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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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Mollbarre » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:32 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:34 am
...

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.

...
I just meant, that if you had $5000+ to spend - would you want to buy someone else's "used" commissioned guitar? Or would you commission your own? How much is about playability, artistry, or the name of the luthier who made the instrument?

Again, I fully understand the appeal. I would love to pick out the tone woods, discuss other options, etc., and end up with a work of art that reflects my ideal. It speaks fully to my inner visual artist! :D I can also see that it could become somewhat addictive!

As it is...I have 2 decent quality guitars to experiment with. Both look very nice. I also have a 3rd in the mail - an inexpensive steel-string parlour guitar...for outside playing...no idea if that will pan out or not (in time for this summer)...but I'm game to give it a go...don't want to waste the callouses that have been building up...
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souldier
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by souldier » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:42 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
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.
I think it's great that luthiers offer a trial period, and I think this ought to be a given. The difficulty with a trial period is that people tend to go through a honey moon phase when they receive a new guitar they've been greatly anticipating, causing them to only see it's positive attributes, some that arn't even actually there, while overlooking it's less desirable characteristics. By the time the euphoria fades away, the trial period is already over. As long as a person is aware of this phenomena , they are in a better position to make an objective assessment of their new instrument.

The other issue with a trial period is that after eagerly waiting many months or years for a new guitar, it can be really unsettling for both customer and luthier to reject the guitar for various reasons. One might feel so much time has been wasted, so they might as well stick with it to see if their impressions change. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the fear that the customer might offend the luthier, especially after developing such a positive and personal relationship with them throughout the build process. I've seen some cases where luthiers react bitterly when a customer expresses their dissatisfaction with their instrument. I could imagine some people end up just sticking with an instrument and shortly reselling it at a loss to avoid this potentially awkward exchange. This is one reason why I'd rather just buy used or go to a dealer.
Last edited by souldier on Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

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souldier
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by souldier » Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:49 pm

Mollbarre wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:32 pm
Lovemyguitar wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:34 am
...

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.

...
I just meant, that if you had $5000+ to spend - would you want to buy someone else's "used" commissioned guitar? Or would you commission your own? How much is about playability, artistry, or the name of the luthier who made the instrument?
One reason why it can be hard to resell a commissioned instrument without taking a big loss is that unless the guitar is priced really low, most would rather just spend a little more to commission directly from the luthier to their specs. For example, if I commissioned a guitar for $6000 and decided to sell it 1 year later for $5000... many would rather just spend an extra $1000 to get a brand new custom instrument directly from the luthier. So I would have to be willing to take a bigger loss to sell it more quickly. There are of course various factors such as the reputation of the luthier, waiting list, etc.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

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souldier
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by souldier » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:02 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
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.
Let me clarify that I did not say I prefer $500 guitars over luthier built instruments in general. What I did say was:
"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."
In many cases I would expect an expensive luthier instrument to sound much better than an inexpensive factory guitar, but my point is this is not always the case, and one cannot always equate price with performance when it comes to classical guitars. Case in point, my current guitar is an inexpensive 1978 Takamine C132, and I honestly prefer it over many luthier built instruments that I have tried, but this is not to say that there arn't a tonne of luthier instruments out there that I would much prefer over it. I've traveled to various dealers and tried many guitars, and there are many luthier instruments that I have found very underwhelming and not worth a fraction of their price tag (to me at least). I say this not to disparage luthiers, but to show that guitar preferences are highly personal and subjective. What one regards as being worth $10k may not be worth $500 to another, which is why one should be very careful when making a decision to purchase an expensive high end instrument.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

Lovemyguitar
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:10 pm

Mollbarre wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:32 pm
...I just meant, that if you had $5000+ to spend - would you want to buy someone else's "used" commissioned guitar? Or would you commission your own? How much is about playability, artistry, or the name of the luthier who made the instrument?..

Ah, well, in answer to that question, Yes, absolutely, I would buy a "used" commissioned guitar! In fact, I have done so in the past, and I would not hesitate to do so again. All my current guitars I bought used, one is a luthier-built instrument (best classical guitar I have ever owned, an absolute gem, and it would be $5000+ new, although I paid less), and the other two are higher-end factory guitars (one classical, one flamenco, $2500+ new, also paid less).

For me, the primary consideration is sound, absolutely above all else. I want a guitar with richness and depth and a nearly endless pallet of tone colours (or at the very least, a slightly limited pallet with tones that please me!), which "traditionally" built classical guitars ought to have, and thus those are the ones I am interested in and will buy. Most good quality classical guitars will have excellent artistry, the name of the luthier is relevant only to the point of knowing that he/she/they make excellent instruments with the sound qualities that I admire, and as for playability, well, if the guitar is within standard parameters, I'm usually fine with it.

Maybe I am not as "picky" as some, and thus more willing to accept and enjoy the qualities of a used guitar -- and I also love the idea of playing an instrument that has some history, that was loved and played by someone else. There are a lot of really fantastic guitars on the used market.

I would, however, also consider commissioning my own guitar at some point, simply for the experience, but it would undoubtedly be something quite traditional, since those are the guitars I prefer.

soltirefa
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by soltirefa » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:18 pm

Case in point, my current guitar is an inexpensive 1978 Takamine C132, and I honestly prefer it over many luthier built instruments that I have tried,
I know what you mean. I have had people tell me how good mine sounds and when I tell them it was $500 they are blown away. And it has a very comfortable feel to it.

Lovemyguitar
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:19 pm

souldier wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:02 pm
...guitar preferences are highly personal and subjective. ...
True enough! As long as somebody enjoys what they play, for whatever their reasons (and, of course, it should be for their own reasons, not somebody else's), that's what matters. Cheers!

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

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:23 pm

souldier wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:42 pm
Michael.N. wrote:
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.
I think it's great that luthiers offer a trial period, and I think this ought to be a given. The difficulty with a trial period is that people tend to go through a honey moon phase when they receive a new guitar they've been greatly anticipating, causing them to only see it's positive attributes, some that arn't even actually there, while overlooking it's less desirable characteristics. By the time the euphoria fades away, the trial period is already over. As long as a person is aware of this phenomena , they are in a better position to make an objective assessment of their new instrument.

The other issue with a trial period is that after eagerly waiting many months or years for a new guitar, it can be really unsettling for both customer and luthier to reject the guitar for various reasons. One might feel so much time has been wasted, so they might as well stick with it to see if their impressions change. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the fear that the customer might offend the luthier, especially after developing such a positive and personal relationship with them throughout the build process. I've seen some cases where luthiers react bitterly when a customer expresses their dissatisfaction with their instrument. I could imagine some people end up just sticking with an instrument and shortly reselling it at a loss to avoid this potentially awkward exchange. This is one reason why I'd rather just buy used or go to a dealer.
Sometimes you don't have to wait at all, there's one ready to go. Not every maker does that of course.
I think your point about the honeymoon period is true with whatever guitar one buys, the honeymoon is going to exist whether the guitar is on trial or not.
Certainly going to a dealer has it's advantages. You obviously have a much greater choice. The disadvantage is that there is a certain amount of time pressure. Better would be a dealer offering a home trial period. Personally I prefer the choice of a trial period. I don't really know why it should be awkward returning a guitar. Surely the whole point is to find out whether the instrument is suitable. If a maker isn't comfortable with a return then they shouldn't be offering a trial period in the first place.
Historicalguitars.

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Steve Ganz
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Steve Ganz » Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:50 pm

Mollbarre,
I'm curious if you have specific customized features in mind.
I don't know where you live (it's not in your profile, or introductory post), but the right guitar can open doors in ones life. It's not without risk, but the risks are small compared to the rewards, unless the only rewards you recognize are monetary.
Steve

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Rick Beauregard » Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:50 pm

I haven’t read through all the threads to see if this is covered, but let me ask you Steve: if one commissions a guitar are they generally obligated to buy it, or can they back out if they don’t like it? Is there a deposit required? Do they get it back? What’s the risk exactly?

Secondly, if someone commissions a guitar as long as its not too far out there, are there financial benefits to the buyer and seller? I.e. reduced marketing costs to the builder passed on as a lower price?

Depending on these answers, it may be well worth it, n’est pas?
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Mollbarre
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Mollbarre » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:11 pm

Steve Ganz wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:50 pm
Mollbarre,
I'm curious if you have specific customized features in mind.
I don't know where you live (it's not in your profile, or introductory post), but the right guitar can open doors in ones life. It's not without risk, but the risks are small compared to the rewards, unless the only rewards you recognize are monetary.
I live in the middle if Canada, almost - just a little more towards to the south-west!

I have no features in mind because it's not in the books for me. I will never outgrow the guitars I have. I am just curious in general.

But, that doesn't mean I can't look! :D
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Fretful
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Fretful » Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:56 pm

Mollbarre wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:14 pm
I was wondering about the process.
Dangerous?! …? Only if regret leads you to jump under a truck or off a cliff!

Had you said: “disappointing?” Then, yes, an emphatic YES! Trust my (and that of many others) extensive and expensive experience in this: buying a custom-built instrument will always be a big gamble; there is no such thing as really reliable consistency in guitar-making because there are far too many variables in the equation(s). All the luthiers I have frequented (including legendary ones – see my post of 1st September 2018 in the Improve Your Fingerboard Knowledge etc.) have admitted that they would feel lucky to have made five or six outstanding instruments in an entire career; this gives you an idea of what your chances would be to land on one of them. In fact, your chances are nil because you can be absolutely certain that, in such eventuality, the guitar will go to someone else (they have a [not so secret] list - ALWAYS), and quite rightly too. If on the other hand you don’t want anything outstanding, why go the custom-made route?

Also, a brand-new guitar will be raw and hard to judge and, like fine wine, will mature in unpredictable ways.

The best advice I can give is for you to go to a reputable, reasonable, and honest dealer and try many, many specimens in good condition until one “speaks” to you. If the instruments are not new, they will have settled and will represent far better value, unless they have belonged to great (or famous) hands, or come from stables that reek of snobbery.

When trying many instruments, you will be amazed to discover sound-potentials you didn’t even know existed and the chances of discovering your very own bell(e) of the mall will be much increased.

All the best,

Fretful

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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by mcg » Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:33 am

I could not agree more Mr Fretful, that is great advice.

I am reminded of the story of Julian Bream, whilst in NY in the 60s/70s, systematically trying 100 or so Ramirez guitars in trying to settle on the one or two he wanted. Or the anecdote (repeated in his recent interview with Marcelo R), that Parkening tried dozens of Ramirez guitars whilst in Spain. When he arrived at the one he thought was clearly the best, he was told that Segovia had already nabbed that one.

Leave your preconceptions behind and get kissing lots of frogs in the hope you will find your prince.
Last edited by mcg on Wed Feb 13, 2019 1:58 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Tim522
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Tim522 » Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:34 am

I commissioned 3 guitars from Greg Byers over the years. 2 I've kept. I flew out to meet the man himself and spend the day playing the guitars he had on handout at his home studio. I had played several of his guitars prior to my visit so I new I loved his instruments.

My point is if you can play a makers guitars that you are interested in it makes a big difference in the decision making process and general positive experience.

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Steve Ganz
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Re: Commissioning a custom guitar - dangerous?

Post by Steve Ganz » Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:05 am

Rick Beauregard wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:50 pm
I haven’t read through all the threads to see if this is covered, but let me ask you Steve: if one commissions a guitar are they generally obligated to buy it, or can they back out if they don’t like it? Is there a deposit required? Do they get it back? What’s the risk exactly?

Secondly, if someone commissions a guitar as long as its not too far out there, are there financial benefits to the buyer and seller? I.e. reduced marketing costs to the builder passed on as a lower price?

Depending on these answers, it may be well worth it, n’est pas?
Rick,
Too many questions to answer intelligently. So I'll ramble a bit and hope it's helpful for someone.

If you could exactly identify the risk, it would not be a risk. It is a leap of faith for someone to order a guitar for the first time. It's quite exciting to think about them asking for their musical voice to be made for them by a luthier.

Here is what I would advise someone who orders a guitar.
They trust the luthier. That is important, and it has to work in the opposite direction as well.
The price is agreed upon in advance, along with the features.
Payment(s) for the guitar are scheduled and agreed upon.
Delivery arrangements are specified.

I've never had anyone ask for a deposit back. If they did, there would need to be a good reason, and I would need to address that. The realm of the unknown. I am obligated to do my best work no matter the circumstances. I expect the guitar to be loved or at least appreciated.

In my experience, no one has asked to return a commissioned guitar because it did not meet expectations. I don't have a firm policy on trial periods. Trust and intuition are my guides. If the guitar is not what they asked for, I would be obligated to give what they asked for. Customers were always taken by the instruments they commissioned. Now, I don't want customers to hide issues from me. I want the customer to be beyond happy. In cases where some issue crop up later, I do my best to understand and accommodate. If a guitar gets to the stage of being delivered, and something is not right as far as they are concerned, then I would fix the issue.

The buyer might not bond with the guitar. The buyer might, and then want more and have to work it out with their spouse. A different type of danger.

Nowadays, it seems that most of my commissions come from someone who has a guitar I built, and they get an idea for something different, or want to explore something about a new guitar. It's my passion to make what they want (and I want) in that case and it starts with discussion. That is low risk for everyone, unless they want something unusual that would be hard to sell. An 11 string guitar, a 10 string short scale guitar, a baritone... Those would be hard for me to eat and I get enough up front to cover my costs. They ordered it, they bought it. If it was substandard, I would not deliver it. 6 string classicals with normal scale length and spacing come with a warranty.


Risks are unpredictable, that is why they they are risks. There are rewards - musical.
Steve

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