I dare say that? It is because her recent purchase of the C10 crossover, a great guitar however AKA a classical guitar with a Steel String Nut Width as she entered the CG garden! This tells me her taste is still evolving, and most likely will change in 6 months, if not sooner!

I'd say the OP should take all the time needed to grow into CG love before she will find out what to look for in such purchase, or investment on a 5K guitar. Good luck anyway! :)

Lovemyguitar
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:34 am

I would not be inclined to agree with souldier about his/her preference for $500 guitars over luthier-built/higher end instruments, simply because my experience is the opposite of his/hers. However, I have no interest in debating that point.

My point was not to dissuade anybody from buying or commissioning an expensive guitar, rather, it was to suggest that a person should either know enough about guitars and their own preferences in order to make an informed choice that they will be happy with, or, perhaps they could be a bit open-minded about the guitar they get, rather than expecting something very specific. By the latter I mean, sometimes it is a great joy to discover the possibilities of a guitar as one gets to know it, and it may not be precisely as one imagined, and yet it can be a tremendous guitar nonetheless that one is very happy to own and play.

Mollbarre says that he/she does not want to spend $5000 on "someone else's vision", and I really don't know what that means or what the point is -- does it refer to sound, aesthetics, shape and size, something else? Perhaps if they were a bit more specific about what it is that they are thinking and what sort of customizations they have in mind, then perhaps any responses could specifically address his/her questions and concerns, rather than being general comments about the pros and cons of various guitars and the market for buying/selling them.

Oh, I just saw the above post -- I did not know of the OP's lack of experience with actual classical guitars. In that case, my first suggestion (and that of dta721) is likely the most relevant -- it might be a good idea to learn a bit more about CGs first... But, enjoy the journey, above all, because it is a wonderful instrument, and learning and playing CG (on any classical guitar) is a very rewarding experience, and that ought to be the priority for someone just getting into the instrument and its music.

Wuuthrad
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Wuuthrad » Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:27 am

Come on Now...let's be real!

Commissioning a custom Guitar?

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!!

I've been playing Guitar for 35 years. Guitars are not hard to build. People make soap box guitars, et al, and even Torres himself built a cardboard guitar. But to build Classical Guitars well? That's another story.

People that devote their time to the Art and Craft of the Luthier Guild certainly deserve to be considered and supported.

Companies that mass produce instruments are also worthy of support, however there is a real difference!

Another thing to consider is that many of the Guitarist/Composers whom we study commissioned guitars to there own specs.

On the other hand, and although this wasn't expressly asked, I think it's also important to say that if saving money is a consideration, the used market is where you can save a dollar if you find something to your specs.

For example the Fredrich Holtier Guitar being currently sold here is for sale at an incredible offer. In terms of quality, this guitar is worth at least twice more than any of the Cordoba Master series guitars at twice the price!
"Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic." -Jean Sibelius

Chuah Hui Hsien
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Chuah Hui Hsien » Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:57 am

Most of the luthiers know what shapes, dimensions, measurements work on a guitar and what don't.I chose the scale length, nut saddle width, string action, neck profile under the "supervision" of my luthier.Of course the spruce/maple Torres is my own preference.He helped to materialise my ideas.

Another aspect when I commissioned was,I took into consideration what are the current pieces that I am playing at the moment, do they need such a great pallete of tonal and dynamic colours that I so need to meet my musical and technical demand?

Wait for that moment to arrive before you spend the big amount to commission one.
2017 Karel Dedain Spruce/Maple (Torres) 64cm
1998 Yamaha GD 10, Spruce/IRW 65cm
1988 Alhambra AL 8, Cedar/IRW 65cm

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Michael.N.
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:12 am

Many makers offer a free trial. It can be anything from 3 days to as long as 2 weeks. The further you deviate from 'standard' the less likely that a maker will offer that free trial. No maker wants to be stuck with a 630 mm scale guitar with a 56 mm nut width. A trial has both advantages and disadvantages. The greatest advantage is that you can try the instrument out in the comfort of your own home without the pressure if having to make a decision quickly. The disadvantage is that you'll be liable for any damage that you cause to the instrument whilst it is in your possession (rare but it does happen). You will also be liable for any shipping costs. Obviously very little cost if the maker is fairly local and you pick it up in person.
Historicalguitars.

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Mollbarre
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Mollbarre » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:23 pm

dta721 wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:11 am
If I am reading "tea leaves" on the OP idea of getting a luthier made guitar, I'd say her vision of her dream guitar is still in the state of flux, no need to consider other guitarists' visions being offered!

Why would I dare say that? It is because her recent purchase of the C10 crossover, a great guitar however AKA a classical guitar with a Steel String Nut Width as she entered the CG garden! This tells me her taste is still evolving, and most likely will change in 6 months, if not sooner!

I'd say the OP should take all the time needed to grow into CG love before she will find out what to look for in such purchase, or investment on a 5K guitar. Good luck anyway! :)
I started with a full size classical in the spring of 2016. Too big. Stopped playing almost immediately. Bought the crossover in December 2018 - and guess what? Off I go! :mrgreen: I agree my tastes will evolve. However, I'm not stuck on one genre. Mostly I was hoping to chord - eventually to be able to accompany fiddle players, and to sing along to easy songs for my own entertainment. But - because I already play classical music - a little classical guitar fits right in to my broad interest.

Anyway - as I mentioned in my first post. I am NOT looking to commission - but I see that many people are and have. So - I am interested in the market/culture/whatever you want to call it.

I am also quite interested in the process behind making instruments...so it all ties in together for me. :D
2016 Fender CN320AS
2018 Cordoba C10 crossover
2018 Sawchyn Beavertail
1982ish Shiraki Mandolin
...and miscellaneous bits and pieces.

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