HAND-BUILT vs MASS PRO­DUCED?

Guitar Techniques - - Talk Back -

A cou­ple of things struck me in this month’s GT. Michael (Speed vs Feel) and your re­sponse call for a heated de­bate; and Nigel (The Price Of Love) rais­ing the ques­tion, “Can a gui­tar re­ally be worth that much?” I can of­fer a topic for de­bate on that ques­tion - from my own ex­pe­ri­ence. When I re­tired seven years ago, I took up gui­tar as a hobby, and soon moved across to learn­ing jazz. I swapped my be­gin­ner’s Ashton for a Vin­tage Les Paul replica be­cause it looked nice. Be­cause it looked nice, and sounded nice, I soon added a pre-loved Epi­phone PR5E, then a Spar­row Big Daddy Cus­tom; then a Washburn Rover for pack­ing on hol­i­day. I got roped into play­ing in the jazz band and the folk group at the last school where I taught, so had to have a ‘jazz style gui­tar’ and an acous­tic. En­ter the Ibanez Art­core and Fen­der Dread­nought.

Then I tried a Godin - and bought a 5th Av­enue King­pin. My eyes - or should I say ears - were opened. Var­i­ous mu­si­cal friends ex­plained this by say­ing these hand-made gui­tars “are made with love” and “have soul”. A re­turn visit to Cooke’s in Nor­wich re­vealed the 5th Av­enue I’d also tried still hang­ing on the wall look­ing lonely. I tried it, and it sounded even bet­ter than the King­pin. Then a Seag­ull shaded the Fen­der and joined the collection.

Talk­ing to Richard over in Strat­ford on Avon, he re­vealed that he had man­aged to grab the last two Stone­bridge A17 jazz gui­tars ever built. I just had to drive across from Nor­folk to try and buy. It sounds sweeter than any of the Cana­di­ans. I may just be ap­proach­ing a ba­sic level of com­pe­tence, but I get so much en­joy­ment from play­ing the hand-built in­stru­ments. I’m sure I play bet­ter! I couldn’t jus­tify tak­ing up all the space with ten gui­tars, when I wasn’t play­ing four of them, so the Far East­ern mass pro­duced ones, nice gui­tars though they are, went up for sale, and I off­loaded them in the run up to Christ­mas.

As I said, I don’t claim to be any­thing more than ba­si­cally com­pe­tent, and no doubt there will be those who dis­agree. But as far as I’m con­cerned, while Far East­ern gui­tars have good build qual­ity, the bet­ter sound and the sheer en­joy­ment of play­ing hand-built Cana­di­ans or Euro­peans more than jus­ti­fies pay­ing three or four times as much for them.

My only prob­lem now is try­ing to per­suade She Who Must Be Obeyed to let me drive to cen­tral Hun­gary, where I’ve lo­cated the last two Furch (aka Stone­bridge) la Gi­tanes to be made. Sug­ges­tions or mon­e­tary con­tri­bu­tions grate­fully ac­cepted. Pete Wid­dows, Heacham, Nor­folk. A very en­ter­tain­ing let­ter and I’m sure it res­onates with many read­ers, Pete. I love the fact that you drove from Nor­folk to Strat­ford-upon-Avon to bag a spe­cific catch. I’d bet that there are many out there have very sim­i­lar sto­ries – not nec­es­sar­ily even in the ‘up­grad­ing’ sense, but just be­com­ing tired of, or bored with their cur­rent gui­tar flame and feel­ing the need for a change. I’m a ter­ri­ble flit­ter when it comes to gear – es­pe­cially gui­tars. You don’t men­tion amps in your let­ter, Pete. But a lot of play­ers I know seem to find the amp brand that suits them and stick with it, yet flit from gui­tar to gui­tar like a but­ter­fly on a bud­dleia bush. Oth­ers are in­vet­er­ate ‘cus­tomis­ers’ and can’t wait to up­grade pick­ups, frets, tuners and so on. My feel­ing on the sub­ject is that, if you feel bet­ter with this gui­tar in your hands rather than that one, you prob­a­bly will play a lit­tle bet­ter – or per­haps even think you are do­ing so. And, to be hon­est, if you think you are, you prob­a­bly are!

STAR LET­TER PRIZE

Our friends at Sound Tech­nol­ogy are donat­ing a fab Dig­iTech Hard­Wire pedal to our Star Let­ter writer ev­ery month.

Hand-built Cana­dian Godin 5th Av­enue and Seag­ull En­tourage Grand Rus­tic. Bet­ter?

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