Write Now: Have You Ever Wanted A Custom-Made Instrument?

If you are a musician, you may have, at one time, thought of building a custom instrument. There are many electric bassists, guitarists, and drummers who often talk about their custom signature instruments.

What I mean by signature is that the instrument usually bears the signature of the musician. For guitars, it’s usually placed somewhere on the guitar body, neck, or headstock. The headstock is where the tuners are placed and the tuners are what the strings wind around. For drummers, usually a snare drum has the signature and it would appear somewhere on the drum or on the hardware.

The way most musicians receive a signature instrument is if they are endorsed by a company. The company will make an instrument to the specifications of the musician. Depending on the musician, time, and design complexity, the process may take several months or even several years. Remember if you buy a signature model instrument, you are paying for the signature specs, and sometimes those models can be a bit steep in price. Many companies may only release a limited number of instruments with early serial numbers and documentation, so the instruments can be authenticated. If the signature model proves to be a successful item that sells, then the company may produce more with slightly different specs to make the model affordable to more musicians.

Some companies have “custom shops” in which a customer can order a specific design for his instrument. There are pros and cons to this method. The pros are you would receive an instrument tailored to your specs, and usually it’s hand-made. The cons are you would have to wait maybe 6 months to a year for your instrument to be built, and it would probably be at an expensive price point.

I have always wanted a custom bass guitar, but did not have the time to invest in one. If I could, I would get a P-styled, contoured body, with passive J-styled and P-styled pickups, so I can dial in the tones I need. Passive means there is not a battery that supplies power to the pickups. I would get a maple neck with a maple fingerboard with at least 21 frets. The neck would also have a compound radius.

I would also have installed a high-mass bridge for note sustain. For my tone controls, I would have a three-band EQ or equalization. The EQ knobs would be low, mid and high with a three-way toggle switch, so I could choose the P-styled pickup in the neck position, the J-styled pickup in the bridge position or the ability to have both pickups on at once. Because of the pickup toggle switch, I would only need one volume knob. The body would be lighter than a regular P-styled body. Usually P-styled bodies can weigh between 7.5 and 9 lbs. I would want a slightly smaller version that weighs between 6 and 6.5 lbs. Heavy guitars wreak havoc on one’s shoulders. The body finish would be either a light teal, sky blue, or a light aquamarine. The neck would have a satin, worn-in finish and the hardware would be either gun metal gray or black matte finish.

My guitar selection is a basic one, and it’s almost what I play currently minus the J-styled pickup. I have owned my bass guitar since 1995, and have only changed out the pickup and the bridge. I play roundwound strings, but will probably make the switch to half rounds, so I can achieve vintage and punchy tones. I will save writing about strings and custom drums for another time.

So if you feel a custom instrument is for you, I would explore the possibilities.

You may find the experience worth your time.